Priced-out Londis shopkeeper in Swiss Cottage bids farewell to his customers

Selvanayagam Balasingam

Selvanayagam Balasingam - Credit: Archant

A much-loved shopkeeper is saying a final goodbye to hundreds of customers he has grown close to over more than a decade selling a loaf of bread or a pint of milk every day of the week.

Selvanayagam Balasingam has run the Londis in Lower Merton Rise, just off Adelaide Road, Swiss Cottage, for 13 years and has grown close to customers who visit the shop as part of their daily walk.

But the shop closed for good on Sunday (February 24) marking the first time its doors have been locked in 13 years.

The father-of-three says he has to move on as he can no longer afford the rent, which is set to double as the landlord plans to build a one-storey extension to the front of the building.

Last week Mr Balasingam began the upsetting process of emptying shelves, but instead of feeling sad, he decided to give some of his stock away for free to his best customers to thank them for their loyalty.

“I have seen babies from the time their mothers were pregnant with them, grow into adults,” said the 54-year-old.

“They have come in and said how sad they are that I’m going.

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“Lots of the old people that live here I see everyday and I’m always very helpful.”

He added: “I love this job because of the community. In this area there are very nice people.”

The shop keeper is looking for similar jobs closer to his home in Harrow, but it has so far been difficult to find work and he is concerned about supporting his children.

“I have a lot of experience but I’m very worried I won’t be able to find anything - it’s difficult right now,” he explained.

“I have one child in medical college, one sixth form and one doing her GCSEs - I don’t tell my family too much because I don’t want to worry them.”

Mr Balasingam added that he feels incredibly lucky for the friendly community where he works, because shop keepers in Harrow have a much more difficult time with young people who graffiti the shop or try to break drinking and smoking laws.

Speaking of the years he has spent getting to know the community, he explained: “All the children here listen to me.

“I know other people have problems with under-age people trying to buy cigarettes or throwing things at the shop, but that’s not a problem here. I’m very sad to leave.”

The shop is set to be taken over by Co-op, who have announced that one its food stores is expected to open later this year.