Malcolm Simmons, who was hooded and carrying a black baseball bat, burst into the Talbot Discount store, in South Shields, in May last year and hit out with the weapon while his accomplice pocketed over £500 cash from the till.
The terrified shopworker, a retired dad looking after the store for his son, cowered behind the counter during the shocking, night time attack and feared he would be killed.
The well-planned and violent raid, which lasted less than two minutes, was captured on CCTV from inside the shop and was played in court.
A frightened witness, who was one of three young women friends being served in the shop, told police: "He was pointing the bat. If I didn't stay where I was and do what he said he would have hit me with it.
"If I hadn't escaped I daren't think what might have happened.
"This kind of thing only happens in films. To be in the middle of it was terrifying."
Simmons, who was out on licence from a previous eight year extended sentence for an earlier raid, admitted robbery, having an offensive weapon and theft.
At Newcastle Crown Court Judge Edward Bindloss sentenced the 30-year-old to four years and eight months behind bars, with an extended five year licence period.
The judge told Simmons, who has a long history of violent offending: "The shopworker was very distressed and frightened. He was coughing up blood when he got home, such was his level of fear.
"He said he is afraid to work in the shop again.
"He thought he was going to be attacked. He thought, if he was hit by the bat your held quite close to him, you would have killed him.
"This was a retired man, working in his son's shop, at an unsociable hour to provide a service to the community.
"In all the circumstances, I declare you are a dangerous offender.
"Had serious injury been caused, you now would have been looking at a life sentence."
The court heard Simmons, of Hedgeley Road, Hebburn, lashed out with the bat at a passer-by who tried to enter the shop and stop the raid.
The three women customers managed to run from the store but have been left traumatised by their ordeals.
Despite the shopworker's shocking ordeal and the fear he was feeling, he followed the men who had attacked the store in his car.
Prosecutor Mark Guiliani told the court: "He bravely got into his car and followed them.
"He lost sight of them but the police were called and saw the two men in a nearby park, sharing the money between them."
The court heard Simmons was arrested at the scene but his accomplice has never been caught.
Simmons has a total of 20 previous convictions, which include robberies in 2008 and 2009.
He was released from the eight year extended sentence, which comprised of five years custody and three extended licence, in June 2012.
Vic Laffey, defending, said Simmons found employment, settled down with his partner, had a child, gained qualifications and stayed well away from trouble during his three years of freedom after being let out of jail.
Mr Laffey said Simmons' lapse back into offending was triggered by his hours being cut at work, which led to financial problems, and his relationship breaking down.
Mr Laffey said: "He is appalled at himself.
"He accepts, on this one occasion, he took some drugs. He said he had put that completely behind him.
"He feels for the gentleman in the shop and the three girls who were frightened
and ran out.
"He is absolutely adamant this is the last time he will trouble the court, he is going to get on with his life."