The long-time owners of an Ilkeston fish and chip shop say that they can't go on forever and that someone now needs to bring the much-loved institution into the "right century." John and Flora Christofi, 74 and 70 respectively, recently announced that they were retiring after 36 years of running Johnny's Fish Bar in Ilkeston.
The couple travelled to the UK from Cyprus and first lived in London, with John making wedding dresses and Flora working in a chippy from the age of 21. Nearly four decades ago, they moved to Ilkeston as some of the "only foreigners" in the area at that time, Derbyshire Live reports.
But the family say they were accepted and quickly became a vital centre of the community. In recent years, the couple's daughter, Christina, 41, has helped her parents behind the counter, and her fiancé, Richard, 40, a graphic designer, has also chipped in by designing advertising posters.
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The couple's son, 15-year-old Yiannis, has become the shop's latest "potato boy", with their daughter Sophia, 18, spending a lot of time serving loyal customers during her studies at the University of Derby. Christina's brother, Demetrios, 39, and his partner, Bronny, have also become part of the team at Johnny's, trimming meat off the kebab turners and greeting locals with a smile.
But now, John and Flora have decided to shut up shop and hand over their treasured business to new owners, who they would like to introduce new features and bring Johnny's up to date, such as introducing a website and delivery services, which John and Flora never quite got to grips with.
John said: "It's sad in a way, but we can't carry on forever. I'm 74 and my wife is 70 - I moved to England in 1973, her in 1953. We've got to let go sometime."
Flora said: "We've had the same customers for all these years, the same ones. It's beautiful, honestly."
The couple, surrounded by cards, flowers, and chocolates from well-wishers, added that they have made many friends over the years, and people who have worked at Johnny's rapidly become part of the family. They say that much of their time will be spent in their allotment behind their house during their well-earned retirement.
Christina said: "It's sad and happy at the same time. Our customers are the best, we want to say thank you for all the kind messages, the cards, the flowers, the chocolates, and their patient queueing.
"Without our customers, we wouldn't be here. Years ago there were not many foreign people in Ilkeston, all of a sudden it was like all the Greeks have moved to Ilkeston. But people were welcoming, and we've been here ever since.
"There were the days during Covid that made us realise we should try more of a life work balance. It was nice to spend time with the children and Richard, and so we've opened for fewer hours since then. It's a really good business, but hard work and hard hours. Somebody will have a really good business that they can take into the right century.
"Online orders and all that stuff in a modern takeaway mum and dad wouldn't get on with - they didn't want to take on a delivery system."
Richard added: "I've helped out a bit, printing of our posters. Demetrios, interjecting from behind the counter, said: "And you've you swept the floors."
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