Ian Palmer’s retail business in Midhurst has lived up to its name of Unusual.
So it was no surprise that his final visit to his shop on Monday brought an unusual response from his customers as many of them turned up to applaud him and give him gifts in appreciation of his 15 years in the town.
For Mr Palmer ran The Unusual Food Company in North Street, specialising in selling everyday household items and just as many unusual food items at lower-than-normal prices.
When his lease ran out, he decided not to renew it and the premises in North Street are now to be taken over, controversially, by Costa Coffee.
One of his regular customers, Nancy Sawyer from Easebourne, decided Mr Palmer could not be allowed to head off to retirement in Wales without some memories of Midhurst.
More than £140 was donated to a fund she started for a planter for his garden, complete with brass plaque, inscribed with the words ‘In appreciation from your many friends’, and a photograph album to remind him of his years running the shop.
Mr Palmer told the Observer: “My wife Val and I had a similar shop in south London and looked all over the place for somewhere to open another one.
“It needed to be the right size, in the right location with through traffic and the right mix of clientele and, of course, the right rent.”
Val Palmer died less than two years after they opened their business in Midhurst but her husband carried it on. He said: “It is a hard town to trade in. The population is not that big and the streets aren’t bustling with people.
“But we built it up – knowing we could sell good stuff at good prices.”
He added: “We’ve had customers coming here from a long way away and quite a few people have thanked me for helping them through hard times.
“They say without this shop they would not have managed.
“If you know how to cook a meal from basics, you’ll do all right.”
Costa Coffee is moving into the town despite overwhelming protest from members of the public.
Chichester District Council’s north area development control committee gave consent in April, even though councillors were told there were more than 230 objections.
People believed there were already enough coffee shops in Midhurst, and they opposed the loss of a large retail space in the town centre.