When the music stops

By Meg Hill

The entrance bell at Lewis’ Music crackled. Sometimes it got stuck and kept ringing for a few minutes.

“I just saw the sign, you’re retiring?” a customer, who had come for guitar strings, asked.

Roger Lewis had been running the shop on Russell St for over 55 years. Newly painted text on his front window announced his retirement sale.

“Yes. It’s got to happen one day; this week looks good,” he said.

His last day was Friday, September 20. 

Roger said he had originally opened his shop directly across the road “three buildings ago” in 1963. 

44 years ago, he crossed the road to his space at 124 Russell St – he was the building’s first tenant. It will be knocked down sometime next year to make way for a hotel.

Another customer walked in and said she was a music teacher. The shop had been recommended to her by a friend and she hurried to visit when she heard about Roger’s retirement.

“I’m looking for something percussion and easy that I can hand to students,” she said.

Roger’s stock had been drying up quickly. He hadn’t much percussion left, but he picked up two clapping sticks and demonstrated.

“Two sticks you bang together is pretty easy,” he said with a laugh. 

Roger said he was retiring because of old age, but that the redevelopment made it an opportune time. 

He began as an instrument repairer, travelling to London for an apprenticeship. It was one of the few places in the world you could do one.

When he returned, he opened his music shop. 

“There used to be six music shops on Russell St, this is the last one, and 16 in the city of which there is only one left,” he said.

He said the first thing he’d do in retirement was figure out what to do with all the stuff from the shop that hadn’t been sold.

He pointed to a guitar on the wall and said it was one of a few items he’d keep for a while. It was made in 1870 and rimmed with pearl. 

“I’ve had that for 40 odd years,” he said.

“It just came into the shop one day.” 

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