The customer is never right at 65 Beak St., London, where Claudia and Bill Gruby run a thriving retail and mail-order business catering entirely to that neglected 10% of the population that happens to be left-handed. To properly appreciate what southpaws go through, the northpaw should spend a day or two using nothing but left-handed implements. Corkscrews turn backward, pen nibs catch on paper, stenographers' chairs have their writing boards on the wrong side, rulers run their inches, one to 12, from right to left.
As it happens, Bill and Claudia Gruby are both right-handed. But at a dinner party in 1967, where the other four guests were all lefties, the Grubys were treated to an evening of conversation about the trials of southpaws. As their fellow guests explained, some left-handed tools and implements are manufactured but few shops stock them. So Bill, a printer, conceived the notion of a shop that would cater strictly to the lefties.
The shop is called Anything Left Handed, and has become a popular stop for many American tourists—up to 50,000 in a year. The catalog, which will be sent airmail to anyone for 25¢, lists more than 100 items, including five types of left-handed potato peelers (from 65¢), a deck of cards numbered on all four corners or a set of Bob Charles woods and irons for $260.
Cutting implements include 11 kinds of scissors, from nail to pinking and, surprisingly, a cutter for foot corns. Claudia explains, "The ordinary sloping-bladed corn cutter is practically lethal in the left hand." The left-handed do-it-yourselfer can work on a special bench with reversed layout and use a left-handed trimming plane.
For the female southpaw Anything Left Handed offers special can openers, eggbeaters and carving knives (with the serrated edge away from the cutting hand), not to mention a left-handed sink and a left-handed iron (with left-handed ironing board).
The mail-order side of the business involves the dispatch of hundreds of items a week, and new products suggest themselves continually. One woman wanted a left-handed hairbrush; convalescents seem interested in left-handed clinical thermometers. Power tools, with their emergency stop button normally dangerously inaccessible to the southpaw, are being designed. A left-handed (that is, right-wristed) watch is listed in the Gruby catalog at $39.
The only thing remaining to make the Grubys' inventory complete might be a stock of left-handed men's Y-front briefs. "As a matter of fact," says Claudia Gruby with a faint blush, "we are shortly getting a quote on them."