Deepak Patel is a rising star among today's independent retailers. At the tender age of 30, he owns three stores in Clacton-on-Sea which together turn over a whopping £100,000 a week.
The stats are even more impressive given the largest of the Dee's Stores outlets ­ in Old Road, Clacton ­ is just 1,500 sq ft.
The smallest, in Jackson's Road in the town centre, is only 700 sq ft but ideally located to pick up customers from the office block above, passing traffic during the day, and revellers entering the town at night. Ambient goods are sourced from Today's largest member Dhamecha C&C, while perishables, chilled and frozen items come from local suppliers.
The 140-mile round trip to Dhamecha's Barking C&C is well worth it, says Patel, although the business is growing so fast that he will have to start looking seriously at deliveries soon.
"There are people closer," he says, "but Dhamecha is the best. I can speak to the buyers direct."
Business for Dee's Stores is booming, and Patel is unruffled by the arrival of the multiples into the sector. The only door Tesco is likely to come knocking on if it wanted to set up an Express shop is probably his own.
Business has been boosted by signing up to Today's privileged customer club. "All the deals are cheaper than the supermarkets and we still make good margins on them."
Crime is always an issue, although things have improved markedly after hiring two former police officers on to the staff.
By far the biggest headache is red tape. It costs between £15,000 and £20,000 a year in consultancy fees just to make sure the company is following the correct procedures on issues such as health and safety and staff dismissals.
Patel is on the lookout for new stores to expand his estate. Whether he will still be at the helm in five years' time is a different matter, however. "Our stores open from 5am until 11pm every single day. There's no respite. I reckon the maximum amount of time you can work in this game is 15 years."