Popular shopkeeper prepares to close down after 40 years of serving customers in Milton Keynes

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A popular shopkeeper is getting ready to close his doors for the final time before his store is demolished.

Ashwin Galaya opened the Happy Shopper in the Lakes Estate’s Serpentine Court 40 years ago and has been serving local people ever since.

He knows most of his customers by name and is an integral part of the community.

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But on May 31 he will close for the final time – before bulldozers move in to flatten the building.

Ashwin Galaya outside his Happy Shopper store on the Lakes Estate in Milton KeynesAshwin Galaya outside his Happy Shopper store on the Lakes Estate in Milton Keynes
Ashwin Galaya outside his Happy Shopper store on the Lakes Estate in Milton Keynes

All of the 1960s-built Serpentine Court, including the many council flats, will be demolished and 200 new homes will be built as part of a major regeneration plan.

There will also be nursery, community centre and retail space.

But it means customers must ay goodbye to Ashwin, who is this week thanking all the people who have supported him over the past four decades.

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His daughter Shradha Sharda said: “Together with his family and staff, Ashwin would like to bid farewell to all customers of Happy Shopper.

"He first opened the shop on July 29th, 1984, and has been an integral part of the Lakes Estate community for the last 40 years. Happy Shopper had a few teething problems as it took a while for the Lakes Estate community to accept a newcomer, but eventually, things settled down, and it became an integral part of the community.”

Shradha recalls when the Happy Shopper first opened, there was a whole row of shops, all of which were busy.

“The parade was buzzing with a wool shop, post office, laundrette, pharmacy, news agent, barbers, bakery, and two pubs,” she said.

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"Over the years, one by one, the shops and pubs started closing. Now, only the pharmacy, takeaway, and Happy Shopper remain, and soon, they too will be gone.

"It will be sad to say goodbye, but the fond memories of the past 40 years will always remain.”

Serpentine Court has deteriorated rapidly over the years and has become one of the city’s biggest eyesores, with the living conditions there even described as “almost vomit-inducing” by a local councillor in the past.

Alan Rankine was speaking out after visiting the flats in 2019. He outlined concerns with pests, condensation, "cockroaches feeding on silverfish,” and rubbish.

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He said at the time: "We had to navigate our way around puddles of urine. It was almost vomit-inducing. That building needs to come down."

But the sense of Lakes Estate community is still strong and public consultations were held to discuss best way to regenerate the area.

Following extensive engagement with the residents, the council approved plans in March 2022 to demolish Seprentine Court and redevelop,

In a ballot, 93% of voters supported this proposal.

A sod-cutting ceremony was held in February and Cabinet member Cllr Emily Darlington, said: “This is a really proud moment for the community. The Lakes Estate is the biggest project in our history and a perfect example of how the community can work with the local council to deliver positive change.”

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When the new homes are finished, tenants from the old buildings will move into them, along with other people waiting for a new council home.

The buildings will be high-quality and energy efficient and give local people a greater sense of belonging and pride in their area, says the council.

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