IT WILL be an emotional moment for Joe and Joddi Patel when they shut up shop after 26 years.
The couple have been running Heathside Stores in Durford Road since 1991 but they are retiring with their last day on Sunday.
Joe will be getting into the shop at 6am on Monday morning but only to hand over to the new owners, a couple with two children. It will then be open as usual.
It is the customers Joe and Joddi, who brought their three children up while working at the shop, will miss most. Some they have known as youngsters who now have children of their own.
“Both of us want to say a special thank you to all our loyal customers. People have been lovely and we have never found the shop a burden,” said Joddi (64), who is looking forward to holidays with Joe (67).
“It is going to be sad to leave our customers but we are very pleased too to have a retirement plan.”
There was a difficult time seven or eight years ago when they lost the Post Office from the shop, which sells groceries, stationery, wine and beers and newspapers, including the Petersfield Post.
But with support from customers they managed to keep afloat. Around the same time the shop was refitted as a Londis.
Joe, who is looking forward to hiking up Kilimanjaro for charity in September, said that prices for groceries like bread and milk had doubled in their time.
Customer Laura Woodage of Petersfield, who worked at the shop through her teens, said: “The whole community uses the shop, even if it is just for milk, a paper or a chat. They have been a real asset to the community.”
Another regular, Simon Bostock, said: “They give very cheerful service and Joe cracks appalling jokes! Everyone will be sorry to see them go.”