A COUPLE have opened their third Afro-Caribbean store in south Essex, 13 years after realising that people were having to travel to London for traditional food and cosmetics.

Olusola and Funke Omotosho Ali are the owners of Jes Stores in Basildon Town Square, which sells a wide range of foods, drinks, and snacks.

They have already opened both Jes Afro Caribbean Food Market, and Jes Hair and Cosmetics World, in Pitsea. And the couple say that they never expected their chain of business to grow to such an extent.

READ MORE >> Year 7 boy dies after 'medical emergency' at school

Mr Omotosho Ali said: “Our first Afro-Caribbean food shop opened in 2009, when there was a lack of these kind of stores in Essex.

“A lot of ethnic people in and around Basildon needed to go back to London in order to get hold of their traditional foods, including my wife and I.

“It was a big risk to take on as there weren’t as many ethnic people around then as there are now in Basildon, but the support has been amazing.

“We thank God and the people around us for the immediate love and support given, which has sustained us until now, and allowed us to open another store.”

The couple, who are originally from Nigeria, moved to Basildon from London in 2006 and now have four children.

Mr Omotosho Ali added: “Opening this new store is a dream come true.

“We are very excited and hopeful for the future of our businesses as we never expected to open a store in the centre, but the way God come through for us is a miracle.”

Basildon councillor Yetunde Adeshile, who is UK chairman for Phenomenal African Woman (PAWAfrica UK), and a member of the Forum for African, African-Caribbean and Asian Women in Politics (UK), visited the store on its opening day.

She said: “It was an honour to be amongst the selected few to see the opening of this new branch.

“I attended in my capacity as pastor, councillor, president of Nigerians in Community, Essex, and also friend.

“Thank you for the invitation and keep up your excellent work.”