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Traditional Toy Store Set to Close in North Yorkshire

23/04/2010 This month sees the closure of one of Britain's few remaining high street shops selling traditional toys.

Independent toy store Horton and Hollender has stood on the high street of Wetherby, North Yorkshire for over half a century, but is set to close at the end of April.

The local paper published a valedictory profile of the much-loved shop and its proprietors John and Kathleen Horton last week, giving readers a taste of its 62-year history.

The article in the Wetherby News pointed out that generations of local parents and children had found a favourite toy in the shop, and had "always enjoyed a service with a smile on a first name basis."

The store was opened in 1948 by John's father Jack Horton along with friend Arthur Hollender, and originally started as a cycling and radio shop, and hoped to capitalise on Wetherby's status as a centre for Sunday road races, 70-year-old John told the paper.

They were both very keen cyclists and that is how they met and set up the shop together - we used to have hundreds of frames hanging up and bikes outside," he recalled.

The business thrived, and in the 1950s, the pair were able to buy eight cottages behind the shop in order to increase space and branch out into TV rentals.

Horton and Hollender did not get into the toy business until 1962 when John started working there as an apprentice electrical repairmen. The business had managed to open two more stores in nearby Harrogate and Tadcaster, and John took over as managing director from his father in 1974.

He told the paper that the advent of massive electrical goods chains like Dixon and Comet eventually put too much of a strain on the TV business, so by 1993 Horton and Hollender made the decision to dedicated itself entirely to the sale of traditional toys. The Wetherby shop thrived, selling well-made wooden toys, train sets and teddy bears, alongside newcomers such as Lego and Action Man.

Although trade has always been strong, John and Kathleen, who met 43 years ago, are now ready to take a break and enjoy a well-deserved retirement.

"We've decided it's our time to step down," John told the paper.

"I am 70 and we feel ready to have a rest, although Kathleen and I have enjoyed every single minute of it. We've had some really loyal customers who've been coming to us for years and years and whose parents even brought them so we've served literally generations of families."

"We've also had some amazing staff who have worked for us for decades and we can't thank them enough either for their dedication."

Although Wetherby's traditional toy shop will be no more, the town's community will not be faced with an empty, boarded-up storefront, however. Fortunately, the large retail premises has been snapped up by another, unnamed, retail concern who will be re-opening the shop very soon.

However, the children of Wetherby will have to go online from now on if they want to find the best in traditional toys.


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