Long-serving shop owner prepares to close his doors for final time

Ray Barker is retiring from St Neots Health Food Centre.

Ray Barker is retiring from St Neots Health Food Centre. - Credit: Archant

The owner of a health food store which has been supplying shoppers in St Neots for more than three decades will retire later this month.

Ray Barker, who runs St Neots Health Food Centre, in Church Walk, is to close the doors to his shop on April 29, some 31 years after taking over the business.

Mr Barker served his first customers on March 1, 1986, using the knowledge he gained over the years through raising his son and daughter, who both made the decision to become vegetarians at a young age.

“When my son and daughter decided to become vegetarian we fed them pizza and omelettes until we realised they were serious and we started learning more about what to cook,” said Mr Barker.

Since then, the 70-year-old has served thousands of customers, many who are sad to see the town centre stalwart retire.

“I have got regular customers who are upset that I am retiring but they all understand why,” Mr Barker, from Little Paxton, added.

“I absolutely love being in the shop and helping the customers. I will miss a lot of the customers as I know most of them by their Christian names, but I will mostly miss the contact with them.”

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Mr Barker, who used to work with his wife, Christine, in the store has seen the health food market change over the years.

“More and more people have become aware of looking after themselves and being healthy,” Mr Barker said.

“I’ve loved every minute of it [running the shop], it has been very good. I have managed to get the business through two recessions and I have thoroughly enjoyed being here.”

Mr Barker told The Hunts Post that he will not be selling on the business but will be closing the store.

“I am 71-years-of-age in July and it is time to retire. I will be having a holiday after I retire as I haven’t had one for 15 years.”

The store becomes the third in the town to close this month as Fishers Hardware, and jewellers A Freeman will also shuts their doors.