Communities pay tribute to two popular shopkeepers lost to Covid-19

Devendra Varsani (Photo: Facebook)

Tributes have poured in for two shopkeepers from Wigan and Bury who lost their battle with Covid-19 earlier this month.

Vajal Halai, 60, affectionately known as Val, has died on 20 January, two weeks after being admitted to hospital with Covid-19.

Devendra Varsani, 47, known to most as ‘Dave’, has passed away on 11 January after falling ill with Covid-19 in the previous week.

Vajal Halai (Photo: Facebook)

Originally from Bolton, Val owned two shops in Wigan, Nisa in Smithy Green and a Costcutter in Standish Lower Ground.

“With deep sorrow and regret we wish to inform all our customers of the sad passing  of our father (big boss) known to customers as ‘Val’ who was the heartbeat of the store and did anything for anyone,” his family posted on the stores’ social media pages.

“No one is meant to live forever. We have to say goodbye to every last one of our beloved friends, family members, and dearest ones. This is the saddest truth of life. It is often hard to find words to express our feelings when our closest one departs forever.”

His customers paid glowing tributes on social media, terming it as a “big loss to the community.”

“The loveliest person anyone could have the pleasure to meet. He will be sadly missed by everyone,” a user wrote.

“He worked hard all year round and always opened for us on Christmas day. He is well respected in Ince. My little girl will miss her treats from him,” another added.

The father-of-three and grandfather-of-eight has been an active member of the Shree Swaminarayan Hindu Temple in Adelaide Street.

Born in India, Val moved to Kenya before settling in Bolton. He started off as a milkman, and at the same time, worked as a building contractor as well. He bought an off licence in Little Hulton in 1992, but sold the shop five years later to back into building. He would return to retail when the family set up shops in Wigan.

Devendra Varsani (L) with his family (Photo: Facebook)

Dave had run a convenience store in his village for the past 24 years, opening Dave & Prem’s SMS Village Store in Ainsworth in 1997, alongside his wife Prem, two years after he arrived from Kenya following his father’s death.

“He’s made it into the success it is now and everyone was really proud of him,” his daughter Anvi told the Manchester Evening News.

The father-of-two has also been a big part of the Hindu community in Bolton and attended the Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Temple in Deane.

“I posted about his passing on social media and the response has been absolutely huge because he was well known in Ainsworth and within our temple in Bolton,” Anvi added. “It’s been really overwhelming and heartwarming to read everyone’s lovely messages.”