Japanese homeware and clothing store to close in city

Hiroko and Nigel Aono-Billson, the owners of KOBO A-B, in Bridewell Alley

Hiroko and Nigel Aono-Billson, the owners of KOBO A-B, in Bridewell Alley, say it is with a heavy heart that they have made the decision to close the shop. - Credit: Hiroko Aono-Billson

A clothing and homeware store which brought Japanese craft and culture to Norwich will soon be closing its doors.  

The owners of KOBO A-B, in Bridewell Alley, say it is with a heavy heart that they have made the decision to close ahead of their relocation to the south coast. 

Hiroko and Nigel Aono-Billson, the owners of KOBO A-B, in Bridewell Alley

Hiroko and Nigel Aono-Billson, the owners of KOBO A-B, in Bridewell Alley, say it is with a heavy heart that they have made the decision to close the shop. - Credit: Hiroko Aono-Billson

The business was originally opened in 2018, in Magdalen Street, by Hiroko and Nigel Aono-Billson. 

After a successful first year in business, they moved to a bigger premises in Bridewell Alley to host workshops and events. 

But just four years later, due to personal circumstances and challenges brought on by the pandemic, the shop will close this May. 

Mrs Aono-Billson 58, said: “My husband is a graphic designer and a job offer came up to teach at Brighton University. 

“He had been commuting but it’s just too far. We spent weeks making this decision, it was a painful process but we think it’s the right thing to do.

Hiroko and Nigel Aono-Billson, the owners of KOBO A-B, in Bridewell Alley, are set to close the shop

Hiroko and Nigel Aono-Billson, the owners of KOBO A-B, in Bridewell Alley, say it is with a heavy heart that they have made the decision to close the shop. - Credit: Hiroko Aono-Billson

“Since Covid, business hasn’t been easy. Especially this year, with prices going up. People are being careful with their money. 

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“We started as a physical shop but now we feel we need to carry on in a different and more versatile way, focusing on our online shop instead.” 

Mrs Aono-Billson, from Norwich, says they hope to hold one more ‘Boro’ workshop in the city.

The word refers to a Japanese textiles practice of patching or repairing garments using fragments or scraps of cloth. 

She added: “I have mixed feelings moving to the south because Norwich has been really lovely.  

“We have had wonderful, loyal customers and amazing support.  

Hiroko and Nigel Aono-Billson, the owners of KOBO A-B, in Bridewell Alley, have decided to close the business

Hiroko and Nigel Aono-Billson, the owners of KOBO A-B, in Bridewell Alley, say it is with a heavy heart that they have made the decision to close the shop. - Credit: Hiroko Aono-Billson

“KOBO A-B has been my baby for the last four years. It will be a very emotional day when I close the shop for good.” 

Mrs Aono-Billson, who reignited her love for pottery during the pandemic and is currently selling her creations in the shop and online, hopes to carry on her Japanese workshops and a pop-up shop at her new home.

Customers will still be able to purchase products on KOBO A-B's online site here