THE owner of a popular Rayleigh card shop is moving on after more than three decades running the business as he prepares to take up early retirement.

For 32 years, Derek Pitcher has been serving the community with a beaming smile in his shop in the Rayleigh Lanes, in the High Street.

Derek spotted an advert inside business newspaper Daltons Weekly back in 1991 where an opportunity popped up for a space inside the indoor market.

He opened the business shortly after and hasn’t looked back since.

The 63-year-old said: “I’m sad to have to sell the shop after 32 fun-filled years serving this wonderful community, but the time is right for me to hang up the keys.

“I’m and will always be incredibly grateful for all the loyalty and kindness that the people of Rayleigh and beyond have shown me, and it’s the customers that I’m going to miss the most.

“I got to know a lot of them, and it even got to the point where I started calling them by their names.

“My staff and the entire Lanes family of traders have also been so supportive to me and for that, I’m truly grateful.

“I’ll miss it a lot.”

Located at the front of Rayleigh Lanes, the shop is priced at £20,000, which also includes stock, and has been labelled with having “lots of potential for growth”.

Derek says he is “hoping whoever takes it over will keep it up as a card shop for another 30 years”.

Speaking about the secret to success, he put it down to “always being reasonable with price and always being polite”.

Remembering how he set up in Rayleigh Lanes, Derek said: “I had an outdoor market, and I thought it was quite a good idea to move inside Rayleigh Lanes.

“Mums used to walk to the shops after dropping their kids off in Love Lane, meet outside the Lanes for a coffee and then come into my shop and buy some cards.

“That’s how it all began.”

To express an interest in the shop, call 07850 870142.