Life in Hull according to those who run corner shops

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Life in Hull according to those who run corner shops

They have been at the centre of their communities for decades but many independent corner shops are now being swallowed by chains and supermarkets.

No one has a better understanding of local life than corner shop owners who are open all hours, weekends and Bank Holidays.

They have seen the ups and downs, from robberies to banter with regulars, but having been the beating heart of the community, the pulse is slowing down for many.

We speak to shop owners who have been serving their customers a pint of milk, cigarettes, sweets, ice cream or the Hull Daily Mail for years.

Sangha’s Beverley Road, Hull



Jaswinder Sangha from Sangha's, Beverley Road, Hull

Jaswinder Sangha from Sangha’s, Beverley Road, Hull

Jaswinder and Kay Sangha are well known on Beverley Road and have seen major changes in the street over the years.

They admit there have been struggles but insist the future for them at least remains bright.

“I have been here for around 20 years now and quite a number shops have closed down on Beverley Road in that time but we are still here, Mr Sangha said. “But we are pretty steady and it’s not too bad.

“A big change in the last few years is that we are getting more Polish customers and there are quite a mix of nationalities.”



Sangha newsagent, Beverley Road, Hull

Sangha newsagent, Beverley Road, Hull

Like many small shops, they have faced crime. Indeed, Mrs Sangha was threatened with a knife a couple of years ago but told the robber she was having a cup of tea and to get out – which he did.

“There are some people that cause trouble,” Mr Sangha said. “They come in drunk and try to steal things and we have had windows broken but people know us so we are usually left alone.”

What keeps the likes of the Sanghas going are the regulars.

“There are nice people here and people come in and have a chat well getting their morning paper,” Mr Sangha said. “We have some good banter and we have a good number of regular customers.



Jaswinder Sangha from Sangha's, Beverley Road, Hull

Jaswinder Sangha from Sangha’s, Beverley Road, Hull

“We remain positive about the future and we are not going anywhere any time soon.”

Mrs Sangha also believes the customers are what drives them on.

“Our customers are brilliant and really friendly,” she said. “I love Hull and we do not want to move.

“Everyone goes through good and bad times. We have had people come in here who steal and rob and push their luck but most of the time it is great.”

S&J Newsagents, Barnsley Street, east Hull



Jenny Lao from S&J Newsagents, Barnsley Street, east Hull

Jenny Lao from S&J Newsagents, Barnsley Street, east Hull

Jenny Lao and her husband have run S&J Newsagents for 15 years but now they are looking to sell up.

She admits it has been a difficult decision but feels they have no choice.

“All the profits we make go to paying wages,” she said. “It is very hard for corner shops right now.

“We have regular customers but they are all older and they are disappearing. We have had enough now.

“We have enjoyed serving the community and the local people are really nice.

“People used to queue for the paper in the morning but that doesn’t happen anymore.”



S&J Newsagents, Barnsley Street, east Hull

S&J Newsagents, Barnsley Street, east Hull

Although custom has dwindled, crime has also gone down in the shop over the last few years.

“It is better than it used to be,” Mrs Lao said. “Sometimes children come in and take something but that’s about it.

“When we started we would be robbed two or three times a year. My husband was threatened by a man with a screwdriver once.

“Another time, some drug users literally took out the whole till.”

Mrs Lao admits it has been a difficult decision to sell up.

“Customers have told us they are disappointed we have decided to put the shop up for sale,” she said.

“We love chatting to people and we will miss our customers.”

Guy’s Sweet Shop, Albert Avenue, west Hull



Mark Bretamo from Guy's sweet shop, Albert Avenue, west Hull

Mark Bretamo from Guy’s sweet shop, Albert Avenue, west Hull

Mark Brentamo has run Guy’s Sweet Shop for 19 years and he admits the future is bleak for small, independent stores.

“There is more competition now with stores like B&M who sell goods more cheaply,” he said, “but there is a call for corner shops still.

“People still like to come in and have a chat. They like the personal touch rather than the swipe and beep of the supermarket.

“We have a good number of local customers and older people in particular like to come in.”

There is no resting on your laurels in the corner shop industry.

“You have to adapt and we now take in parcels for Hermes which is a growing market as more people shop online,” he said.



Mark Bretamo from Guy's sweet shop, Albert Avenue, west Hull

Mark Bretamo from Guy’s sweet shop, Albert Avenue, west Hull

Albert Avenue is a relatively, quiet, residential area which Mr Brentamo admits had not altered much during his time.

“The street hasn’t changed too much over the years and we have lots of families,” he said. “There is also a school nearby so we often get kids coming in for sweets.

“It is a quiet area and we don’t get much trouble. We have had a bit of shoplifting but I have only had to call out the police a couple of times in 19 years. We have CCTV so the police have come to me more than I have had to go to them.”

Despite holding his own, Mr Brentamo is unsure about the future for stores like his.

“It is a sign of the times that shops like mine are in decline,” he said. “The loyalty of my customers will pull me through but I can’t see me lasting another 19 years.

“All I can do is provide a good service, that’s what it is all about.”

Hartley’s Newsagents, Hessle Road, west Hull



Hartley's News, Hessle Road, west Hull

Hartley’s News, Hessle Road, west Hull

Pauline Scholes has worked at Hartleys for 17 years but John Hartley has had the store for 25 years.

She is rather pessimistic about small, independent stores and the state of Hessle Road right now.

“The road is dead right now,” she said. “When I started working here it was thriving.

“People just don’t seem to walk down the street anymore. They just get into their cars and head to the supermarket.

“These places sell all the things we do and all the smaller shops are going now.”

Mrs Scholes admits there are hazards working in a newsagents.

“You do face problems from time to time and some people do steal stuff,” she said. “One customer lobbed a milk bottle at my head when they realised they didn’t have enough money.”



Pauline Scholes from Hartley's newsagents, Hessle Road, west Hull

Pauline Scholes from Hartley’s newsagents, Hessle Road, west Hull

Relying on regular customers is not sustainable, according to Mrs Scholes.

“We do have good, local customers but they are getting on and some are not with us anymore,” she said.

“People also seem to have less to spend so they are not spending as much on things like cigarettes.

“You also have to open seven days a week so it is a big commitment. When the boss retires I am not sure this will remain as a newsagents.”

The Old Park Shop, Hawkesbury Street, east Hull



Paul Smith from Old Park Shop, Hawkesbury Street, east Hull

Paul Smith from Old Park Shop, Hawkesbury Street, east Hull

The Old Park Shop has been serving ice cream to East Park visitors for years but is tucked away on a residential street.

Paul Smith was born and bred in this part of east Hull and has run the shop for ten years.

“This shop has been serving ice cream since 1933 and the owner even made his own ice lollies at one point,” he said.

“There used to be shops on every corner round here but now they have all gone. The park was also open and it wasn’t fenced off like it is now.



Old Park Shop, Hawkesbury Street, east Hull

Old Park Shop, Hawkesbury Street, east Hull

“I sell ice cream for just £1 because people do not want to come here and spend £30-40. They want to come to East Park for a day and have a nice time but not to come away broke.”

But Mr Smith is frustrated when the council holds fairs with vans selling ice cream in the park itself.

“They put on a fair here for six weeks in the summer which is the busiest time,” he said. “They allow ice cream vans and candy stands to come in from elsewhere, make their money and go.

“It leaves small businesses like mine in a very difficult position. But I do have regular customers with some who come in every day.”



Paul Smith, from Old Park Shop, Hawkesbury Street, east Hull serving a customer

Paul Smith, from Old Park Shop, Hawkesbury Street, east Hull serving a customer

But Mr Smith is optimistic about the future and enjoys working in the community he knows so well.

“People round here are really nice,” he said. “I have lived here all my life so I know the area.

“I love it when it is busy and I am swept off my feet and I enjoy meeting so many people.

“I feel good about the future but I wish there was more support for small businesses like mine.”

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