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How a man’s dream supermarket business turned into a nightmare

PUBLISHED: 11:03 13 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:59 14 January 2019

Abdul Hussain, whose supermarket has been without electricity for 12 months. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Abdul Hussain, whose supermarket has been without electricity for 12 months. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

It was once a popular independent food store in the heart of one of Norwich’s most diverse streets.

But in the space of just a few months, Abul Hussain’s dream business fell apart and became a nightmare.

The 44-year-old was forced to close Desh World Foods Supermarket on Magdalen Street in February last year after his electricity was cut off.

He lost £50,000 worth of fresh produce overnight, and had to leave £70,000 worth of stock on the shelves.

Now, after almost a year of fighting to get his power reconnected, he has been left with no choice but to permanently close.

Owner of the Desh Supermarket in Magdalen Street, Abul Hussain, inside the stocked up store which has been closed since February. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYOwner of the Desh Supermarket in Magdalen Street, Abul Hussain, inside the stocked up store which has been closed since February. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mr Hussain said: “It is very painful because this was my dream, it was my everything.

“I gave my all to this business and now I have nothing.”

The father-of-three has been given until the end of January to clear out the store and vacate the building, which is next to Anglia Square.

All of the items within the supermarket are being sold at heavily discounted prices, with some being given away for free.

The Desh Supermarket in Magdalen Street which has been closed since February. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Desh Supermarket in Magdalen Street which has been closed since February. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mr Hussain said he only has about £3,000 worth of stock that can be sold, as 80pc of what was left in the supermarket is now out-of-date.

He claims to have lost about £800,000 in earnings and legal fees as a result of the closure.

The businessman said he was grateful to all of his customers in Norwich who supported him over the years.

He said: “The Norwich people have been very helpful to me. In a difficult time, when people help you, it means they are decent people.

Desh supermarket, Magdalen Street, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodDesh supermarket, Magdalen Street, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

“I want to thank all of my friends and family, especially all the people in Norwich.”

Mr Hussain opened the supermarket in February 2016.

His business, which sells foods and kitchen goods from around the world, was previously based in Cowgate from 2010.

He moved to the current location on Magdalen Street as it became more popular. The supermarket included a cafe, and employed 13 people.

Desh supermarket, Magdalen Street, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodDesh supermarket, Magdalen Street, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

But his problems began less than two years later when he attempted to change his electricity provider from National Gas and Power in December 2017.

He said the company issued him with a £20,000 bill for what it claimed was unpaid electricity.

He disputed the claim and was unable to pay the full amount, resulting in the company coming into the supermarket and cutting off his supply.

Over the following weeks he then had to rely on an external generator to keep his business operational.

Desh supermarket, Magdalen Street, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodDesh supermarket, Magdalen Street, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

But in January he claimed he was told by landowner Columbia Threadneedle to remove the generator from the Anglia Square service yard.

With nowhere else to put it, and no other way to power his supermarket, Mr Hussain was forced to close in February.

UK Power Networks confirmed last year it had been trying to restore the supermarket’s electricity since April.

But in order for the work to be carried out, the company needed permission to access Anglia Square’s service yard from Columbia Threadneedle.

Desh supermarket, Magdalen Street, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodDesh supermarket, Magdalen Street, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Mr Hussain was initially told work to reconnect his supermarket would not be allowed as it could impact Anglia Square’s proposed redevelopment.

But the company later said it would grant the electricity board access through its land, subject to correct surveys and legal procedures being carried out.

It is understood that the process was almost complete, but stopped when Columbia Threadneedle was informed the supermarket would be leaving the building.

Columbia Threadneedle, along with Weston Homes, has been grated permission to demolish the Anglia Square shopping complex to make way for 1,234 new homes and a leisure quarter.

Electricity problems were not the only set-back faced by Mr Hussain last year. In August he was locked out of the supermarket after falling behind on rent with the landlord.

At the time, his landlord Tony Matless said he was owed around £20,000.

Speaking about his supermarket, Mr Hussain said: “I’ve had this business since 2010. I saw there was demand that is why I went bigger.

“I built this and I am going to close it with my own hands.”

He said plans to create a gym above the supermarket would also be “lost”.

• The supermarket will be open Monday to Sunday from 10am to 4pm until the end of January

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