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dealer retires aged 85

After 59 years of trading Ken Blacklock, the 85-year-old owner of North East Motorcycles in Durham is retiring and closing the shop at the end of this month.

“It’s the end of an era,” Blacklock said in January. “I loved it, I enjoyed every minute and now it’s finished. I have given good service, and that’s it.”

The announcement of his retirement prompted scores of best wishes on Facebook.

Blacklock is unashamedly an old-school motorcycle dealer and one of the country’s longest continuous traders. He started in April 1960 and within five years had franchises for Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Lambretta, plus a sub-franchise for Vespa.

He raced successfully, sponsored sidecar star Mac Hobson (among many others), and describes the motorcycle trade as the most exciting and rewarding careers.

In a BDN profile in 2012, Blacklock said: “It’s not a chore coming into work. It’s a pleasure. I don’t have to keep on doing this. I choose to do it. That’s what makes all the difference.”

Blacklock has seen boom and bust, held the biggest franchises in the game – and given them up, worked hard, taken risks, stood up to pressure from suppliers, and reaped the rewards when times have been good. Blacklock has pretty well seen it all.

He started in business with Scooter Services in Chester-le-Street, Co Durham, in 1960 with £270 saved from working permanent nights in the local colliery. He ran the shop during the day and was rewarded with a Vespa sub-agency through Cowies in Sunderland. 

In 1971 he opened a second showroom at Darlington Road, Nevilles Cross – the current premises which will close at the end of next month.

In 1974, with the Lambretta boom fading and with the mainstream motorcycle market booming, Blacklock re-named the business North East Motorcycles.

In the boom times, North East Motorcycles’ two shops employed 14 people and between 1978 and 1980 sold 3500 to 4000 bikes a year between the two showrooms. Latterly he has just concentrated on the Durham shop, with two full-time employees – Keith Williams, who has served nine years in parts, and Paul Armstrong who has worked the spanners for 21 years – plus a part-time book keeper.

North East Motorcycles gave up Suzuki in 2013, after 49 years, and its Royal Enfield franchise was terminated on 29 December last year.

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