Dedicated Leamington greengrocer Richard Clarke is saying a heartfelt thank you to his “supporter club” of customers as he prepares to open his store for the last time on Sunday.
Richard has worked at the family business at 110 Warwick Street from the age of 14 in 1980 and took over from his brother as the owner a few years later.
His father, John, had bought the premises and opened the shop before he became ill.
But after 40 years in the business, Richard has now decided to call it a day.
He said: “It’s the end of an era and if you want to know if I’m upset about it I’d say I’m completely broken by it.
“I’m putting in 126-hour working weeks - I feel knackered every night and I can’t even go and have a beer,
“I’m going to refurbish the premises and then see if somebody else wants to buy it and hopefully take it over as a greengrocer for the good of my customers who I love.
“I’m putting my life savings into the refurbishment so I’m worried sick about it - we’re talking a lot of money - but it’s going to look good.
“I don’t know what I’ll do in my retirement - I love work but I don’t want to be doing the hours I’m doing right now.”
Richard said “the final straw” in his decision to retire was that the closest market where he can get his stock from is in Whitton, Birmingham, and that he “hates” the arduous early morning journeys up and down the M6 to get to and from there.
He said: “I’m not afradi of grafting, I’ve done that all of my life
“But I’ve had a lot of different thoughts when driving to and from the market and every time it has come back to me having tears in my eyes - but what can you do?
“You can’t carry on doing 16 to 18 hours a day.”
Richard said his business has supplied fruit and vegetables to about ‘80 per cent’ of the restaurants and other eateries in and around the town over the years.
He also said he has had customers from far and wide come from the shop over the years.
He said: “Basically they are my supporter club - it seems like there’s been millions of them from all over the place, not just Leamington but Rugby, Coventry, Banbury out in the sticks and more.
“I want them to know that I thank them from the bottom of my heart, this has not been an easy decision for me.”