A HEXHAM business is closing its doors after 27 years of trading.

Friends David Vause and Alistair Neesham opened The Collectors Cellar, an established model railway and die-cast retailer, in 1995.

The pair met while working at Tynedale Training for Skills.

"We worked together for around two years, and then I moved on," said David.

"But Alistair and I struck up a friendship and we had a common hobby. Alistair was into trains, and I was into cars and trucks.

"Initially I used to do toy fairs and sold stuff there. Alistair came along to help one day and got hooked. And that's when we started the business."

Initially operating from a property on Hencotes, they moved across the road to their current premises in 1998.

But David, who lives in Prudhoe, and Alistair, who lives in Hexham, have now decided to retire at the end of March.

"We're both at retirement age and we want to enjoy the rest of our lives really," said David.

He added: "The time is right for us to step down.

"We trade on the internet as well but the big boys are starting to have such a substantial effect. The likes of Amazon are cutting prices which make the independents no longer viable."

Alistair said: "Things are now becoming so expensive. When we started off we would be able to sell something for under £50, now we can't even buy that for just under £100.

"By the time you've been to Tesco's, paid your gas bill, people just don't have £100 to spend on a model anymore."

The business, which was awarded a Corgi gold star seller, also operated an eBay shop.

"Footfall is quite poor," said Alistair. "I think if it hadn't had been for eBay, we would have probably shut down 10 years ago."

Despite facing some challenges which affected footfall such as the foot and mouth outbreak, maintenance works on Hencotes, and the coronavirus pandemic, the pair said they have really enjoyed running the shop.

As well as having many loyal local customers, they have sold items to people from all over the world, including New Zealand and Australia.

"We have met some fabulous people," said Alistair.

"Most people that come in here on a regular basis, you're friends with them. They're not just customers."

David added: "It was always the friendly approach with us. We never pressurise anybody into buying anything."

They are now offering 20 per cent off almost all their stock, other than a small amount of brand new stock.