CUSTOMERS at a popular Maindee corner shop clubbed together to raise £200 when they found out owner Mohammed Ashraf was retiring after 33 years.

With the money they bought Mr Ashraf and his wife Shehnaz Kosar a carriage clock and a bouquet of flowers, which they surprised the couple with last Friday.

Around 25 customers waited outside MA Stores on Bristol Street with the gifts to wish them both luck with whatever they choose to do next.

Father-of-four Mr Ashraf, 57, started his retail career driving an icecream van in Ringland and Broadmead before opening his shop in Maindee in 1981.

He took the decision to retire because of ill health and competition from supermarkets.

Victoria ward councillor Christine Jenkins was part of the crowd waving him off. She said: “We thanked him from all of the community. He wasn’t just a shop owner, he was everybody’s friend.”

Mrs Kosar cried as she received the flowers while her husband was very surprised by the gesture, Cllr Jenkins added.

“He was just completely shocked. He was saying ‘It’s wonderful, I can’t believe it.’ Jessica Morden MP went to see him and John Griffiths AM sent him a handwritten letter after read the story [in the Argus earlier this month].

“He worked so hard. When we did the collection, everyone said he deserved it. People all appreciated what he had done for them over the years.

“Everybody says they are going to miss him. You walk into a supermarket and you could be anybody but he knew everybody by name. It’s that personal touch we are going to miss. He knew what you were going to buy half the time.”

Mr Ashraf, who lives above the shop, said: “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.”