Sheffield greengrocer thanks customers as he quits after nearly 30 years

Nigel Burgon (second from left) outside Just Natural with councillors and members of the Federation of Small Businesses
Nigel Burgon (second from left) outside Just Natural with councillors and members of the Federation of Small Businesses
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A greengrocer whose Sheffield shop has become something of an institution has sold up after nearly 30 years.

Nigel Burgon opened Just Natural in Crookes aged only 22 and has overcome numerous challenges down the years, including the growing dominance of the supermarkets.

But the 51-year-old father-of-three has quit in search of a new project, and to indulge his passion for mountain biking.

Nigel, who met his wife Linda at the shop, says he won't miss the early mornings but found it hard to say goodbye to the loyal customers who kept him in the trade for so long.

"It's been very enjoyable, despite all the ups and downs. We've had a lot of fantastic customers over the years and I'd like to thank everyone for trading with me for such a long time," he said.

Nigel's father ran a mini-market in Fox Hill Road, called Burgon's, and he worked at his brother's food shops as a young man.

He went into business for himself, opening Just Natural, after the Price Keen shop moved across the road in Crookes, leaving several vacant units.

He said he had seen off the threat of the supermarkets by concentrating on providing a more personal service and an extensive range of healthy food.

Nigel's favourite story from his time at Just Natural involves an elderly customer called Bob, who only lived a couple of hundred yards up the road but would take about an hour each day to collect his groceries from Just Natural and the neighbouring store.

He took pity on the man and started collecting the groceries and delivering them himself, and was hugely touched when Bob made the difficult journey to present Nigel with a striped tie to show his gratitude.

"It doesn't sound like much but I know how hard it was for him to make that journey, and I was incredibly touched. I've still got that tie," he said.

That story exemplifies for him the role local businesses play in knitting together communities.

He chose Small Business Saturday, on December 3, to announce his departure, and he says it is imperative people continue to support their local stores if they want to keep them.

"Once the little shops go they won't come back, so it's important people don't forget the personal touch and the variety of local produce they provide," he said.

"I would urge everyone to find a really good baker, butcher and grocer, and stick with them."

Nigel stresses that he hasn't retired and is just taking a break before finding a new challenge, whatever that might be.

He is confident Just Natural remains in good hands under new owner Tim Maskrey, who he said has a long history in the food business.

The Federation of Small Businesses joined Sheffield's deputy lord mayor Anne Murphy and local councillors in congratulating Nigel on his years of dedication.

Gordon Millward, the group's regional chairman, said: "Small firms make a big difference to the life of the community, and many go above and beyond to help their customers and give exemplary service; Nigel Burgon falls into this category.

"He has built a business serving fruit and veg to the shoppers of Crookes and they clearly attach great value to the contribution he has made to their lives for nearly 30 years."

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