The many thousands of independent retailers in the UK today soldier on in an abrasive retailing environment to provide cherished and invaluable services to their local communities. In the run up to the second annual National Independents’ Day on June 1, with its My Shop is Your Shop rally cry, we present a celebration of the retailing heroes who are Local and Proud of it!

Sunder Sandher’s story is a classic journey from humble beginnings to a pillar of the community.

John’s store has doubled its turnover in the past few years. He attributes this to a combination of good, old-fashioned customer service and the support of his local wholesaler, Parfetts Cash & Carry. He says: “Like us, Parfetts takes the trouble to get to know its customers and provide a service that meets their needs.”

Sunder Sandher
Londis, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
He had been set to go to university, but his father fell ill and there were five children in the family to support. So Sunder bought a tiny grocery store and embarked on a career in convenience retailing.
Twenty years on, the store is more than twice its original size and offers everything from chilled food and newspapers to an in-store bakery and cash machine.
Sunder’s wife, Pam, also works in the business, leaving Sunder free once a fortnight to chair in the courts as a Justice of the Peace. “I wanted to put something back into the community,” he says.
He is also a qualified NVQ assessor in retail and runs training programmes in his store for local college students to learn the practical side of retailing.Mohammed Issa
1st Stop 2 Shop, Dundee
Mohammed Issa’s store, by his own admission, is not so much a convenience store as a community store. Run by the same family for more than 25 years, the store has picked up several awards for its work in the community.
In 1997, Mohammed was honoured as Dundee’s Citizen of the Year for his work in forging links between the ethnic minorities and other citizens.
In 2004, Mohammed received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for promoting race equality and community relations.
The store has recently undergone a complete upgrade, making it much more user-friendly, particularly for the disabled.
As a result, Mohammed has received a Dundee Access Group award for outstanding facilities and access for the elderly and disabled.John Speakman
Grocer Jack’s, Hyde, Cheshire
Shantudhai ‘Sid’ Patel
Sid’s Store, Illingworth, Halifax
Sid’s Store in Illingworth, Halifax is responsible for organising the biggest children’s party within the Indian community in West Yorkshire.
Shantudhai Patel, or ‘Sid’ as he is known to his many customers, has enlisted the help of other local store owners and businesses to donate goods and raise funds to bring the children in the area together to celebrate the many Indian festivities throughout the year.
Sid has helped to set up a committee of local businesspeople to run these annual events, which have to cater for more than 450 families who live in the surrounding area. Everything from deciding on the venue and entertainment to organising food and drink is arranged through the group.
Sid explained: “There is a big Indian community in this area, but there are very few activities for the children and their families. We thought it was a good idea to set up this group to help keep the children off the streets and for the families to all get to know each other. It’s not exclusive to the Indian community - anyone is welcome to come along.
“The whole community gets together to help out, and I know that the children are grateful for everything that is donated. It’s all part and parcel of living in the same neighbourhood - you get to know one another and everyone’s happy to lend a hand when it’s needed.”Shahid ‘Sid’ Ali
Londis, Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire
Shahid ‘Sid’ Ali, an award-winning independent retailer in Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire, sponsors a local lads’ football team as part of his action plan to participate in the local community.
Sid’s involvement with the community has progressed from the sponsorship into an inspirational community project which has already raised nearly £500,000 to fund the development of facilities for young people in the area, including an all-weather football pitch and community centre.
He explains: “Problems in the village, such as vandalism, are blamed on the youth drinking culture, but it’s simpler than that - it’s down to boredom.
“There don’t seem to be the same opportunities for the kids these days, so I started to campaign at the local council to get funds provided to turn the waste ground into something the kids could use.
“With facilities like these in place, the kids will have somewhere to go and the village will have everything it needs to enhance its reputation as a better place to live.
“You won’t find superstores doing that; they’re not interested. Superstores have their place in society, but the local shop can complement that with the finer, more personal touch. That’s what living in a village is all about - helping each other out.”
Sid has been acknowledged within the industry for his unique service and was voted the Federation of Wholesale Distributors’ Independent Blueprint Retailer of the Year in 2003.