“I particularly remember the smell of old paraffin lamps.”

Stephen Senior recalls visiting Mortens hardware shop as a young boy. “I grew up with it. My dad worked there and my mum, and various aunties.”

On its prominent corner site Mortens is something of an institution in Ilkley - the destination for generations of DIYers, home improvers, gardeners and cooks.

“We sell more than 40,000 lines, from lightbulbs to screws, batteries, saucepans and gardening products,” says Stephen, who is now its proud owner.

“We have so many regulars. A lot of people know me by name and have known me since I first came in as a boy. I have just posted on Facebook to say that we will be staying open during lockdown, and people have been sending us lovely messages thanking us.”

Hardware has been in demand throughout the year, in particular home improvement items, he says. “People, have been in their gardens a lot more and spent time making or fixing things, and everyone seems to be decorating.

“We take on ex-tradesmen who are very knowledgeable in different areas and we are also asked for advice, which we are happy to dispense for free! People appreciate it very much.”

The shop was opened in 1937 by local man Ralph Morten, who was in his early twenties at the time.

“Ralph was a very clever chap and very good with his hands,” says Stephen. “He wanted to set up a hardware shop and opened a small one with his wife Barbara.”

In 1939 Ralph left to go to war, leaving Barbara to hold the fort. Once he returned he began to expand the business.

His first employee was Keith Hart, who recently died aged 90. “Ralph and Barbara had no children. Keith began working for them and then a few years later my dad, Brian, started straight from school,” says Stephen.

When Stephen left school in 1984, aged 18, he joined the workforce “while I decided what to do with my life.”

Over summer, he decided he did not want to go to university and carried on selling hardware. “I really enjoyed it. had a really good relationship with my dad - we made a good team.”

In 1976 Brian and Keith bought the business from Ralph, who lived to be 101. After Keith retired in 1990 Brian took it on himself.

“Dad ran it until he died in 2002. I worked with him for 18 years,” says Stephen, adding that David Jowett, who started aged 16 and has worked there for 40 years, is a director alongside him.

“David walked in one day and said to my dad ‘I want to be an ironmonger’ and that was that. He is a vital cog in the wheel.’”

The shop has expanded from one building, number six Cunliffe Road, to take in numbers two to eight. Says Stephen: “There are only four buildings in the block and we now take up all of it.”

The shop shut for five weeks during the first lockdown, with everyone except Stephen placed on furlough. “It was a scary time and it was important to keep staff safe - they are like family,” says Stephen.

Returning meant the introduction of stringent safety measures. “I studied everything and ordered barriers, floor stickers, sanitisers, all sorts. Before we opened we were well prepared.

This time around the 18 staff have been split into two teams working on different days so if one person contracts the virus the other team’s members will not be affected.

“Also the fewer staff we have in the less chances of spreading it,” says Stephen. “But it does mean that the staff who are in each day will be a lot busier.”

He adds: “We are one of the most safety conscious places.”

Over the years Stephen has witnessed many changes in tastes both in gifts and home decoration.

“We used to stock silver-plated tea sets and China for wedding presents but all that has changed. People used to use wallpaper but now they tend to paint their walls.”

Christmas will bring a bit of welcome cheer to the town, with the shop stocked with Christmas trees and lights.

“We are getting 600 trees delivered towards the end of the month,” he says. “There will be a festive atmosphere.”

He adds: “It is hard work but good fun. It is a very friendly shop. We all get on well and have a laugh.”

Stephen believes independent shops such as Mortens are essential to any high street. “They add colour and variety, and a more personal service.”

After 36 years Stephen, who lives nearby in Burley-in-Wharfedale, is still enjoying his job. “I definitely made the right decision to stay and work at the shop all those years ago,” he laughs. “I would not want to do anything else.”

*Mortens of Ilkley, 2-8 Cunliffe Road, Ilkley LS29 9DZ Tel: 01943 609131

The shop has its own Facebook page.