A FORMER ice-cream man turned Maindee shopkeeper who gave Christmas cards to all his customers will close his till for the last time in 33 years as he retires due to ill health and competition from supermarkets.

Father-of-four Mohammed Ashraf, 57, is a familiar face to those who live near his corner shop on Bristol Street, MA Stores and has been there for people whenever they have needed a pint of milk or a loaf of bread.

But now, after more than three decades of service, Mr Ashraf and his wife Shehnaz Kosar will be leaving the shop.

Mr Ashraf, who opened his shop in 1981, said: “I can’t even remember that far back.

"Now my health and my wife’s health is not so good anymore, so unfortunately we have to just pack up and move on I suppose. We will take some time off - my wife has kidney problems and I have diabetes and we can’t do a lot.

“These days the businesses are so quiet, especially the corner shops, with the big boys pushing in like Tesco, and 33 years is a long time to work 8am until 10pm.

“Everybody has been saying ‘We are going to miss you’. People do understand why.”

Mr Ashraf, from Faisalabad in Pakistan originally, moved to Newport as a child and studied at Duffryn High School.

He worked at Crompton Batteries and as a mechanic before investing in the ice-cream van which was the start of his retail career before he found the shop.

Mr Ashraf said he was shocked to hear customers had contacted the Argus to say thank you for his loyal service as he is a “very quiet person - I’m not the limelight type.

“I just looked at it as a means of supporting my family and in the same instance, providing a service for the local community.

“I’m going to miss it a lot. My children were born here and grew up here so the memories are here and this place is special to me. There are a lot of customers I will miss, who were so friendly and kind."

VIctoria ward councillor Christine Jenkins said: “I think he deserves some recognition. Every time we had a street party he donated boxes of crisps and packs of drinks - he has even taken me shopping to the warehouse so I wouldn’t have to pay full price. They have really given a good service to customers - everybody knows them.We are really going to miss our corner shop.”

The shop is currently open, but at a very low capacity as the owners try to run all the stock down before closing completely.

Mr Ashraf is currently looking for a buyer.