End of an era as hardware store closes after 60 years

Stephen Hawkins of Wrights DIY Gorleston

Stephen Hawkins has loved the life Wright's DIY in Bells Road/Lower Cliff Road has given him. - Credit: Denise Bradley

He is the DIY expert who has almost four decades of jobs waiting for him at home.

Stephen Hawkins, 66, has been the face behind the counter at Wright's DIY in Lower Cliff Road, Gorleston, for 37 years.

Now the name will pass into retail history as he gets to grips with the nuts and bolts of retirement.

Stephen Hawkins of Wrights DIY Gorleston

Stephen Hawkins behind the counter at Wright's DIY in Gorleston where he has been a familiar face for 37 years. He says he has been overwhelmed by cards and gifts since announcing his retirement. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Having been strong-armed into a temporary stint as manager by former owner Maurice Loomes he knew as soon as he walked in he was going to love it.

Shutting up shop will be a wrench and he will even miss the "four candle and hose" jokes made famous by the Two Ronnies.

"It is the variety and it is the customers," he said.

"I get everyone from little old ladies to big hairy builders and kids in for a bit of wood."

Stephen Hawkins of Wright's DIY Gorleston

Stephen Hawkins of Wright's DIY plans to shut up shop for good on September 30, 2021, if there is anything left to sell. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Until the pandemic he was busy every day from 8-5pm six days a week. As sales have fallen away he has been opening mornings only.

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A bid to sell as a going concern fell through in March 2020 meaning he was able to benefit from soaring trade due to the lockdown when his was one of the few businesses allowed to stay open.

Inside the shop is virtually unchanged since Albert and Joyce Wright set it up in the early 1960s, taking in David Greggs butchers.

In the last two months Mr Hawkins has gone contactless, but everything else is as it always has been. 

Stephen Hawkins of Wrights DIY Bells Road Gorleston

Stephen Hawkins is retiring from Wright's DIY after 37 years, the last 15 as owner and sole member of staff. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Always working on his own he has had two days off in 15 years, one to take his son to university  and one in January 2020 when he was ill.

As well as selling items people struggle to find anywhere else like red cardinal door step polish he is able to offer advice, often helping people to navigate their way out of DIY disasters.

He said he was stunned at the response after he announced his retirement and thanked all his customers for their support over the years.

The father of three plans to travel by train around the UK with wife Gwen - and catch up on DIY jobs at home.

The shop's new owners are planning to subdivide it into three retail units.