A FAMILY-owned toy, craft and hobby shop which has been a landmark of the town centre for nearly 40 years is to close.
Joto Hobbies was opened in July 1981 by Tony Cooke – and has since been run and staffed by two further generations of his family.
During its 37 years, the distinctive Lawrence Sheriff Street shop has attracted a dedicated following of hobbyists, collectors and enthusiasts of Hornby Railways, Scalextric, crafts and models, jigsaws and souvenirs.
Citing the waning allure of the traditional model shop, owner Liz Twynholm – who took over after her father Tony passed away in 2004 – has decided the time is right to close.
She said: “We’ve been fortunate to have a great relationship with our customers over the years and I’d like to thank them for all of their support.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to serve Rugby over the generations, and we will miss being part of the town.”
Her husband Dave Twynholm, who has helped out behind the scenes over the years, said the closure would leave ‘a hole in people’s lives’.
“It will be a very sad day,” he said, “not only for Joto but for lots of people in the town.
“There are some very loyal regular customers who come in on a weekly basis, and that part of the community will go I’m afraid.”
He said the shop had seen multiple generations of families become regular customers – reflected on the other side of the counter, where he and Liz’s three children Kevin, Julie and Lee worked in their teens.
“Joto has always tried to be part of the community,” he said. “There are kids who went in there in the past who are now adults, bringing their own kids or grandchildren to the shop.
“Lots of people from around the world who are visiting Rugby School and the Webb Ellis statue come in as they go past the shop, and they are always full of praise. They get to see a bit of English culture that they wouldn’t normally see.
“There are people coming in already saying this is sad news – and some come in just to share their fond memories.
“It’s like when record shop Berwick’s closed – people were devastated. It’s part of your town, and part of your life.
“But change happens, and now is probably the right time for Joto to close.”
Liz added: “We are having a clearance sale so there will be a great opportunity to visit one last time and grab something for the kids to do over the summer holidays, a souvenir of Rugby – or even an early Christmas present.”