Joyce Blythe (Coventry Bees speedway trackshop)
Sadly Joyce Blythe has been taken from us. She passed away on Sunday morning January 31st 2011 and will be sadly missed but fondly remembered.
Joyce was a really nice, genuine lady with a passion for people. In the Coventry trackshop, Joyce was part of a team, one half of a dynamic duo with her husband Malcolm but still very much her own woman. She loved making the Coventry trackshop stand out with its trademark friendly welcome and constantly changing displays of specially commissioned unique items of Coventry Bees memorabilia.
She’s a great loss to speedway in general as well as Coventry in particular, her family and – of course – her devoted husband Malcolm. Rest in Peace.
From Shale Trek
The friendly and knowledgeable husband-and-wife team who run the trackshop, Joyce and Malcolm Blythe, have already been on site for several hours to ensure that, by the time the public come through the entrance turnstiles, the shop is dressed professionally and its many items presented attractively. First impressions count in any business and Coventry speedway are fortunate to have Malcolm and Joyce on hand to welcome any visitors who happen to pop into their premises. Both long-time employees, Joyce is more than happy to be one of the public faces of the speedway club or the stadium in general. “The trackshop is the first port of call for fans wanting to talk about anything. Whether people want to complain or praise, we’re often the first to find out what the fans think, want or notice! They come in here for all sorts of things. If they want their glasses repaired – I have a little screwdriver specially for that – or want me to order a taxi for them for the end of the meeting or if they don’t feel well, whatever! Even to borrow a chair. We like to help as we’re the public face – or one of them – of the club. We would anyway but you know what I mean.”
From Shifting Shale
The array of merchandise inside the shop would gladden the heart of any Bees fan and for the sheer array and inventiveness of branded and appropriately coloured items available it’s definitely without parallel on my travels. There’s every conceivable item that you could imagine in yellow and black, stamped with the Coventry name or ‘Bee’ logo (often both) as well as numerous examples of riders who smile at you from all sides of the shop. The products range from the predictable to the inventive. There’s all the usual calendars, pens, boards and photographs, plus oodles of commemorative stuff as well as the much more exotic Coventry celebration wine (2005 vintage), doilies, gift vouchers and even an oil painting of Scott Nicholls adds to the veritable cornucopia of articles on display. You just know that if they don’t already have it in stock, then it’s the sort of shop where they will definitely try to get it. This shrine in celebration to all things Bees is very capably run by the warmly welcoming Joyce Blythe (“me – I’m part of the bleedin’ fixtures!”), along with her team of loyal, friendly staff. These include her husband Malcolm, Hazel Billingsley (length of service “too bloody long” but really just four years), Sandra (‘been here a long time”), Jonathan (“on videos”) and Jodie Lowry (“does riders’ merchandise in the separate booth over there behind your table”). It’s very noticeable that Joyce simultaneously manages to be in charge but motivate through praise and lead by example. She combines modesty, down to earthiness, commercial opportunism and business savvy in equal measure. Joyce has had to serve her apprenticeship under other managers and it took her a while to get the chance to implement her vision of how the Coventry track shop should look and be run.
First of all she, “did it when Alf [Weedon] was here – I worked for him” and after that she worked for Dave Rattenberry. The arrival of “Mr Sandhu” revolutionised many aspects of the club and the track shop was no exception, “the second year he was here, Mr Sandhu thought he could do a better job here than Dave – it was a speedway track shop as opposed to a Coventry speedway track shop”. It was a decision which meant that Joyce “took over in 2004 and running it myself I got the chance to try out a few things”. She “transforms the shop for stock cars”, but the speedway remains Malcolm and Joyce’s first love. She started to open in the off-season in the run up to Christmas, “the first three Saturdays in December in 05 and the same again this year, but slightly different as we start in November”. The “Christmas sale”, aided by the Bees victory in the Elite League championship final, proved to be a “huge success – oh, tell us about it – we had them queuing from the shop into the car park but they were the best people I’ve ever known as no one moaned”.
Almost as reluctant to accept praise as she is to have her photo taken, Joyce sums up her philosophy as, “if we haven’t got it, we’ll get it and we’ll try to be friendly with it!” Everyone in the shop appears keen to help me to understand the ambience and appeal of this shop as Russell Lowry confirms, “Joyce will try anything once to sell stuff, just so long as it’s got a bee on it”. These are sentiments that Joyce immediately echoes, “everything has got to have a bee on it” while another customer butts in, “you’re a happy go lucky bunch and so helpful”.
From Concrete for Breakfast
Joyce is always looking for ways to excite the customers and loyal fans into further impulse purchases at the shop. Tonight I notice that the tactic is to offer good discounts off the original sale price on a range of selected black-and-gold Bees items. If these garments were to be advertised on local radio there would doubtless be talk of a “price crash” and exhortations to get along and buy something “while stocks last!” Shirts are reduced to £10 for the Pits variety and to £29.95 for the more substantial “Champions” version. For £5 there are also “limited edition Bees Diamond Jubilee badges (2 colours)” along with “Golf style umbrellas” that now retail at £24.95, plus rather amazingly, “two styles of Bees coat” (anoraks to you and me) are available at half price.