The owner of a fish and chip shop in Beaconsfield says shutting its doors after more than two decades is ‘sad but the right decision’.

Simon Prior, 56, founded Smiles Fish and Chips on The Broadway in Beaconsfield nearly 25 years ago with his business partner Leslie Birkenhead, 81.

The friends have since opened two other branches in Bourne End and Cookham, with Simon taking the helm at the newer spots and Leslie staying the course at the flagship Beaconsfield branch.  

To the disappointment of their loyal customer base in Beaconsfield, however, the pair have announced that the original shop in their small chain will shut its doors at the close of business today, Saturday, March 23.

While the past few years have undeniably taken their toll – with a tough economic climate impacting all small business owners – Simon is adamant that the impending closure is a "positive" decision that he and Leslie have "wonderfully" been in a position to take at their leisure.

Simon said: “Leslie has been very active in the shop, frying, serving and prepping for many years. But he’s in his eighties now, and he wants to focus on travelling and being with his family.

“It would be too much for me to take on all three shops, so it made sense to close the Beaconsfield one after Leslie retires. Of course, it’s sad that we’re losing our presence in the town, but the Bourne End shop isn’t too far away.”

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Despite Smiles Fish and Chips retaining two of its three stores after today’s closure, Simon said the support from residents upon hearing the news has been “great” and has shown the positive impact the shop has had on the area over its 24-year tenure.

“It’s definitely the end of an era. Beaconsfield has been a brilliant place to have a business. Our customers are lovely, and we’ve seen so many children grow up over the years.

“But this decision is one we’ve made not for the business but for us as people. It’s important to think about what’s best for you, and hopefully, some great new shop will come in and take our place.”

Following the bittersweet news, Simon is keen to prove that Smiles’ other two branches are as full of life as ever – and is planning to further “diversify” the Bourne End and Cookham shops, something he sees as key to longevity amid the current market conditions.

“We’ve invested in huge grill sections, and we’re now doing kebabs and chicken wings as well as fish and chips.

“The costs of fish and potatoes are still high, and our profit margin is still pretty low. We’ve definitely had to pull the belt in a bit, but I think we’re on the right track. We’re becoming a one-stop-shop.”