A shopkeeper who has worked in the same hardware store for more than six decades is hanging up her apron for the last time today (Friday May 31) to enjoy a well-deserved retirement as the shop shuts after almost a century of service.
Joan Muter, aged 84, is reluctantly closing the door on R & L Keenleysides at 18-19 Station Street in the Northumberland town of Bedlington Station.
In the late 1950s, Joan`s late husband Morris Muter started helping out Bob Keenleyside with joinery work at his eponymous shop at 15 Station Street. Once the couple’s children reached school age, Joan also helped out in the shop on Saturdays.
In 1965, Joan and Morris took over the shop from Bob. Whilst Morris primarily looked after the timber side of the business, Joan experienced a steep learning curve understanding at first-hand how to run a business, do the accounts and look after 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 and a transformation from a small DIY shop to a builder’s merchants.
Keenleysides opened another branch at Front Street in Bedlington in the early 1980s, which was a mini version of the original but without the heavy building materials. Further expansion followed in 1988 with the introduction of a wood turning department that specialised in exotic woods and turning tools. Wood turning events were held regularly at the shop and, for his skills, Morris received the honour of being elected into the Worshipful Company of Woodturners in London.
Joan’s daughter Lyn Binks, who worked in the shop for 30 years, is incredibly proud of her mother. “Mum has put her life into this shop,” she said. “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.”
Joan 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.”