BINA Mistry had been working for Estee Lauder in Mayfair in London, including helping the backstage celebs at the Brit Awards.
And then one day she decided she’d had enough and came back to work at the family grocery store in Herdings.
“I missed home too much,” she says. “Nothing beats Yorkshire people. Status here is not a big thing but I started talking posh at Estee Lauder because people looked down on me for being from Yorkshire.
“It was the high life but I don’t really miss it at all. Yorkshire people are friendlier, and here you could say the shop is my social life!”
At the age of 25, the same age her daughter, Bina, is now, Madhuben Mistry and her new husband Bachubhai gave up their jobs in Bradford to take up a shop in the Herdings estate in Sheffield at the recommendation of friends.
They took the names of Mick and Jenny to help their customers and Mick and Jenny’s has now been a fixture of the Herdings community for 29 years.
“People thought we were brother and sister, we were so young,” says Jenny, aka Madhuben.
The precinct on Morland Road had a butcher, greengrocer, newsagent and a hairdresser and Mick and Jenny’s grocery store looked set to be a thriving business.
Jenny and Mick were determined to be part of their local community as soon as they moved in, despite the lack of other Asian people in the local area.
“A lot of people took to us straight away, they were really welcoming and interested in us. They‘d ask me where I came from, and when I said Birmingham, they didn’t believe me,” says Jenny.
“I lost my Birmingham accent when I’d moved to Bradford to get married.”
Jenny remembers their first visit to the pub. “I think we must have been the first Asian people to walk into the Cutlers Arms. “Everything went quiet, you could hear a pin drop, I will always remember that, it was like in a movie.
“But after that we were there every week, Mick joined the darts team and we made a lot of friends there.”
The recession of the 1980s and changes in local population meant the shop was not quite as lucrative as they’d hoped.
Mick had to take a job as an engineer while Jenny looked after the shop and her two young daughters, Bina and her elder sister Jayma.
“Mum got us ready for school at 6am, then had to take us to three cash and carries before unloading the car, dropping us off at school and running back to open the shop,” says Bina.
Her father, meanwhile, was getting up even earlier to get to his job at Hydra Tools. Rented shops were closing around them but since the Mistrys had bought their shop they had to stick it out. They even had squatters in their former family flat upstairs for several years.
“Down-and-outs were moving in, I remember finding a needle on the grass outside when I was a child,” says Bina.
There was some racist abuse as she grew up, Bina remembers, but Jenny points out that the police were very supportive, with the local community officer visiting nearly every day.
When she was a teenager, Bina was held up at gunpoint one morning.
“This guy came in with a balaclava and a gun and told me to get down. I thought it was a joke at first and we started laughing, then it hit us.
“He grabbed me by my hair and dragged me to the till. My mum came to run down but he pointed his gun at my head and said to stay there. We never leave money in the till, so he took a few pounds and two bottles of vodka and that was it.”
Bina had bad dreams but had counselling and stayed with her aunt for a week or two. “I’m fine now,” she says cheerily. “I have no flashbacks any more.”
Mick gave up his engineering work as a result and the couple took on a newsagency after the nearby shop closed. And gradually the shop got back on its feet.
The refurbishment of the flats has helped, as has the re-establishment of the community feel of the area, says Bina.
“Shops like this are for day to day. Not everyone can afford to do a big shop in the supermarket, some people prefer to work round the money they’ve got in front of them,” said Jenny.
Two years ago, Mick was diagnosed with the auto-immune disease lupus and was taken into hospital. He suffered a massive heart attack and never recovered. The whole community came out for his funeral.
“There was unbelievable support and love from everybody. We were so proud,” says Bina, who began helping to run the business when her father became ill. “His last words were: ‘It’s yours’,” she says.
One of her father‘s aims was to expand the business and, when an adjoining unit became available, Bina was able to do so. This week, the new Mick and Jenny’s will be formally opened by the Lord Mayor.
“Things are looking up,” says Bina. “It’s an altogether real community here. I’ve invited everyone on my Facebook to the opening – lots of customers are my friends.
“People just come here for a talk and have a laugh, that’s what it’s about.”
“If you’re on a main road you don’t know anyone but here we have a special relationship with our customers,” says Jenny. “It’s like a village shop.”
The business has succeeded due to determination and the support of the local customers. “And I’m not afraid of hard work. I can still work a 12-hour day and lift a sack of potatoes,” she laughs.
“It’s girl power,” says Bina.