CASTLEDERG has bade a fond farewell to a family business which has been an integral part of the town’s fabric for over 120 years.
On Friday the doors finally closed on WJ Kyle, the hardware and drapery shop having operated in the town since 1901.
In a commercial industry which has seen businesses taken over by, and benefitted from, advances in technology, Kyle’s remained a remnant of a simpler, bygone era.
Indeed, Kyle’s has never had a card machine, and the same gas lamps which dotted the store have been in use since the 1970s.
The shop was originally established by the Kyle family from Fivemiletown.
Brian Kyle, whose mother, Margaret, has been running the shop since 1981, said it was a ‘sad day’ that the family business had come to an end.
“It’s a very hard decision we had to make,” he said. “We put a lot of thought into it, but in the end, decided that now was the right time.
“Having taken over from my grandfather, who took over the business from his father, mum has been looking after the shop for over 40 years. It’s sad that the shop is closing, but it’s time.
“We took the decision to close for a couple of reasons: Firstly, mum is getting older, and Ann, who worked with her, decided that she was going to retire, so that helped us make the final decision.”
When asked what Kyle’s meant to Castlederg, Brian offered, “Everyone I meet in the town always says how important the shop has been.
“It’s been part of our lives growing up, and a part of the town for so long. The saying in the town was ‘if you can’t get it in Kyle’s, you can’t get it anywhere’.
“We’ve always been extremely appreciative of all the support received; not just by the people of Castlederg, but from those who came from outside the town to shop with us.
“That support will never be forgotten.”
Ann Harkin, who worked in the shop for 45 years had nothing but good things to say about her time there.
“I joined back in 1979 after seeing an advertisement looking for workers, and I enjoyed each and every day of my employment,” she said. “Working in Kyle’s with Margaret was a joy: There was never any hassle, and it always had a good atmosphere. Its closure will be a big blow to Castlederg.”
Brian also remembers fondly the many good times had in the shop growing up.
“One thing I remember about the shop is that it was always busy wee place: There was never a time when I can recall the shop empty. Our customers always had a friendly face and a good word, and the banter between everyone was fantastic.
“That banter will be sorely missed.
“There were bad times, too, mostly during the Troubles. Sixteen times, bombs blew out the windows of the shop, and there was never time to get out before they went off.
“We knew when a policeman came running in, then something was going on, so everyone would congregate in the back and sit on the bales of grass until the bomb went off!
“There was also the fire which engulfed the shop on Christmas Day in 1937, and it had to be rebuilt the following year.
“The countertop from 1938 is still in the shop today; you wouldn’t find that in any modern day shop!
“Despite all this, there was never any talk of closing: We were there to serve the people of the community, and were determined to keep doing so.”
Brian admits that the family will miss the shop just as much as the customers will, but is confident that W.J Kyle’s memory will live long in the hearts and minds of those who knew it.