A PASSION for scooters has stayed with Russ Sutton and Chris Lee since they started riding them in Sheffield when they were in their teens.
More than 40 years later it has driven them to open a cafe and meeting place where Lambrettas and Vespas can roll up for a taste of the lifestyle that attracted so many enthusiasts in the heyday.
This weekend the men are launching Okeh Cafe in Abbeydale Road – named after a blues and soul record label.
They describe it as “a proper British-style cafe”, and memories will be evoked by formica tables, leatherette booths and a rare 1959 Rock-ola jukebox playing Tamla Motown, Northern Soul, ska and r’n’b.
Russ said: “We are two Sheffield lads who, having been on a ride out with 70-plus fellow scooterists, decided it was time to open a meeting place for anyone with a love of all things retro from a great period in British history.
“Most of the guys and girls involved in the scootering scene drive really nice period scooters.
“Having spent plenty of time, trouble and money on their machines, we thought what better way to turn the clock back to the swinging 60s when you could grab a cappuccino in one of the many coffee bars and milk bars while listening to a great selection of tunes on the jukebox.”
Outside the corner cafe, opposite Wolseley Road, is free parking for about 30 Lambrettas and Vespas.
Russ, aged 49, who lives in Crookes, said both himself and Chris had had scooters since they were 16 or 17. They first met in 1977 and were founder members of the Sheffield Scorpions Scooter Club.
“We have always had this love of Lambrettas. Over the years it has been a case of falling back into it. It’s such a great lively scene.
“There have been peaks and troughs on the scooter scene but in the last year or so it has really taken off.
“The price of petrol has gone through the roof and scooters do about 70 to 80 miles to the gallon.
“They are traffic beaters – wonderful if you have to rush somewhere.”
Russ and Chris used to run a live music bar in Fitzwilliam Street in Sheffield city centre called Tin Pan Alley and a music bar in Chesterield called the Green Room. Now Russ owns Woody’s sandwich bar in Ecclesall Road, Hunters Bar, a business he will carry on alongside Okeh Cafe.
Chris, aged 51, who lives in Kelham Island, is back in Sheffield after spending 14 years in Tasmania.
Between them they have had round 20 Lambrettas over the years and have become part of a scene that was reinvigorated by the Mod revival in the Seventies and now sees thousands of enthusiasts going to rallies.
Chris said: “It’s the cameraderie. It brings a whole cross-section of people together.”
The cafe, once Abbey Cafe, is open seven days a week, “morning until late”, and an open day is being held at the cafe on Sunday, when more than 150 scooterists are expected, as well as representatives of national scooterist magazines.