Well-known businessman retires after 56 years in town shops

Sad day...owners Linda and Rob Ford on their last day with from left, Sue Smith, Geraldine Robinson Lutterworth mayor, Liz Lynch and Carole Harrington outside Fords Discount Store after 56 years of trading in Lutterworth.
PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

Sad day...owners Linda and Rob Ford on their last day with from left, Sue Smith, Geraldine Robinson Lutterworth mayor, Liz Lynch and Carole Harrington outside Fords Discount Store after 56 years of trading in Lutterworth. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

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He started working in the family grocer’s shop in Lutterworth in about 1960, when he was eight.

Fifty-six years on, and now aged 64, Robert Ford has finally retired from his latest Lutterworth shop.

Sad day...owners Linda and Rob Ford with Doreen Woodward who has worked there for 26 years outside Fords Discount Store after 56 years of trading in Lutterworth.
PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

Sad day...owners Linda and Rob Ford with Doreen Woodward who has worked there for 26 years outside Fords Discount Store after 56 years of trading in Lutterworth. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

Ford’s Discount Store in Market Street, Lutterworth, will also close.

“We’re the biggest independent store in town, but it’s got harder for an independent like us to keep going” he said.

“But we’ve had lots of happy times, and we’d like to thank all our customers past and present, and thanks to everyone for all the flowers, cards and good wishes.”

For most of those years, Robert’s “right-hand man” was his wife Linda. The couple married in 1972 and live in Lutterworth.

“I started in our little grocery store in Central Avenue when I was eight” said Robert.

“We sold groceries, tins and were an off-licence

“It’s an adventure when you’re a kid, helping to run a shop.”

One of his earliest retail memories is the winter of 1963, when it got so cold in the shop that frost got into the potatoes and ruined them, and the lemonade froze in the bottles, expanding and smashing them.

Robert left school at 14, and went straight into business, basically running the family’s Central Avenue store.

Since then there have been shops on Station Road, Lutterworth, and on another site on Market Street.

His last shop - The Discount Store - was his largest, at 3,000 square feet of space.That one opened in 1989.

“We diversified into non-food stuff which is what we were doing up to last Saturday” said Robert.

“At one point we were selling clothing and bed linen, but the places we bought from are all closed now.

“I’m now just clearing up bits and pieces and sorting everything out here.

“The shop’s up for sale now, so it’s someone else’s turn to give it a go.

“What people don’t always realise is you can get bargains from an independent shop, because we’re not part of a big chain with shareholders to keep happy.

“It’s just us, trying to make a living.”

He said the council and the Government should do more to help small independent businesses combat the chains.

“I love this town and I suppose I’ve been very loyal to it, but the council hasn’t always helped us back” he said.

“It was only quite recently, for example, that proper signs went up directing people to the town’s car parks.”

The current Mayor of Lutterworth, Cllr Geraldine Robinson, was one of the shop’s last visitors.

The Fords plan to enjoy their weekends, go on more holidays and do more photography (Robert) and gardening (Linda).

And there was special thanks too for the company’s longest-serving employee, Doreen Woodward, who has been with Ford’s for 26 years.