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About Lendons

When James Lendon opened a bicycle repair shop in 1944, even he couldn't have hoped his shopping dynasty would still be thriving more than 65 years later.

James and his wife, May, established their shop, known simple as Lendon's, as World War II was coming to an end. Both of them being keen cyclists, they saw a gap in the market to repair the bicycles to the people in Llanishen in north Cardiff.

As the business grew, it allowed James, who passed away more than 35 years ago, to further indulge his hobby for model trains and he soon began stocking parts for other enthusiasts. The Lendons reportedly became the first shop in the city to stock Airfix kits, for young boys to replicate the planes they saw flying overhead everyday.

And in 1960, having acquired the neighbouring premises in Fidlas Road, Llanishen, James was able to greatly expand the range of models for sale.

Today, James' daughter Jo Matthews, 62, and her husband Dave, 70, run the shop having bought the business in 1990, while their 36 year old son, Robert runs a sister store in Cowbridge Road, Victoria Park, with his wife Tracy.

"Dad was keen on trains and railways and he was also a member of the Whitchurch and District Model Railway Club," said Jo. "I remember playing with the train set in the window, which had little live terapins in the pond in the middle - God knows where they got them from."

James and May would take their bikes apart so they could get the parts for repair, then hang the frames from the ceiling.

Between 1970 and 1990, the shop was known as James & Lendon, with part of the shop sold to local businessman Campbell James. Seventeen years ago, Campbell officially retired at the age of 65 and the shop went back on the market, which is when David and Jo decided to take it firmly back into the family fold.

They continued to employ Campbell in the shop until he was 80.

David said, "We thought it might be interesting to have a go. It was as simple as that. I was interested in model railways as a youngster and was really into Meccano.

"I think the best thing is meeting people and chatting to them. We learn a lot frm them and perhaps they learn a little from us - hopefully! It certainly takes you back to your own childhood when you see the youngsters come in and they are extremely knowledgeable about what they are buying. They do know more about them than I do! It's reassuring and gives you a bit more confidence in today's youth. It's generally the father or grandfather introducing them to something they used to do when they were younger."

As well as model cars, trains, planes, Airfix kits and all the extras for scenery and track, Lendon's also sells paints, glue, balsa wood and paintbrushes. Jo said: "We have quite a lot of regular customers coming in who we enjoy meeting. The age range of our customers is very broad. There are a lot of 30-somethings who are well into Scalextric. They get their mates round and spend the evenings with a few cans."

David and jo, who have been married 40 years and also have a daughter, Tracy, met at a Youth Hostel Association meeting. David said the market in model trains and planes was surviving dispite pressures from 21st Century video games. "Hobbies are important, whether with trains or Scalextric, and a lot of people are interested," he said. "I think it attracts artistic people who have an artistic flair. We find if there is a couple who are interested, the husband is generally the one who was interested first, he will be the one who gets the train running and it's the wife who will look after the scenic side."

Jo said "There are a lot of collectors who collect Corgi buses, it's surprising the number of people who collect cardiff Buses." And they believe a model of the controversial Cardiff "Bendy" Bys will soon be on its way. currently, a Bath Bendy Bus is available, while models of the Cardiff Clipper, Double-Decker and the more recent low-floor single decker buses are still on sale. "One of the main changes we have seen is Hornby taking its manufacturing to China from Margate," said David.

"Hornby has extended its range dramatically and they can now produce more locomotives in far more detail than they used to years ago. It's more complicated for us in as much as there's a much greater range of goods availiable. The range is widening all the time and the detail of what they produce is improving. If they are well looked after and retain the original box, then they will hold their price. it's difficult to pick out ones that will appreciate. There's no particular logic."

And Jo has this last piece of simple advice for enthusiasts: "Don't put your train on the carpet because the fluff goes ino the engine."

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