THE Roundstone Farm & Garden Shop closed its doors for the last time on Sunday after a year long struggle to survive.
The shop, in Littlehampton Road, Ferring, confirmed on Facebook last Wednesday that it would be closing along with its tea rooms and thanked customers for their support.
John Hickling took over the ownership of the shop four years ago.
He said: “We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our loyal customers over the years.
“It is a sad day for us and all our fantastic staff who I thank personally for all their hard work in trying to keep us going.
“When you pour years of your life into something and have to say goodbye to all of that, it’s not nice to do.”
He said that the business had been struggling for the past 12 months and was ‘in a position where we can’t carry on.’
“We just haven’t got enough customers, that is the bottom line. Why that is, is up to speculation. We are getting battered a bit by the supermarkets,” he added.
The pick your own service, which allows the public to pick fruit and vegetables, and car boot sales from May to September will remain unaffected by the shop’s closure as they are operated by a separate company.
“It’s a fun day out for families which is why it’s managed to survive,” said John.
Marc Scrace, director of Love Food – a manufacturer of artisan ready made meals, said independent food shops faced a ‘David vs Goliath’ situation.
“I can sympathise with John, if you look at his situation he’s got the largest garden centre on his door step, the brand new Sainsbury’s is over there and you’ve got ASDA.
“I’ve been quite a supporter of it. I regularly go over there to buy my fruit and veg.
“As a business owner it’s heart-breaking when your efforts you have put heart body and soul into something and it hasn’t worked.”
In addition to selling ready-made meals to shops and independent retailers, the company also has a shop in Southdownview Road, Worthing, which sells produce purely manufactured in Sussex.
“In Worthing the retail food industry is pretty much determined by the likes of Tesco and Co-op, it’s a fiercely competitive market,” said Marc.
The news of the shop’s closure was met with numerous comments on Facebook expressing sadness.
John said feedback from the public had been ‘very positive’.
“There’s a lot of supportive comments that people are sad to see it go and they are as upset as we are,” he added.
Nicky Dibben wrote on the social media site: “Gutted is an understatement!! I have been shopping there for many years and only was there on Saturday collecting my fruit and veg for the week. Thank you for providing such amazing vegetables over the years.”
While Shona Overton said: “A very sad day indeed!!!! Thank you to John, Ria and all the staff & wishing you all the best for the future. Use your local independent business’s otherwise we will lose them all. Our only option will be the large supermarket chains for everything. Use it or lose it!!!!”
John said that he did not have any plans as to what would happen going forward.