IT all started with Colin Sawford popping his head round the shop door and asking ‘Have you got any jobs?’
Forty years later and 56-year-old Colin can walk away with pride after dedicating the best part of his life to a shop in Waterlooville town centre.
The dad-of-two has closed his car accessories shop, Self Fit, after decades at the helm.
Self Fit was one of the longest-running independent traders in the town.
The business started in 1966 and had branches in Waterlooville and Cowplain.
Colin, who lives in Horndean, said: ‘I started as a 16-year-old boy.
‘I was walking past the shop and stuck my head in and asked if there were any jobs.’
By the age of 17 Colin had become a relief manager and continued to manage the business until he was 32.
With the opportunity to buy the business, Colin jumped at the chance and continued to run the shop for the next 25 years.
But he said uncertain economic times encouraged him to call it a day.
He said: ‘In the last two or three years business has been quiet.
‘I am relieved I’m out of it.
‘It’s the rent and the rates to be honest.
‘Waterlooville town centre has gone down and there’s lots of empty shops.
‘The rents need to come down. Havant Borough Council should help the one-man band shops because the rates in Waterlooville are horrendous.’
Colin paid tribute to his late wife Dawn, who helped tremendously with the business and sadly died of cancer at the age of 50. He said he would miss all the banter with customers.
‘I have got very good friends and customers,’ he said.
‘It’s been like a little coffee shop.
‘People come in for a coffee and a chat and I’ve made some good friends over the years.’
He plans to continue to keep busy by doing boot sales and pursuing his interest in travel, including a holiday in Turkey later this year.
Rosemary Wilson, chairwoman of Waterlooville Business Association, said: ‘He has stuck it out all these years.
‘Colin’s one of those people who everybody knows.
‘He’s always been very friendly and chatty.
‘I think he’s done very well to stay as long as he has. He will be missed.’
The shop is being redecorated and Mrs Wilson said she does not know what it will become.
As town centres have become hollowed out by the rise of the supermarket and the out-of-town shopping centre, more incentive is needed for small traders and fledgling businesses to start up and give it a go - click here for The News view on this story