A dying kind of business

There was a sombre atmosphere at Centenary Enterprises the day I visited. As Kabwe town’s best known wholesaler and retailer sells the last stock of washing powder and sugar. There are no long lines of people queuing up, and the shop is eerily empty and quiet. Where all the different products used to be displayed with handwritten price tags, there are only a few last items standing. Lines are visible on the walls from where shelves have stood for decades, now removed to make space for renovations. Centenary Enterprises is closing its doors after operating as a family business since 1962. It was opened by Naik Patel and later taken over by his nephew Ramesh Patel who at the age of 75, sees no other option than to close as there is no third generation with interest in the business. “This” he says, as he taps his chest right over his heart “and age, that’s the only reason for closing”. At Centenary Enterprises people have been able to find anything from salt and rice to soap and yarn. Customers were served over the counter in the old fashioned way. But Ramesh Patel is quick to dispel any idea that more modern shops were taking customers from them, “business was good, only my health and age” he repeats. I can see that, for Mr. Patel, closing his business is done with a heavy heart, and there is sadness in his smile. As times are changing the old style shops where the owner greets you from behind the counter and serves you with a smile are of a dying kind and the malls and supermarkets are becoming a global standard. Even in Kabwe, Zambia.


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