An Ode to an Era… Juicy

To celebrate a year since I started this Blog here’s the hardest post I’ve had to write- turns out slagging things off is easy but trying to express true joy and gratitude is much harder.  So to all of you involved, Cheers and Merry Christmas x


Now this is a bit of a love story. There are many characters in this story but basically it’s a story about a place, a shop, a physical building, but much more, a love story about the idea the place encapsulated and the people who embodied it. I am merely a component in a much bigger story and someone else would have to tell you the beginning. I can, however, to the best of my ability, tell you the end.

After deciding the Fairy business wasn’t quite going to cut it, I started looking for another job. I had very little experience with barwork and far preferred drinking the beer in the, then smokey, little pubs I frequented than serving the beer and cleaning out the ashtrays. So, shops it was again. I handed in a CV to a punky little place I’d been in many times before, where a friend of a friend had been working. A bit goth, a bit clubby, it reminded me of my Camden days. In its window were two manikins with giant paper mache fruit heads and inside were two high stools at a curved counter that looked like a bar. The floor was covered in greengrocer’s plastic grass and the shop sold everything from hot pink hair dye to CBGB knickers. I loved it.

The manager, Steff, was northern and bolshie, friendly, fun, efficient, quirky and not to be fucked with. She took me on straight away and showed me the ropes.  I quickly mastered the art of ‘hanger shuffling’, basically spacing out the garments so that even when you’re doing nothing it looks sort of like your doing something – handy when escaping Steff’s ‘whatthefuckareyoudoing?’glances.

I don’t remember first meeting Rick, he must have been there from day one. I’ve met a lot of people over the years who remind me of him, but no one like him.  Rick and Steff had bought the place together. I never saw them as a couple. I was taken on as part of the aftermath. Steff had moved out of the upstairs flat but was still very much in charge, and Rick was living upstairs, managing the day today and handling the printing side of the company.

The people, the places and the time line for my best part of a decade at Juicy all blend together like some beautiful, bizarre dream and I can’t guarantee that any of the events I remember happened as I remember, or even at all. So you’ll have to bear with me with this one.

I was taken on for Wednesdays, some Saturdays and Sundays. I think I was filling in for a girl, a bit of a mythical legend, who’d been working there but had gone of to live in Mexico for an undisclosed amount of time. Funny how people are canonized in their absence.

Mostly I was working with Sarah, one of Steff’s friends from up t’north, an otherworldly and unassuming seamstress, with the kind of manic, hedonistic streak that only the outwardly sensible could maintain.  Like any job, the hours and hours of standing within the same four walls breed a certain madness and closeness and propensity to talk nonsense.  Our time was spent dancing around the shop, shuffling hangers and with regular costume changes as we ‘modelled’ the new stock. Sarah and I quickly became friends, she was older that me but her elfin nature made her ageless, she had her own clothing line and would sell her creations in the shop. She also cut my hair, though she wasn’t a hairdresser. Everyone had something else going on. Rick would flit in and out in his shorts and flip flops, with the kind of perma-brown ankles only people who’ve spend decades by the beach can have all year round, stopping for a chat, sometimes relatively normal, mostly relatively nonsense and usually involving dog poo.

Time has no relevance in Juicy land. A shift becomes, three, becomes a month, becomes a year. Nothing was regular and a vast propensity for alcohol consumption seemed to be the thing that we all had in common – coincidently, of course, there was no sign above the counter that said ‘you don’t have to be an alky to work here but it helps’ but the sentiment rang true anyway. That and a tendency toward the weird. None of us could be called mainstream. Though very different in our own ways, nobody there could be accused of being a ‘Normo’ and those people (I say people, it was only ever women and Rick) who perhaps weren’t as inwardly strange never made it that long. But I’m jumping ahead.

Sundays, for a long time, were the domain of myself and Lucy. Lucy was 16. I met her just as she’d finished her GCSE’s and was about to start A levels at college; I was 21 and remembered those days fondly. She got her GCSE results at the Reading festival, just like me and my friends had done 5 years before. I used to watch her drag herself into work with eyes like saucers, clearly having had no sleep, remnants of yesterday’s glitter on her face, and it would make me smile. It was also my first taster of how annoying 16 year old me must have been for the people I worked with ‘just do some bloody work’. Oh how the tables had turned! I loved hearing her tell me about her adventures and the friends and the boys and the friends who were boys but then became boyfriends. Her friends would pop into the shop and her parents would bring her lunch and I very much enjoyed being a part of Lucy’s teenage routine. The highlight was bumping into her at the Womad festival a couple of years after she’d left and being greeted with a hug that only Juicy friends could understand.

Wednesdays I was on my own. By this point Steff was training as an art teacher and often just popped in to make sure the place hadn’t burned down, and this was when me and Rick would have a coffee and do a bit of ‘sharing’, never on purpose, just we’d end up talking about our lives with each other. Y’know. There’s a certain familiarity of knowing where someone’s going to be day in, day out. The conversations about life were of course peppered with a lot of nonsense, some pseudo political but not really bothered, existential, fuck it were all going to die anyway but shouldn’t people be nicer to each other business that you would expect from a ex-punk and an adolescent art school student. Sometimes, I even did some work. I did try to prove to Rick I was a hard worker but all he’d have to do is remind me of the time he called me up to see why I wasn’t at work and I answered the call in a tent on a cliff by the sea with no real memory of getting there. Credit to both of us that we both remember that story fondly!

Meanwhile Steff got married to a lovely man from the shop a couple of doors down and we all went to the wedding. By this point the prodigal Jess had returned from her Mexican adventure and the Juicy gang in it’s various amalgamations and combinations continued in it’s, always odd, missions to get hammered. As Steff removed herself more from the day to day, the day to day turned into evening Juicy locks ins. Always involving loud 90’s music from the tome of CD’s kept under the counter and a lot of red wine, various other characters would make their cameo, Rick’s childhood friend, a local drinking buddy and a batty milliner among them. In retrospect again, I suppose they must have admired Rick’s possey of attractive, strange and loyal young women. But basically we all got pissed a lot. An evening of spinning on the clothes rails, falling down the stairs and a drunken encounter with one of Rick’s friends seemed to solidify that loyalty. We are in this for the long hall ladies and gents. This strange, cultish loyalty was, I suppose, epitomized by a taxi journey after a particularly random Christmas party. We all decided (with a little chemical encouragement) that we had all, at one stage or another, fancied Rick. His childhood friend was present and I hope, out of the duty of friendship, he reported this back! As far as I know, none of these crushes ever amounted to anything. Like a true leader and responsible boss, Rick always managed to keep the right amount of distance.

Juicy became my work but also my escape from the ever increasing complicatedness of university – the 2nd year and 3rd year of fluctuating friendship groups and expectations, coursework, course friends, being an artist, not being an artist, all shaken into a cocktail of drugs and house moves and parties and flatmates and hangovers. Juicy was the more uncomplicated alternative. Well, for me anyway.

University ended and I stayed in Brighton; it was home, where else could I go? Throughout the summer we opened up a, what would now be called ‘pop up’ shop selling off old Juicy stock. Fridays became wine days and the last hour would be drinking and music.

By this point Rickardo had married, or was going to marry, his childhood girlfriend. It was the stuff movies are made of. Time had past, she’d had two kids, he’d opened Juicy and nurtured a nest of shop-girls and it was love at second sight. She was a responsible mother but also a good-witch and academic, bright and fun. You could see how much they loved each other. But she was a proper grownup with proper grown up responsibilities and it sometimes made me sad to see the creeping melancholy in Rick’s demeanor that life still hadn’t really gone according to plan; a plan that an anarchic-existentialist should never really have had in the first place. However, love conquers all and Rick embraced his new family.

I loved to watch his relationship with his step daughter. She’d come in and play wendy shop with me. At the time I had a step father and Ricardo and I would tentatively negotiate the do’s and don’ts of one of the most delicate relationships in modern families. The difference was, my stepfather couldn’t see past the end of his nose; Ricardo in his world weary way cared a lot about society and the people around him. Eventually, after a hard and emotional slog, Ricardo’s family came together with the birth of his little girl and how proud he was to show her off. We all loved having little Katy around and the shop took on another lease of life.

Many a hilarious story happened at Juicy over the years, Rene pissing on a rat, a legend that was talked of long after she’d moved on,  having to stop a leak from the upstairs bathroom by sticking tampons in the ceiling, hiding under the counter to avoid the creepy man in a mobility scooter who was essentially stalking me. Then there was the time my first love, who broke my heart, (of crying into a bucket at ‘Setting Sun’ in a previous blog post fame… ) wandered into the shop despite not living in Brighton and having been removed from my life for over a decade. The fortress of Juicy-tude protected me though and I could confidently hold a smiley conversation and even sell his girlfriend a dress, safe in the knowledge that this was my turf!

But rose coloured glasses have sentimentalized the era for me and I seem to have forgotten the inbetweeny bits where I’d spend hours clearing out a cupboard only to come back the next week and for it to be overflowing with crap again, or rooting around in the damp, ratty basement looking for stock that may or may not be there. As the economy started to slide, so did Juicy. Times had changed, the staff had grown up, the shop had grown up, Rick and his family had grown up; clubbing wasn’t in anymore, it was all vintage style, lacy dresses. Upstairs the shop still looked beautiful and we always looked forward to a good re-fit – and not just because it was a nice excuse to spend an evening drinking and working in the closed shop. One of my favourite achievements in life was the checkerboard floor Jess and I hand painted while pissed.

With the economy going to fuck and the cracks behind the Juicy scenes barely out of view, there never seemed to be enough work  for everyone who wanted it. And I wanted it. They were screaming out for a manager and Jess got in there first. She had been a part of Juicy and Rick and Steff for longer than me and this was her domain. There was really no option. Jess moved in upstairs and I moved on. Sort of. You could never really move on from Juicy. All the characters, some I’ve mentioned and some I haven’t, would pop back in at times. Sometimes Rick would take them off for a pint, sometimes we’d all hang about in the shop. I would always stop by when I was passing and have a chat with whoever was in there I’d shuffle some hangers, as much out of habit as for old times sake, or watch the counter while someone ran to the loo, which, incidentally, often involved running across the road to various cafes and bars over the years but that’s by the by. It didn’t matter how many times I moved house, how many boyfriends came and went, how many friends left Brighton, there was always Juicy.

Til there wasn’t. Rick had been trying to sell the place for years. He came in once as I was drawing a doodle of rats jumping from a ship. ‘Is that the good ship Juicy?’ he enquired. Maybe it was subconsciously.

The day we cleared out the shop, I’d been at work somewhere else and had come to say goodbye to the place. As I walked up through the North Laine I spotted a group of people gathered around a table in the middle of the street with chairs and a hookah pipe and various odds and sods of furniture and frames and whatnot. Rick, Jess and Gaby, who I didn’t work with so much but who’d been part of the Juicy crew for many, many years, and a guy who’s name I forget but another one of Rick’s gang of North Laines oddballs were all gathered in the road outside the shop. There they were in the middle of the road drinking red wine, taking it in turns to go and pull things off hangers and packing them into ominous cardboard boxes. The deconstruction of Juicy was a sad event. We cleared out years’ worth of little bits of jewelry, stickers, hats, the odd sock, and moldy yogurt pots from lunches years forgotten, from the backs of cupboards and under counters. The whole process, however, was punctuated by the pride that we were giving it a proper Juicy send off. After saying our goodbyes we all went our separate ways, my last view of team Juicy was seeing a drunken Jess wobble off on her bicycle with a gold frame squifily hung around her neck.

Walking past a couple of months later to see burley builders laying black lino over my checkerboard floor nearly broke my heart! ‘I painted that floor,’ I squeaked at them. ‘Oh right,’ was the reply from the very nice but unbothered flooring man. While in my head I launched into a diatribe about Juicy and it’s past and what it stood for and all that is free and just and ridiculous in the world, in reality I just walked on.

Juicy became a bong and spraypaint shop, which I think Rick felt was quite fitting, and Red Eye, as it is now, blends inconspicuously into the Nu-North Laines landscape of bubble tea and Gelatos.


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