A shopkeeper who has worked in the same hardware shop for more than six decades is hanging up her apron for the last time to enjoy retirement as the shop closes its doors after almost a century of service.
Great grandmother Joan Muter, (84) from East Sleekburn in Northumberland is closing the door on hardware store, R & L Keenleysides, that has seen generations of families come and go in Bedlington Station.
Morris Muter, Joan`s late husband started helping out Bob Keenleyside with joinery work for his customers in the late 1950`s at his small shop at 15 Station Street. Once their family were of school age Joan also helped out in the shop on a Saturday. In 1965 Morris and Joan took over the hardware, tools glass and timber shop from Mr Keenleyside.
Whilst Mr Muter primarily looked after the timber side of the business, Mrs Muter experienced a steep learning curve understanding at first-hand how to run a business, do the accounts and look after her many customers. Family members were drafted in and the shop blossomed.
The next four decades saw a continued period of growth and expansion for the business resulting in a move to larger premises next door, a transformation from a small DIY shop to a builder's merchants and the employment of a large number of Bedlington workers.
Keenleysides opened another branch in Front Street Bedlington in the early 80's which was a mini version of the original but without the heavy building materials. Expanding again in 1988, a wood turning department was created which specialised in exotic woods and turning tools. Wood turning events were held regularly at the shop and for his skills, Mr Muter received the honour of being elected into the Worshipful Company of Woodturners in London.
The shop has always been a mainstay of the local community and even today that legacy has been passed on as one of the Station Street buildings belonging to the family has been leased for a peppercorn rent to the new East Bedlington Community Centre.
Daughter Lyn Binks said: "Mum has put her life into this shop and into Bedlington Station too. It's now time for her to relax and spend time with her family especially her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She has lots of tales to tell of life in the shop and her dedication and work ethos has made everyone in the family what we are today. She really does deserve to take her retirement."
Keenleysides is an institution and a part of Bedlington Station's history. Today, customers who were young children in the 1960's still use the shop and recall tales of their times as children growing up in the town. Despite the emergence of DIY superstores, the shop has survived largely thanks to excellent customer service and the experience of Mrs Muter.
Mrs Muter said: "I will miss the shop, our staff and all of our loyal customers. I'd sincerely like to thank all of the dedicated staff who have been employed over the past 60 years and most importantly our loyal customers of Bedlington and beyond who have supported the business."
The shop will close its doors for the final time at the end of the month.
A small exhibition of photographs will be on display in the shop window.