A Leith shopkeeper who is being forced to close after 46 years is devastated to be leaving the shop that he “spent most of his life in”.
Imtiaz Hussain, 64, moved to Edinburgh when he was 12 years old to join his father who had emigrated from the industrial city of Faisalabad in Pakistan two years earlier. Hoping to provide his family with a better life,
Imtiaz’s dad rented a corner shop on Springfield Street, where his son learned the trade.
Imtiaz worked in another shop on Leith Walk opposite what was once the Volunteer Arms before he took on the grocery and newsagent Best One Shop in 1972 when he was just 18.
Through his hard work Imtiaz was able to buy the next door unit and expand the shop to offer more products to the people of Leith.
But this Friday, he will be closing the doors on his life’s work for the final time after being squeezed by supermarket chains and still recovering from financial losses from the tram closures almost a decade ago.
He said:”It feels like we have come to the end of the road. Competition wise it is a very tough environment for small shops.
“Other factors have included the trams and the chaos they caused and the loss of earning we incurred because the road was closed for so long. We suffered but most small businesses are on the edge of a cliff thanks to the onslaught of the big supermarkets.”
He is heartbroken to let go of the shop where he watched his sons grow up. He said: “I’ve spent nearly all my life here. I’m very sad to be leaving. I watched by children grow up here too.”
Moving from a village in Punjab to Edinburgh was a culture shock for Imtiaz, who said: “It was a very different life. Different culture and different weather. I was used to the sunshine and I came to rain-soaked Edinburgh and the Scottish elements.”
He thrived at Bellvue Secondary School, where he came second in his first year and fifth in his second year. He always dreamed of having his own business.
Imtiaz went back to Pakistan for the first time when he was 25. He said: “The funny thing was I felt a culture shock going back. I was so used to Scotland and the people. People were so nice here, it was a totally different environment.”
At 25 he and his wife had their first son, Zohaid, who is now a quantity surveyor. Two years later a second son, Suby, now a mechanic, followed.
Imtiaz has loved life working in his shop, despite the long hours.
He said: “I was content in what I was doing. I loved serving the community. I did the best I could for my family and the best I could for my society, that has been really important to me.”
Imtiaz’s customers don’t want him to shut up shop. He said: “They are saddened but so am I. Leith is a very friendly place and full of characters - I will miss them all.”
He won’t be selling up as he can’t bear to part with the shop but will rent it out. Working every day from 6.30am to 9pm, splitting shifts with nephew Zafar Iqbal who has been a “tremendous help”, has tired him out so he will try to enjoy some downtime after the shop closes. He said: “I’ll have to find something to do, maybe I’ll have a wee rest then travel for a while. I haven’t seen much of Scotland because I’ve spent all my life in the shop. I want to go up north and see the beauty.”