Family run off-licence in Ipswich to close its doors after 40 years at the heart of community
- Credit: Archant
A family run off-licence and grocers in Ipswich is closing its doors for good after 40 years trading in the town.
S.Kunnan Singh and Sons on Cauldwell Hall Road is set to become an upholstery shop after the family decided close the business and let out the property.
Although it has been the centre of the community for decades, the shop had become unprofitable in recent years as supermarket convenience stores opened around it.
The store was opened by Kunnan Singh Swali in 1977 which he ran alongside his four sons, Sarnakt, Hajara, Mann, and Sukhbhag.
Since then, four generations of the Singh family have worked in the shop.
“My dad was a landlord before that, he rented houses in Ipswich,” said Sarnakt.
“He used to go on Friday nights to collect the rent but always had to chase them about on Saturdays.
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“He said to me ‘Son, it’s getting a bit hard now, you make sure you get a trade where they come to you.’”
“My dad had a lot of houses in those days. Then when the shop came up for sale, my dad saw it was nice and big and decided to buy it.
“When we took it over it had been a sauna.
“My dad was a very popular bloke, he was always friendly and always smiling.
“He came here in 1947 just after the war.
“He was a door to door salesman in those days, a pedlar, then decided to buy some old properties to do up and rent them.”
Mr Singh said despite being open for four decades, the shop has rarely been closed.
Open all year round, he said the only times he can remember the shop shutting was family weddings and when his father passed away in 1992.
However, Mr Singh said the store went through a shaky start when it first opened its doors.
“We had quite a battle with Tolly Cobbold when we bought it,” he said.
“There was a covenant in place where we could only sell their products.
“They said they had put a clause in the store that anybody who operated it as an off-licence would haver to buy the beers and spirits from them.
“They were selling it at retail price to us where we could get other beer cheaper wholesale.
“They even came in to inspect the beers we were selling.
“We did it for a little while but then thought sod this and took them to court.
“Even the landlord of the pub next door spoke up for us.
“The judge said it was a medieval situation.
“He said that if we want to work night and day to sell our goods we could and removed the covenant.”
The family now own shops in Brunswick Road, Clapgate Lane, Tomline Road and Surrey Road.
Sarnakt owns a shop in Tomline Road but almost backed out on buying it.
“I was looking for a shop and one day that one on Tomline Road came up,” he said.
“I came round to see my dad and said I have seen one but it isn’t very good, it is too near to yours.
“He said’ I will be the judge of that’.
“He had a look at the area and said ‘there’s a lot of chimneys here’.
“I’ve been there for 35 years now.”
In recent years the family’s first shop in Cauldwell Hall Road has faced increasing pressure from supermarket retailers.
“Places like ALDI come by, it’s just one of those things - I get some of my shopping there.
“The other thing is they deliver to your door now, and there’s the online thing.
“The big supermarkets have now realised people don’t want to always go for a big shop so have bought little convenience shops and converting them.
“My dad used to laugh at the Co-op as they closed at 5pm as we stayed open much later.
“His attitude was you’ve got all the stock in, why would you want to close.”
Mr Singh says he will miss the shop and the community it is a part of.
“Being a shopkeeper you never forget faces.
“I will miss this shop, that’s why we have kept it running for so long. I get a bit emotional just talking about it closing.
“There used to be a cake shop round here, a butchers where people got their sausages.
“It was a real community hub.
“We were the last survivors of independent shops on this corner really.
“But nothing lasts forever we had a good run and have no regrets.”