Walsall shop owner who never took a day off in 31 years steps down

A much-loved businessman who never took a day off and treated customers "as family" has decided to retire after more than three decades of trading.

Lahmber Mattu with his wife Kashmir
Lahmber Mattu with his wife Kashmir

Lahmber Mattu took on Matt News and Convenience Store in Peacock Road, Darlaston, back in November 1991 when it was just a small newsagents.

But over the years he has expanded the business, with help from his family, into a larger shop, with an increased grocery range and a DIY section.

Now, after working non-stop for 31 years, he decided it was time to leave, with his last day on Sunday before the new owner officially took over.

Mr Mattu, who recalled the price of bread was around 30p when he first started, said: "This was my first business. I was working in an engineering company and it closed down, and I was given redundancy in 1990.

"I spent six months working in a petrol station where I learned the trade and me, my dad, and brothers, bought this as our first business and we worked really hard. The shop was an Express & Star shop in the 1970s and it was sold off in 1985, and that owner sold to us in 1991.

"It was only a newsagents shop selling sweets, cigarettes and other items and it gradually – as we kept trading and looking at the community's needs – we kept expanding. We had more groceries and we extended it to make it bigger. We expanded it five times and it became like a big supermarket."

The store had been originally run from between 5.30am to 6pm on weekdays, before they were gradually extended to between 5.30am until 10pm seven days a week, which people were "really happy with".

The 67-year-old, who worked in the shop with his wife, Kashmir, who will be kept on to show the new owner the ropes, described the business as being a "success" which only expanded to meet the needs of people in the area.

"I treated them like family and they all treated us like family as well," he said. "

People were really happy with what we were doing and we enjoyed it as well."

The businessman received his pension in March last year and made the decision to retire after advice from his doctors to rest, having been on his feet seven days a week – with no day off.

And he described it as a "difficult" choice to make, having known his customers inside and out and three generations of one family while he worked there.

"But one day you have to call it a day, and that's what I did," he said.

"It's a really, really, tearful moment for me. People have been crying, kissing us and when the customer is crying that makes you upset – and it makes me cry as well, but I have to leave. We've really been treated as a family, not as shopkeepers."

Mr Mattu made sure to open the shop every Christmas after receiving a request from one of his customers in case they forgot ingredients on the big day. And it was so popular – with him doing a full day's trade in a number of hours – he kept the tradition up. And he made sure to have an open bottle of scotch at the counter to offer his customers on the big day, as a way for them to celebrate the festive occasion.

He has been helped over the years by his sons Lakhvir Mattu and Parvinder Mattu – who is better known by his nickname "George", something it's believed he picked up from a customer with the same name.

Mr Mattu said his family was grateful for people's support over the years as they took on a string of businesses – including a chemists, a chip shop which changed hands last year, a children's nursery, Indian takeaway and the convenience store – in the area. He has set his sights upon resting at the moment but plans to visit India shortly, adding he may take up volunteering once he returns.

He added: "I would like to say, from the Mattu family, thank you to all the customers and the community of Darlaston and especially the Rough Hay estate. Thanks from the heart to all the people who supported us over three decades."

The businessman said he wanted to issue a special thanks to John Garrington and his family, including John's wife, Brenda, who helped the family out but sadly passed away and is remembered fondly by Mr Mattu's family.

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