A LONG-ESTABLISHED music shop is to become the latest independent business in Darlington to close down.

Ron’s Music has been established in the town for 23 years – first with a shop on North Road and for the last six years in Blackwellgate.

However, a lack of footfall in the town centre in recent years has forced shop owner Ron Howe to call time on the business, an emotional decision which he said “marked the end of an era”.

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The shop is the latest in a string of independent Darlington shops to close down, most recently the Home and Furnishings shop on Blackwellgate, Flowers by Nattrass, which relinquished its West Row shop to focus on online sales and its Duke Street store, and several businesses that have left Post House Wynd over the last year.

Mr Howe cited issues such as parking, the increase of online shopping and a decline in town centre visitors among the reasons business was proving so hard for smaller retailers.

He said: “Sadly I think it is a theme; I don’t quite know what the council’s strategy is but they certainly don’t make it easy for you.

“I think parking is the main issue, I know they do try with certain events to get people into the town centre and people like Beryl from the Guru shop are always trying to encourage people in with markets and things.

“The Bid (Business Improvement District) people also seem fairly up for it, putting things on once a month, but other than that if you have only got estate agents, charity shops and cafes how are you going to bring people to the town to shop on a more regular basis?”

He added: “It is quite emotional, I have had a lot of people who remember us from North Road a long time ago, I’d serve them as kids and now they have kids of their own.

“It is the end of the era, I suppose I was the longest serving music shop in the town – none have lasted as long as me.”

It is not all bad news for Mr Howe, as neighbouring music shop, JG Windows, has a workshop which he will use to continue to offer instrument repair and run music lessons once his own shop closes on May 31.