SHOPKEEPERS who have served their community with a smile for generations enjoyed a standing ovation as they prepared to step aside to enjoy well-earned retirement.

Kishor and Nayna Patel first purchased their convenience store, in Wethersfield Road, Colchester, in 1989, moving to the area from Borehamwood, in Hertfordshire.

They started out with very little money and a bank loan to get their foot in the door but their success blossomed thanks to their hard work.

Nayna, 62, said: “We got to know everyone, did well and eventually bought the hairdresser’s next door to extend the shop.

“We learned gradually, through experience, about groceries and running a business.

“Now we have seen little children, who used to go to school around here, grow up and bring their own children into the shop.”

Nayna and Kishor, 59, said they built a trust and mutual respect with every customer and regular.

“No-one has ever bothered us,” she said.

“It was always about how you treated them, which was as an individual person and not as the same as anyone else.

“It has been a pleasure serving the community.”

During the coronavirus pandemic the couple kept the shop open with reduced hours, serving as a lifeline to vulnerable regulars.

Berechurch ward councillor Dave Harris organised a send-off for the couple with former customers joining in to pay their respects and give best wishes.

The couple handed over the keys to the new owners yesterday.

Mr Harris said the shop has long been the heart of the community.

“They have shared our tears and laughter,” he said.

“In an emotional and tear-jerking moment, the community stood outside, socially-distanced in family groups, to clap goodbye to this wonderful couple.”

The couple, who have a son, aged 32, and a daughter, aged 25, now plan to enjoy a well-earned rest.