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Improvement plans for Luton community store

A seasoned retailer from Luton is set to expand his busy community store in 2018 increasing his floor space by almost 40 per cent.

Barry Patel, who runs two Nisa Local stores on Luton’s Marsh Farm Estate, hopes to bring his Axe Close shop up to a similar standard as his flagship Nisa Local Marsh Farm – which was rebuilt last year as part of a large renovation scheme.

The Axe Close store, currently a unit comprising a shop floor of 1,300 sq.ft., will be developed to incorporate an additional 500 sq.ft. of space, currently used as storage and back office. And the whole shop will get an overhaul, modernising it and making it easier for shoppers to navigate.

Barry, who has been in the store for 35 years, said it is a part of the community and he is looking forward to getting the work underway.

“I know the people living here and they know me and we have a great community store. My staff all live on the estate and everyone knows each other. I’ve seen all these people grow up.”

The Axe Close Nisa Local has been through thick and thin, the store having been in the centre of the Luton riots more than 20 years ago, and, says Barry, was lucky to survive the three days of violence in 1995 which saw many other shops smashed and looted by gangs.

“One night a store up the road was totally wrecked by the rioters and then they started to make their way down to me,” Barry recalls.

“I was living at the shop back then and people from the estate rang to tell me gangs were on their way so I ran outside, wearing just a pair of shorts, with my German Shepherd dog.

“The gang was standing outside and confronted me. They had bricks and were all set to raid the shop. But my dog stood beside me, growling and snarling and I just asked them to leave. There were riot police and a police helicopter overhead. The regular customers from the estate arrived and the rioters just left and the store and my family and I were left untouched.”

The community spirit that helped to protect the shop more than 20 years ago remains and Barry and his Nisa stores play a huge part in the area, funding an annual firework display on the housing estate and supporting a Christmas party for local elderly people.

Barry’s philosophy is quite simple, “If I give to the community, they give back,” he says.

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