St Albans music shop closes after 50 years
- Credit: Archant
An independent music store which has been running for more than 50 years has closed after the owner suffered a stroke.
St Albans Music Centre, in Holywell Hill, which first opened in 1958, ceased trading two months ago after the owner, Elizabeth Barber, 71, fell ill.
Elizabeth has devoted most of her life to the shop which sold sheet music and instruments, having first started working there as a Saturday girl. She helped run the business alongside her father when her mother died in 1999 and later took the reins when her father died in 2001.
As a result of the stroke, she is unable to keep the shop running and is now a resident of Tenterden House Nursing Home in Bricket Wood.
Jan Mitchell, 56, who has worked at the store for more than 15 years, discovered that Elizabeth had suffered a stroke after she prompted a neighbour to check on her when she failed to turn up for work.
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She said: “She was at home and she had collapsed and fallen down the stairs and I think they found her behind the front door.
“She wasn’t due to work until about 4pm that day and so nobody missed her. It was only when she didn’t turn up and I couldn’t get a response on the phone that I contacted a neighbour and asked if they could check on her and they found her there.”
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Jan described Elizabeth as having a “really good sense of humour”. She continued: “She used to get on with the juniors that worked on a Saturday like a house on fire.
One girl, who has just left, would tell her all of the plots of all the soaps and films because Elizabeth didn’t have a television and she just loved it.
“She always used to say people don’t work here for the money and she was right; we work here because we love music and it’s such a lovely place to work.”
Diana Catt, 69, who has worked at the store for more than 20 years, praised Elizabeth for creating ‘such a lovely place to work’.
She said: “She’s just so kind; if you would ring up and say that there is a crisis at home and that you won’t be in until later, it wasn’t a problem.
“I think the basis of her life is Christianity and kindness and that in a boss these days, in the money-grabbing world we live in, is rare.”
She added: “Elizabeth has this enchanting way of making friends with everybody, chatting with people and she was really good actually with young people.”
Praising Elizabeth for creating “such a lovely place to work”, Diana said she was shocked when she discovered that she had suffered a stroke because she was an active person.
She continued: “She was running marathons and 10kms even not long before she had the stroke.
“People say if you’re an active sports person, which she was, that you will recover a little quicker from a stroke but quite a lot of her hasn’t recovered.”
She added: “She never really had an off-day, I mean I’m first to say that I can have on and off days when I feel stressed and not quite as relaxed and cheerful as another day, but somehow Elizabeth was always constant.
“She was greatly respected.”