Mark Arbuckle: Glasgow October 2021
Top Man would officially open its doors in Glasgow mid November 1978.
I was appointed Assistant Manager and another recruit from Burtons, Davy was the Manager.
I spoke to him on the phone and we got on well and looked forward to working together.
However before all that I had a wedding to attend…my own!
I returned from honeymooning in Athens eager to meet Davy and the rest of the staff.
Evidently I had been with Burtons far too long and turned up wearing a navy pinstripe suit, (Max!) a crisp white shirt and a red tie! Talk about conservative!!
The first person I met was Rikki, he had on a modern cut baggy, beige suit with big shoulder pads, a fancy blue patterned shirt and NO tie! Think late 70’s Duran Duran and you won’t be far away!
He topped this ensemble off with long, bleached, shaggy hair and a fake tan!
We eyed each other up with the same thought…… ‘W**ker!!’
43 years later we are still great friends, we’ve been each other’s best man (my 2nd marriage where he actually recounted our first meeting in his speech!) I’m Godfather to his daughter and we co-owned and were partners in an upmarket fashion business together for 10 years with many great laughs and adventures!
It just shows you how first impressions can be sooo misleading!
Rikki had come from ‘Jackson The Tailors’ who were always ‘edgier’ than stuffy ol’ ‘(Full) Monty-Fifty- Bob-Tailors!’
Davy arrived from Arbroath the next day.
He was a stocky ex Amateur Boxer who wore glasses with tinted lenses, which was quite unusual in 1978. As expected we got on really well and the shop was busy from the start. I even managed to shed my pinstripes and ties!
Obviously because of all the ‘knowledge’ I had gained from the students union bar during my one year studying accountancy I also became the shop’s bookkeeper!
Top Man had a brand new monthly book keeping system which must’ve been copied from an ancient greek abacus which had been translated from Persian!
It made no sense at all!
At the end of the first month I filled in what I could and duly sent it off. I got a call from our fledgling head office the following Tuesday saying I hadn’t completed it properly!
I pointed out the areas I was struggling with and they agreed that it was a bit vague. I said that it must’ve been an idiot that compiled the form. There was silence and a laugh and he said ‘Well I did have a hand in it but never actually filled one in.
Hi, I’m Andrew Leslie, Top Man’s MD!’ Whoops!!
He was very good about it though and actually asked me to redesign the Monthly Accounts Form cutting out the confusing and unnecessary segments.
Andrew would go on to have a great career in retail and is now a director at JD Sports
The next week Ross started as a salesman.
He was a hard worker and very funny although not the sharpest knife in the box.
A favourite trick of his was to go into a fitting room, pull the curtain across, muss up his wiry red hair, pull a deranged face and re-emerge 30 seconds later with what he called his Mad Heid!!
It was funny/scary the first time and never got old.
Anytime it was quiet somebody would shout ‘Hey Ross dae yer Mad Heid!’
Occasionally a startled customer would witness his full ‘Mad Heid’ display and either burst out laughing or quickly head for the exit!
Now as I said Ross was entertaining but a bit on the daft side – he once got a taxi from the City Centre to his home in Kirkintilloch and realised he didn’t have enough cash to pay the fare! So he asked the driver to stop 50 yards from his destination and then did a runner straight to his own front door!! Hahaha
I learned that Davy had left Burtons in the middle of a feud with Ken, the area manager. One day during Ken’s visit to the Buchanan Street Burtons, I realised that we, in the basement, were unusually quiet. In fact we hadn’t seen a customer for over an hour!
I went up stairs to investigate and found large boxes piled 3 high in front of our entrance! Ken had instructed Burtons’ staff to place their delivery there! I shouted down to Davy that there was a problem!
He came tearing up the stairs screaming with rage when he saw the boxes! We began pulling them out of the way.
Davy spotted Ken smirking in the corner, stormed over, grabbed him by his lapels and rammed him up against the wall.
Ken was terrified and spluttered
‘You can’t do this!’
Davy replied ‘Do this? I’ll ram my fist down yer throat ‘n’ pull yer f**kin’ guts out ya wee pr*ck!’ (Ken was about 4″ taller than Davy but at that moment he looked 4′ tall). George pleaded with Davy to let him go and eventually he let Ken slide down the wall.
Freed from Davy’s grip, Ken became brave again, a big mistake!
“I’ll get you done for assault” he squeaked to Davy! “Go ahead” said Davy, “But I hope you like hospital food!”
Ken didn’t call the police and would in future, time his visits to coincide with Davy’s day off or holiday!
As I said Davy was a tough, good amateur boxer from Arbroath.
He and his fellow drinking buddies’ favourite past time was to goad the young marines that were stationed at the nearby Condor base into fights!
The young marines were very fit and strong but lacked the street fighting prowess and experience of the crazy locals.
Every weekend there was a major battle which would end up with several marines and locals ending up in hospital or jail!
It got so bad that the base commander had to ban the soldiers from entering the town for their own safety!
Around May 1979 we were told that we were at last moving out of Burtons’ basement to our own Top Man store.
The old Jackson’s shop in Union St. was being completely refurbed and we were to open in June!
This was all very exciting. A larger staff, a wider stock range and most importantly total autonomy from Burtons. (Mad Max, the John Cleese lookalike had recently been promoted to Area Manager!?!? Nepotism at it’s best!)
Firstly we had to pack up all our existing stock and a van was being sent to transport it around the corner to Union Street.
I delegated each member of staff to be responsible for an area of stock.
I showed them how to group 30 shirts, 20 pairs jeans or 15 jackets while still on their rail, to tie the hanger hooks together to make it easy to lift off and straight onto the van. However I soon regretted not checking Ross’ bundles!
The van arrived and we quickly started emptying the shop. Everything was going smoothly until we came to Ross’ area…..he hadn’t ensured that the hangers were all facing in the same direction before tying them together! Therefore all 20 of his bundles were effectively locked onto the rails!!
Davy was going to kill him! The van driver was getting very agitated as a traffic warden was on his case to move!
I advised Ross to quickly hide somewhere.
Davy sent the van driver away and told him to come back in an hour and Rikki and I cut the ties on the bundles, straightened the hangers and retied them!
We worked hard for a week getting our new branch ready for the Grand Opening with an incentive that a mystery ‘celebrity’ would be turning up for the big occasion to do the honours.
Rikki and I were dispatched on the big day by taxi to The Albany Hotel to collect the celebrity who turned out to be the infamous Porn Star Fiona Richmond!
It was a well known ‘secret’ that my bosses, bosses, bosses, boss, the Burton Group CEO Ralph Halpern, was, ahem, a bit of a boy and was allegedly very close to Ms. Richmond in a non business capacity, so maybe Fiona’s presence wasn’t such a surprise after all!
On arrival at the swanky Albany Hotel we were shown up to Miss Richmond’s room, where she was very charming, regaling us with vivid tales from her colourful career and her current projects!
Unbelievably, Ms Richmond was currently treading the boards in the West End, starring in a stage adaptation of The Incredible Hulk.
In her saucy version of the Marvel classic however, when The Hulk, became angry and turned green it wasn’t his shirt that he broke out of and it wasn’t his massive biceps that were exposed!…..
I’m sure you can fill in the rest yourself!
Part 3 to follow next week……