A FAMILY hardware business which has been in North Yorkshire for generations is to close.

Homeware and hardware retailer Woollons & Harwood has started closing down sales after 112 years of business.

The company, whose headquarters are in Malton where it had a shop for about 40 years, is closing after repeated break-ins to its internet-focused business.

Paul Woollons, owner and grandson of George Woollons who founded the business in York in 1901, said: “We suffered three break-ins last year. We had a very successful internet business run out of Malton, but it has folded because we are unable to protect our yard.”

Mr Woollons said the thieves were caught on CCTV, but were wearing balaclavas. Although the company invested a lot of money in new fencing, they beat it again.

He said: “We have got a night watchman who sits ten yards from us and the police have been very good, but they can’t be everywhere. These people work in teams and know where they are and what they’re doing.”

Mr Woollons said they had had to collapse the shelving in the warehouse at York Road Industrial Estate and park all the vehicles inside.

“That was the end of that,” he said. “The rug was pulled from under us with our website, which left us with the stores and things are really quiet on the high street.”

Woollons, which started out with a shop in Fossgate and the Stonebow, went into partnership with Mr Harwood in 1926 when it became a limited company. It was taken over by Mr Woollons’ father, Maurice, and uncle, Bernard, before he took the business on with his brother, Simon, who then emigrated about five years ago.

The business, which employs 14 people, now has two high street shops, in Helmsley and Thirsk, which have been open for about 20 to 25 years. Mr Woollons said the Helmsley shop would close at the end of January, and Thirsk would close once the stock had gone, probably before Easter.

He said: “I have got a very loyal band of customers that come in and people are very sad about it. But there’s an increasing number of people who look at stuff in the shop and go home and see how cheap it is online. A lot of websites are run from back bedrooms and kitchen tables where they don’t have to worry about rents, rates and employees’ wages.

“It was a hard decision and it’s something you have to get your head round. But there comes a point where one has had enough. Business is hard enough without all the other problems.”