Go ahead, punk: Spex Pis­tols given V&A boost.

In­de­pen­dent re­tail in fo­cus

The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and The Mearns Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - IAN FORSYTH

The ar­rival of the V&A de­sign mu­seum in Dundee has given a boost to cus­tomer num­bers at lo­cal op­ti­cal bou­tique Spex Pis­tols.

Richard Cook, who founded the store at the end of 2011, re­ported a big in­crease in peo­ple pop­ping in from other parts of Scot­land and the UK as well as from abroad since the early sum­mer.

“It’s been a real fun time,” Mr Cook said.

“The V&A seem to have done ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to in­clude us and other lo­cal busi­nesses – I think the whole city feels the ef­fect.”

The op­ti­cal bou­tique, based in John­ston’s Lane, em­ploys nine peo­ple and of­fers a wide va­ri­ety of de­signer, vin­tage and clas­sic frames, with some­thing for ev­ery pocket, per­son­al­ity and pro­file.

Spex Pis­tols also has a strong mu­sic fo­cus, and is a lo­cal cul­tural hotspot.

Fa­mous vis­i­tors have in­cluded Johnny Marr, co-founder of The Smiths.

Richard has been a lens maker since he left school in 1987, ini­tially work­ing in a lo­cal fac­tory mak­ing lenses for most of north­ern Europe.

“I then left to go study in Glas­gow, where I also ran a lens fac­tory, and have worked for all the big­gest high street op­ti­cians as a lab man­ager,” he said.

“But, for as long I can re­mem­ber, I have wanted to have artis­tic au­ton­omy in my job.

“I felt sti­fled ev­ery­where else – Spex Pis­tols gives me room to be cre­ative.”

Richard said he had been plan­ning the busi­ness in his head for a few years.

“At that ex­act time the very shop site I wanted be­came avail­able, I had the Spex Pis­tols name and the busi­ness plan ready,” he re­called.

“I was also re­ally for­tu­nate that fam­ily and friends were all ready to help me out.

“My dad was in­cred­i­bly sup­port­ive and made sure it worked. For that I am eter­nally grate­ful.”

Richard was un­sure how Spex Pis­tols would work and if peo­ple would trust the con­cept be­hind it.

“But they came in their droves and rec­om­mended us to their friends,” Richard said.

“Peo­ple seemed to love the name Spex Pis­tols and I al­ready had a big col­lec­tion of re­ally-good qual­ity un­worn vin­tage spec­ta­cles.

“The main thing we did though, from the very start, was aim for the high­est pos­si­ble level of cus­tomer ser­vice.

“Peo­ple like to be treated with re­spect and with good man­ners, but also to feel very re­laxed.”

Asked about the se­cret of his suc­cess, Richard replied: “I wouldn’t say that we are suc­cess yet.

“It has only been seven years, and we have a lot of learn­ing to do.

“We are very lucky though to have al­ways had amaz­ing staff, with no ex­cep­tions, a good land­lord who cares more about its ten­ants than ag­gres­sive prof­its and we’ve had the best of luck with cus­tomers too.

“I think the Dundee fac­tor def­i­nitely works. It doesn’t mat­ter where some­one is from or what their pol­i­tics are in Dundee. Ev­ery­one is the same as ev­ery­one else.”

Pic­tures: Gareth Jen­nings

Top: Owner Richard Cook out­side Spex Pis­tols in John­ston’s Lane in Dundee’s West­port.

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