The end of a Sheringham era

Richard BatsonThe door to a long-standing Aladdin's cave of a shop at Sheringham shut for the final time at the weekend.But its owner will not be putting his feet up for a well-earned rest after leaving a place he first worked in 58 years ago.Richard Batson

The door of a long-standing Aladdin's cave of a shop at Sheringham has shut for the final time.

But its owner will not be putting his feet up for a well-earned rest after leaving the place where he first worked 58 years ago.

For Mike Crowe is combining his love of cycling and adventure to tackle a 1,000-mile charity bike ride in the summer, after a 12-day 'warm-up' session riding from Vietnam to Cambodia.

Crowe's general dealers shop was run by his father from 1966 to 1976, when Mike took over, but its roots go back further - to 1943, when Major Dunn sold a similar mix of bric-a-brac and collectibles.

The furniture side of the business shrank 15 years ago when the yard behind was developed into a shopping arcade, but the shop at the front has been a mecca for locals and tourists looking for 'something different.' Its higgledy-piggledy shelves brimmed with tin toys, Toby jugs, tea pots, barometers, biscuit barrels, brassware and novelty china, such as a Del and Rodney cruet set.

But on Sunday last week the Station Road shop shut as Mr Crowe retired and prepared to refurbish the building, which is due to become a gift shop in the spring.

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Mr Crowe, who worked there as a boy before taking over in 1976, remembered receiving a bottle-of-pop bonus as a schoolboy salesman for selling 1,000 hardback books in a week.

Other memorable episodes were a 4ft-tall brass horse that used to stand outside and was a favourite for children to stroke and be photographed with; plus a 7ft Marilyn Monroe figure, bought by a man who drove it off in his open-top sports car, his girlfriend being relegated to the back seat.

Mr Crowe enjoyed running the shop seven days a week but said he had decided to call it a day because 'I am 71 and there are so many other things to do.'

At the end of this month he is returning to his favourite country, Vietnam, for a cycling trip along the Mekong river, He has done a 450-mile charity ride there in the past, and jaunts for good causes have included climbing Mount Kiliman-jaro and doing the Great North Run.

But the new year ride is just for fun, ahead of a June journey from Land's End to John O'Groats, among 500 other riders including Olympic oarsman James Cracknell, to raise funds for the Paralympics and East Anglia air ambulance.

Sheringham-born Mr Crowe, who worked as a chemistry teacher and university lecturer before returning to the family shop in a career change, is also well-known in town as a former councillor, chairman of the regeneration group and amateur actor.

He is involved with the community wardrobe and is chairman of the Oddfellows Hall committee.

Other plans are to explore Canada

by train and to visit his son in Australia via Fiji, Samoa and New Zealand. Then 2011 is earmarked for a three-and-a-half-week charity walk across the breadth of the country from Anglesey to Lowestoft.

'Most people think I am bonkers and should be relaxing, but I am not a great sitter about,' he added.