A Leighton Buzzard couple whose corner shop has been the hub of their local community for almost 38 years, will be shutting its doors for the last time next month.
Rasik and Mukta Shah, whose Cottage Stores shop on the corner of Heath Road and Sandy Lane has provided a dawn-to-dusk service to local residents for almost four decades, are to retire, with the store ceasing trading on the afternoon of Saturday, April 2.
But the ever-present couple don't regret a single minute of their years as newsagents and tobacconists supplying a vast range “every day needs” from fresh bread and milk to fruit and vegetables to a core of local residents.
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Says Mrs Shah, affectionately known as Mina to her many friends and family: "While the time has come for Rasik and I to call it a day, if we could rewind the clock and have our time again, we would do exactly the same. We have been exceptionally fortunate in living in a community which has been so supportive. It's been an amazing journey; we thank everyone for embracing us and will miss them enormously."
Born in Uganda, Mukta met Kenya-born Rasik whilst working in London, and after a short spell in Wellingborough, moved to Leighton Buzzard, bringing up their son Kamil, 40, a former Vandyke student and ex-Junior Captain of Leighton Buzzard golf club who now works for the Milton Keynes-based Audi head office.
Adds Mr Shah: "The last couple of years have not been easy what with Covid and the social restrictions that impacted on everyone. The extended closure of Heath Road last year to repair service pipes 25 feet below the road surface severely reduced casual trade, but our local customers stayed loyal, and we very much appreciated that."
Whilst the Shah's remain living on the corner-shop premises, they have not given up hope of selling the property as an ongoing business.
Plans to convert the nearby former Star public house into a similar shop were recently turned down by the planning authority and, adds Mr Shah: "There clearly is a demand for the kind of service we have provided to the local community and we would love to see it continue."