ONE of Worcester’s oldest and most-loved family businesses closed its doors yesterday for the final time.

Knowles Sports, in Broad Street, along with the travel goods store opposite, was closed by owner Rick Knowles for the final time after more than 135 years in business.

Friends, family and former staff all came to the shop to say goodbye, and there was an atmosphere of hope as the store closed.

Speaking as he closed the shop, Mr Knowles said: “There are mixed emotions really, yes it is a sad day to be closing and it is sad that everything has come to an end, but there is a lot of positivity about the future.The stock has gone down very well and having made this decision it is on to the next chapter.”

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Being a keen cyclist and skier, Mr Knowles said he was looking forward to doing that and spending time with his family, adding that he would be taking things one step at a time.

He also thanked customers for their support, saying many had come in reminiscing about their memories of the place, adding: “Right from when we announced the closure in November, I would say virtually every day we have had people coming in and saying how sad it is.

“The amount of people who have come in and said they bought their first cricket bat or tennis racket is really special.

“Everyone has said the same sorts of things, but there have been overwhelmingly lots of nice comments.

The original Knowles shop was set up by Rick Knowles’ great-grandfather Albert in 1884 as A J Knowles Ltd, a saddle and tennis racket shop. Albert died from pneumonia at the age of just 39 in 1902 and his wife Mary took over the store.

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Their son Arthur took over when he returned from serving in the First World War, working in the shop for the next five decades until he died in 1971 at the age of 78.

From then, his son Robin ran the shop which had by then expanded to two shops, until his tragic death in a climbing accident in 1992 at the age of 60.

After Robin’s death, Rick took over the shop having worked as a ski instructor in Switzerland before joining the family business at the age of 20.

In November, Mr Knowles said he was closing the store due to a decline in footfall, largely due to the effects of online shopping, adding he wanted to close rather than go bust.