ONE of Johnstone's oldest town centre restaurants has shut down after almost 40 years serving the town's public. The shutters came down for the final time on the Wimpy restaurant, on Ludovic Square, earlier this month.

Despite managing to compete with a host of fast food restaurants moving into Johnstone throughout the years, the recession has finally take its toll on the once popular takeaway franchise.

Townsfolk and community representatives have expressed their sadness at the closure of the business - which opened in 1974 -describing it as an "institution."

Councillors believe that the imminent closure could be linked to the move of Johnstone Swimming Pools, which has now been based inside the �14.5 Million Johnstone Sports Hub since July 2012.

Many residents have also contacted The Gazette to voice their disappointment over the closing down of the popular local food attraction.

One resident, Joyce Speirs, from Johnstone commented: "I am gutted. I used to go in there all the time as a child and have been taking my own children there for years.

"It was the best and staff were always lovely. Nothing like cheese burger and chips on plates and tea in a proper cup.

"A very sad turn of events. Wimpy you are sorely missed."

Another resident, Jacquie Dougan also commented: "I'm sorry to see any business close in Johnstone, the council needs to be creative to get our local shops back."

Some residents have been left so disappointed by the sudden closure that they had taken to the social networking site Twitter in a last minute bid to save the local shop by starting an online campaign named 'save the Johnstone Wimpy.' One local resident, Annie McGuire said on Twitter: "My wimpy in Johnstone seems to have closed down. Very upsetting - I love the Wimpy!"

Renfrewshire councillor's Chris Gilmour and Derek Bibby have also described it as "very sad."

"It is very sad to see the closure of the Wimpy," Councillor Chris Gilmour said. "I remember as a young boy going to the Wimpy, which was beside the Presto's store inside the shopping precinct.

"It was always extremely busy and a lot of people have good memories of the wimpy as it has been there for around 40 years now.

"For Johnstone, it was quite a revolution to get a Wimpy restaurant in Johnstone as there weren't many other fast food places like that in the area at the time.

"I think a lot of people will be sad to see it go. I think the fact that the old Johnstone pool has now moved could have a part to play as it obviously drove a lot of customers to the restaurant."

The Wimpy brand was first created in the 1930s and was inspired by the character of J. Wellington Wimpy from the popular Popeye cartoons.

Councillor Derek Bibby told the Gazette: "The Wimpy has been a significant part of Johnstone Town Centre for decades with generations of young people visiting the restaurant as a treat when in the town.

"While these are challenging times for the restaurant trade and businesses as a whole, the decision by the previous SNP led administration to relocate the swimming pool from Johnstone Town Centre has to be a major contributing factor as the yearly attendance at the town centre swimming pool has averaged 170,000 over the last four years."

Councillor Chris Gilmour also commented: "I will along with my fellow Labour Councillors continue to support businesses throughout Johnstone to protect the local economy."

There are currently only six Wimpy restaurants remaining in Scotland, which are situated at Dingwall, Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Kilmarnock.

A spokesman from Wimpy UK said: "Our franchisee, Mr Tennant, has given notice and closed the Wimpy restaurant in Johnstone and we wish him well for the future. We continue to look for new franchisees to increase the coverage of the brand within Scotland."