A family-run convenience store in Twickenham has received international media attention after posting a Christmas message inviting people to visit their shop for a hug and a mince pie.
The Patel family’s 2017 Christmas Facebook post has now been viewed more than 10 million times, attracting media attention from global newspapers and news broadcasters. Up to 500 people took up the family’s invite and visited their Meet & Deep store on Christmas Day.
Both Sky News and ITV News visited the South West London store over the festive period to film live interviews. The videos have received millions of views on social media and reached the top of many internet leaderboards.
The store is run by husband and wife Shailesh and Paula Patel, a Gujarati Indians couple who came to the UK from Africa in the 1960s, along with their two sons Meeten and Deepen.
The Patel family have always opened their shop on Christmas day from 12pm until 2pm. However, eight years ago an elderly lady, living close to the Patels, was robbed by a man posing as a boiler repair man. Since then the family have held a much larger annual event, supporting as many people as possible who are lonely at Christmas.
Deepen Patel told C-Store: “This year, we probably had between 400 and 500 people visit the store. We even had a guy visit us from Bethnal Green, in East London, after hearing about the story from one of his American friends! Originally, we thought it would just be older people that were lonely at Christmas but many younger people, that we see in the shop all the time, said they didn’t have anybody this year.
“Some stayed for 30 to 45 minutes while others stayed for longer. We ended up opening double the amount of time and only closed when the last person left the shop. My mum even did a platter and everyone hugged and chatted - there were no social boundaries. We didn’t open the shop to make money, it was probably our quietest day of the year, we just wanted to help as many people as we could.”
Deepen added: “Another young couple, who run a shop nearby, rang us to say that they were inspired by what we did and are going to open next year too. That is exactly what we wanted, for more shops to open so that there can be less lonely people in the world.”
After such a successful event, the Patel family is considering holding a similar gathering for Easter this year.