End of an era for store

A ST Neots hardware store, which was set up with just £50 and a few pieces of borrowed wood and hinges, is closing after 50 years. The Handyman store in the High Street first opened in 1954 with 24-year-old owner Ron Maith behind the till. Mr Maith set up

A ST Neots hardware store, which was set up with just £50 and a few pieces of borrowed wood and hinges, is closing after 50 years.

The Handyman store in the High Street first opened in 1954 with 24-year-old owner Ron Maith behind the till.

Mr Maith set up a shop after deciding to try his hand at "something different". He opted for a hardware store as he had a friend in London who also had a hardware store and could lend him some stock.

Now 76-years-old, Mr Maith, who lives in Eaton Socon, told The Hunts Post: "I had less than £50 to my name to set up the shop and I borrowed some wood and hinges from a friend in London."

Being one of the only places selling wood and hinges in the town, the store quickly established a regular flow of customers.

"There was quite a demand for wood and hinges in those days because there weren't any B&Q or Focus stores. Now there's one in every town. The High Street definitely suffered when the bigger stores set up on the outskirts of the town."

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When Mr Maith bought his first work van, he paid £20 for it from Wrycrofts in St Neots.

"The owner said give me £10 now and the other £10 when you have the money. Business was different back then."

From day one Mr Maith was very much hands on with the business, working behind the till, ordering stock and doing deliveries. He still works in the shop, but after almost 50 years he has decided to close the business at the end of September and enjoy his retirement.

"It was inevitable that in time as things changed the shop would have to close," he said. "It is my staff I feel for most, some of them have been here for over 20 years and it is a big blow to them."

Although he acknowledges that the closure of the shop will signal the end an era for many of his regular customers, he says he is looking forward to his retirement.

"I am sad but I am going to keep myself busy playing bowls and doing my charity work with the blind. My customers have been very kind to me and have said they will miss me and have wished me a happy and enjoyable retirement."

A closing down sale will start at the Handyman store, 22 High Street, St Neots, on Saturday.

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