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Robin Pritzker of Village Music Finally Comes Home to Mill Valley

You may have seen Robin in the Village Music documentary 'Last of the Great Record Stores,' but there's more to Robin than music. She grew up in Mill Valley, played junior tennis at the Mill Valley Tennis Club and traveled and cooked with

MVP: Where did you grow up?
RP: I was born at Ross General Hospital, which does not exist anymore. I grew up in the Marin Terrace area above Tam High. We were right on the border of the schools so we never knew where I was going to go to school. I went to Edna Maguire Junior High and then to Tam High. My brother and I were both competitive tennis players and we belonged to the Mill Valley Tennis Club.

MVP: What did your parents do?
RP: For years and years my mother was the Junior Theatre Director. Every kid in Mill Valley was in her productions. My dad was a chemical engineer and he was also a cellist in the Marin Symphony. My parents were instrumental in getting the Marin Theater Company going back in the day. The productions were originally in the Mill Valley Golf Club clubhouse.

MVP: What was Tam High like?
RP: I found it exciting. At the time (1964) Tam was the only high school in Marin that was integrated. Every year there was a race riot. It was very innocent though, almost contrived. What is now KFC was a little drive-in hamburger joint called C’s. That’s where the greasers hung out and that’s where they would have the riots.

MVP: So they happened on the weekend nights?
RP: No, it was during the school day. They’d close Tam High because they’d hear things. The kids were trying to do what they thought they were supposed to do. There were no weapons or anything. A few kids would push each other around a little and that would be it.

MVP: Did you play tennis at Tam?
RP: No, by then I had kind of hung my racket up. That was a time when women weren’t really playing sports. I don’t even think they had a girls’ team. They had a summer tennis program and I would teach.

MVP: I’ve heard that in those days in Mill Valley there was a lot of swinging and key swapping. Is that true?
RP: Oh yes.

MVP: Were you aware of that as a child?
RP: Yes, all the kids knew each other and we knew what was going on. So-and-so would split up and then end up with someone else’s mom. Also, there was a lot of drinking in those days. Mill Valley was party central.

MVP: Marijuana and hot tubs? Like The Serial?
RP: No, that came later. The drinking was a very big factor. The pot came in about when I was a senior in high school.

MVP: Did you leave to go to college?
RP: I went to College of Marin and then started working at Village Music.

MVP: How long did you work there?
RP: Probably 17 years. Village Music was our record store when we were little kids. I was a tiny little girl buying 45s there. The woman who owned the store wanted to get out and John (Goddard) had worked at the store. So she sold it to him.
I walked by one day and there was a little sign in the window that said, “Tickets for Johnny Cash here.” I knew if they were selling tickets something had changed and I loved Johnny Cash. I walked in and John and I just hit it off. He didn’t have a car at the time so we made a deal.  He gave me a ticket and I drove him in to the show. It was at the Carousel Ballroom. After that I started hanging around a lot and he finally said, “Do you want to work here?”

MVP: How fun was that? Were all the rock stars coming in?
RP: It was a blast. Everyone came in – all the Grateful Dead. Jefferson Airplane. Santana – anybody who was around. They would just come in and ask what records were good, which artists they needed to know about. I remember everyone was into Van Morrison. Or they’d say, 'I’m looking for a record with saxophones, what should I get?'

MVP: Those were the days when nothing was cooler than a record store. You must have been the coolest lady in town.
RP: It was very cool. That was my identity. And I must say, to John’s credit, he respected me as a person and as a woman. I learned a lot of business through him. He gave me a lot of decision-making and then respected those decisions. That was huge for a woman at that time.

MVP: Did you like the movie?
RP: I loved the movie. I thought it was a very nice tribute to the store and its contribution to Mill Valley. Village Music was an important part of this town and it was wonderful to be a part of it.

MVP: When did you move away from Mill Valley?
RP: I moved into San Francisco with my husband in the mid 70s and lived there for a while. Then I co-managed the Marin Tennis Club. The chef at the time was Joanne Weir. I did some catering with her. She was writing a chapter for a cookbook and took me with her to Provence. We got to go to all the wineries and treated to dinners. So I kind of got into food through her.

MVP: When did you move East?
RP: We moved to Connecticut and lived there for about 10 years. At first it was like being on a different planet. It took me about five years to go, “Ok, I get it now.” I was used to living on a coast with ocean and mountains. There it’s more ponds and lakes.

MVP: What were the people like?
RP: I never had any problem with the people. You hear about the east coast snooties, but even in New York City I didn’t feel that way. They are a heartier crew back there because of the weather. You have to have your wits about you to survive. I don’t miss that.

MVP: How long have you been back here?
RP: My marriage ended and I came back. I’ve been back two years.

MVP: Did you think to yourself, “I just want to go home”?
RP: Yes. I still had some deep friendships and strong connections here. My brother is in San Diego and I have other family here. I found an apartment on Craig’s List while I was still in Connecticut. I had a friend come and look at it for me. It turned out the landlord was from the Mill Valley Tennis Club and he just trusted me. 

MVP: It must have changed so much.
RP: That’s been an adjustment. The big shock for me is how expensive it is here. This used to be a little blue-collar town. Not anymore. We didn’t have as many nannies around when I was growing up, but I think to live here now both parents have to work. Downtown is not practical. There used to be a hardware store, a department store, a shoe store, and a dime store.

MVP: Now it’s all hair salons.
RP: Beauty and clothing. The clothing stores are really nice and really expensive. Lovely things but who can afford it? I remember when Banana Republic opened here. It was the littlest hole in the wall with leather jackets. There was one restaurant called The Palate, up by where Beerworks is. They had great hamburgers and a good cake for dessert. There were a few more bars, I mean real bars, with pool tables. The depot was a little bus stop. And I remember train tracks running down Miller. The trains didn’t run when I was little but the tracks were still there.

MVP: And the real estate has gotten so expensive.
RP: It’s a hard reality for me coming back and not being able to afford to buy a house. That feels a little scary and sad. It is such a desirable spot. That Mount Tam is stunning. Even if I’m not up there, just to look at it. And being close to the beaches.

MVP: That’s what we’re paying for.
RP: This area has always been a little progressive and avant garde. It’s kind of who is drawn here. The artists and musicians still come here.

MVP: What do you like to do here?
RP: I'm always up on the mountain with the dogs, and I love Stacey Agoustari's killer spin class at Body Kinetics.

MVP: Anything else about Mill Valley?
RP: It is a magical spot. I love my mountain.

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Bill Hall April 09, 2013 at 10:02 PM
Great interview, need more like this of what Mill Valley was like before the New York invasion. Cheers Robin>
Rico April 10, 2013 at 12:41 AM
I agree, this interview was great, and thank you Robin for your candor, and thank you Patch for posting this. I lived here then to, but I was just a young kid, but I got around a lot and hung out with older people. It was not only greasers that hung out at C's, there were a few "hip greasers" too. I remember seeing a bunch of hot rods around town and parked at C's that had bumper stickers that read "Free Bill Hall". We know what that's about. I remember when people used to call Mill Valley "Mill York" or "Mill Hatten". Good to see you posting on the Patch Bill Hall, and I hope you still live here, I do.
Paul Leong January 21, 2014 at 05:53 AM
Hi Robin, read your story & if you can go back to 1963, do you recall a kid from Hawaii that you met playing the Jr circuit in Ca. If you do, than hopefully you'll remember my name Paul Leong. Anyway, I still live in Hawaii, but visit MV throughout the year cause 2 of my children & grandchildren live here. If you're interested, love to get together on one of my visit here. You can reach me through email at leongtennis@yahoo.com

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