BRITISH corner shops have always provided a service much deeper than their simple exteriors suggest.

After stepping down from running BH Winnock Stores, in Winnock Road, Colchester, grandparents Baljinder and Harminder Johal have mixed feelings.

The pair ran the shop for 32 years and their faces are known to every nearby resident and neighbour.

But they didn’t run the shop to make a profit.

Their son Surjit explains: “They haven’t earned a huge amount of money out of this, it hasn’t made them huge profits, they have carried on because of their love of the community and the lifestyle - the social side of the job.”

“There used to be two other little shops, the Co-op closed 17 years ago, they have outlasted them all.”

If it had been up to them, the couple, both aged in their 70s, would have carried on running the shop for several more years.

But the danger of running a shop amid the coronavirus pandemic forced their hand.

Baljinder, known to regulars as John, said: “We have loved being part of the community, everybody has been lovely and people came along to chat to us and get whatever they need.

“To receive all these messages from people has been great, the community and the people who live here have been so good to us.

“We do miss it already, but we have to retire at some time.”

The couple, who have three grown-up children and six grandchildren, purchased the shop in 1988, not long after moving to Military Road.

“Everything was new to us, we hadn’t run a shop before,” said Baljinder.

“When we first moved here people found it difficult to understand us, but we were accepted by the community.

“We have seen a lot of change, we have seen children grow up and have kids of their own, who then come into the shop.

“Two things go hand in hand with the shop.

“It has been work, a job and a career, and also it provides us with people to talk to - the social side of it.

“We liked to listen to people, to care and to take an interest in them.”

After handing over the keys to the shop to the new owners, also a couple, Mr and Mrs Johal want to make sure people keep supporting their convenience store.

“We are glad to pass it on to someone to carry on running it, rather than to let it close,” said Baljinder.

“It’s a bit like coming full circle, as we were starting out as a young family running a shop - just like they are.”

The couple made sure thank you postcards were dropped through the front doors of 500 nearby houses to ensure support for the new shop continues.

They read: “We are definitely going to miss everyone and the numerous friendly faces.

“Please show them the same love and support as you did to us.

“We wish we could have said thank you to everyone ourselves.”