One of the North East's last remaining fruiterers will close its doors this weekend due to rising costs and decreased footfall on the high street.

Eileen’s Fruit Market, located on Redcar high street, will close on Saturday (January 20) after 66 years serving the community.

Mark Robinson, 57, owner of Eileen’s, thanked his loyal customers who “kept us going” and hailed them for the effort they made to shop locally and support small businesses.

He said the store has had to close for a number of reasons, including minimum wage increase, Council Tax, decreased footfall, online sales, “out-of-town” developments, and supermarkets holding a stranglehold over the market.

The Northern Echo:

Mr Robinson said: “That just squeezes out people like me. I’m a fifth generation fruiter and that’s it, there’s very few of us left. You could put us all around one table.

“We’re now the last of the line, you’re not going to see any more fruit shops open up now. There’s so few of us left, once my generation’s over with, there’s very little left.

“I don’t understand how they think high streets are going to survive. How many business closures can you name that have happened in the last couple of years?

“Not just small independents like me, just along from me on the same block Wilkinson’s, the banks and everything. There’s just nothing here.

“I can’t see who would open on the high street now, honestly, I really don’t think there’s anything you can do. You’ve got deserts where high streets used to be.”

Mr Robinson criticised the introduction of “through the roof” parking charges and said the new measures have left the high street “deserted.”

The car parking charges for Redcar High Street and Station Road are £1.60 for one hour, and £2.20 for each additional hour.

Previously, the car parking charges before the TVCA relief fund was granted were £1.20 for the first hour, £1.70 for an additional two hours, and £1.20 for each additional hour.

Mr Robinson added more needed to be done to ensure the high street’s future and said online sales taxes should have been implemented long ago to ensure this.

He added due to the elements negatively affecting the high street, he cannot sell his produce at higher prices to combat the “unsustainable” cycle.

He said he believes it is too late to save small businesses such as his own and action needed to be taken some time ago.

“The stable doors are down and the horses are well over the horizon now. Things should have been done a long, long time ago. It’s too late now.”

He said with the Government’s small business rate relief ending in March and the minimum wage increase, he will have to pay £730 extra a month to support the store.

Mr Robinson said the shop had 15 members of staff on a Saturday when he first began, and now only boasts himself and one other staff member.

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“I just feel it’s time to go, I want to retire before I’m too old, and before it’s forced on me.

“I’ve kept going because I’ve got some good customers who have kept up with us. [They’ve] made an effort to come and shop with me.

“They know I’m slightly dearer than the supermarkets, but what they’ve tried to do is give us a chance, and I’ve just tried to make sure that I get good stuff for them.

“As long as I’ve stocked quality stuff, I think people have given me a chance. Unfortunately, there’s not enough of them.

“I am going to be trading in the town, it’s hard not to be a little bit annoyed at things the way they’ve turned out.”

He said Mike’s Cafe will be moving downstairs to take over the bottom floor, and Mr Robinson added he will remain busy with a wholesale side business and other projects.

He said he will be providing a further explanation of the closure on Eileen’s social media page here.