A career spanning seven decades of retail service is about to come to an end for a Cromer couple.

Paul and Yvonne Kirkham, owners of K Hardware in the town's Church Street, are now working their final month before retiring in the lead-up to Christmas.

Mrs Kirkham said: "Paul and I would like to thank all of our loyal customers who have supported us over the last 69 years, and also to the summer visitors who have supported us year after year.

"We would also like to say a huge thank you to our wonderful staff - we have been indebted to them for their loyalty and help, especially over the last year, which has been a difficult one. They have been there for us and helped us unfailingly."

Eastern Daily Press: The owner of K Hardware in Cromer Paul Kirkham. Picture: Ian BurtThe owner of K Hardware in Cromer Paul Kirkham. Picture: Ian Burt

Mr Kirkham turns 84 in December and Mrs Kirkham is several years younger.

When Mr Kirkham's father started the business in 1952, his son joined, aged just 14.

The couple married in 1963, and Mrs Kirkham started helping out with the shop soon after, but only 'officially' joined the business in 1997.

Mrs Kirkham said: "We met in 1957 as young teenagers at the roller-stating rink in Cromer in Garden Street.

"I asked Paul to teach me how to skate and we fell in love. The rink was owned by Norman Troller - it was a popular place to meet.

Eastern Daily Press: Cromer's Church Street in 1957, with the K Hardware store visible on the left.Cromer's Church Street in 1957, with the K Hardware store visible on the left. (Image: Archant Library)

"We have been together ever since and very happy."

Over the years the business - named after the 'K' in the family surname - expanded to include several different shops including a builders' merchant, a laundry, and hardware store branches in Sheringham and Aylsham.

Mrs Kirkham said the shop's staff had become like family, and she and Mr Kirkham would miss working with them.

The team includes Gail Beck, who joined in 1997 and gradually started helping Mr Kirkham with purchasing, eventually ending up doing most of that task.

Eastern Daily Press: Church Street in Cromer in 1960, with K Hardware visible behind the flagpole.Church Street in Cromer in 1960, with K Hardware visible behind the flagpole. (Image: Archant Library)

Trudie Hamley joined the staff in 2010 and also did some of the buying.

Mrs Kirkham said: "Trudie has been especially good with her lovely window displays, and she will be remembered for her delicious cakes, jams and chutneys, which were enjoyed by us all."

Sonja Wright joined the business in 2013 on a part-time basis. Mr Kirkham said: "Sonja was a very popular Mother Christmas when we had our toy shop on the first floor - which was between about 2010 and 2016."

Mrs Kirkham said Lorraine Creasey was the newest member of the team.

She said: "She has fitted in so very well with everyone, always laughing and joking. Thank you so much to all of them."

Mrs Kirkham said the shop had been her husband's life.

She said: "He has enjoyed every minute of it, and he will miss it so much, especially talking and laughing with customers.

"I have always been there but usually in the background doing the accounts and the deliveries, etcetera, and helping in the shop when needed.

"Paul and I also went to trade fairs in London, Birmingham and Harrogate, always looking for new and interesting lines for the shop.

"We would like to wish everyone good health and happiness for the future. We will miss all of you. We also wish the new tenants good luck with their new venture."

The Kirkham's final day will be Wednesday, December 22, and they have invited friends and customers to to drop by for a mince pie on that morning between 10.30am and midday.

Mrs Kirkham said she and her husband were now planning how they would enjoy their retirement together. They will continue living in Cromer but also spend time in one of their favourite places, Derbyshire.

She said: "We've always loved walking and nature."