A FAMILIAR face is waving a fond farewell to the shop he took over almost 28 years ago.
On Monday, September 28, 1985, Jimmy Potts made his first sale – a ½lb of mushrooms – after being handed the keys to a Chester Road fruit shop two days earlier.
Never having worked in the retail market, let alone fruit and veg trade, he was nervous after leaving his job at Vaux brewery.
But it didn’t take long for Jimmy and his wife Alice to build up the family-run grocers, and soon business was booming at J&A Potts.
“We saw the fruit and veg shop on Chester Road was up for sale and we thought we could do it,” said Alice, 54.
“We had a weekend to prepare and sort the place out and then opened on the Monday. Jimmy was petrified.”
But Jimmy’s big heart, combined with Alice’s punchy personality, caught on with customers and the queues started forming outside.
Then came the rise of the supermarkets and business took a nose-dive as trade on Chester Road dwindled.
Jimmy, 60, said: “I remember on Saturdays there would literally be queues coming out of the door right down the street from about 7.30am until 5pm.
“We’d have five or six people working.
“Chester Road used to be so busy before supermarkets and people would come and do all their shopping here or at the butchers’ and bakers.’ On Christmas Eve, from about 6.30am, the place would be absolutely heaving. It was unbelievable.”
Over the years, Jimmy has become a reliable character in the community, making deliveries to elderly customers, donating to local causes and helping out regulars.
Alice, who left the business 10 years ago to take up fostering, said: “We always have the kettle on in the back and customers will just walk through and sit down and have a chat.
“Jimmy goes above and beyond what he needs to do and that’s what has kept people coming back all these years. He’s a true gentleman.”
Jimmy, who has three children and four grandchildren, will put the shop lease on the market over the next few days.
He said: “I’m sad to leave it all behind but I’m ready to go. It’s long, hard days and I’m 60 now.
“I’ve had an amazing time here and have enjoyed spending time with customers, many who have become friends over the years.”