THE Patel family will celebrate 30 years of running convenience store Country Stores in Donnington tomorrow (May 14).
Chandrakant Patel, 67, and his wife Kalpana, 62, took on the store on May 14, 1984.
“Now we are part of the furniture,” said Mr Patel.
After a career in the Ministry of Defence, Mr Patel decided to make the move to Sussex with his wife, to start a family.
The pair now run the shop with their three daughters, Nemeeta, Roshni and Rakhi, two son-in-laws and five grand-daughters.
“When my eldest daughter was born, we decided to move into retail,” said Mr Patel. “My parents used to do it.”
The Patels have transformed what was a small convenience store into a multi-purpose shop, with groceries, newspapers, a pound shop, pet shop and a deli section, with sandwiches made on the site.
A popular part of the shop is the beach toys and inflatables, which the Patels display outside the shop, catching the eye of holiday makers heading to The Witterings.
Mr Patel said he has had to adapt the shop as supermarkets and online shopping had become more common.
“We have to change with the times if we want to survive,” he said.
“We’ve kept on changing Whatever they want, we just get it.”
One thing that is clear when you visit the shop, is it’s a real family affair.
“It is my livelihood, my children’s livelihood,” said Mr Patel. “My children grew up here and will take the shop over, and hopefully their children will take over.”
Retail runs in the Patels’ blood, and Mr Patel said his father used to run a shop in Uganda, just a stone’s throw away from the jungle.
He said he learnt from his father to look after his customers – and he certainly does.
The family delivers in the area for older customers who can’t easily get around, and Mr Patel said: “They have supported us all of their lives so when they get old we have to support them.”
The family’s attitude is all about giving something back to their customers and making sure the shop is the best it can be for the community.
“They really appreciate the shop,” said Mr Patel.
“There are not many convenience shops left like mine.”