The Twickenham newsagent going above and beyond for community at Christmas

By Emily Hemlsey
January 22 2020, 09.40

‘Meet and Deep News’, a family-run newsagent in Twickenham, is well-known in the community for their charitable efforts throughout the year and at Christmas, they make no exception.

For 20 years the generous Hindu family who own the newsagents have opened their doors on Christmas Day to locals, welcoming them with hugs and mince pies.

Family is at the heart of the small business, as Shashi and Pallu Patel, who live upstairs, have run the shop for 35 years, with help from their adult sons Dee and Meeten Patel.

This year more than 250 people from local and neighbouring towns filled the small shop to celebrate, causing it to stay open double the advertised time as they refused to turn anyone away.

“Families, couples, and individuals of all backgrounds, ethnicities and ages came to join in the community festive spirit and enjoy a mince pie, samosa and of course a hug! We loved it,” said Dee.

The family has upheld the tradition after first becoming inspired 20 years ago by a man desperate to buy an international phone card from the shop to call his mum in Africa on Christmas Day. 

Dee said: “We thought we’re serving the community 364 days a year, they support us, the one day they may need us we should still be there for them as it’s our job as a convenience store to be here when everyone else isn’t.”

Since then the family has welcomed a range of people, from those who forgot to buy Christmas essentials to those with nowhere else to go.

“We realised there are a lot of young people who are alone at Christmas, as well as the elderly, people who are divorced whose kids are with their wives, or students from abroad who have family in another country, so we open up for those people,” he added.

Pam, a regular customer who comes to the shop on Christmas Day every year, said: “I think it’s a wonderful idea to have people to talk to. It’s perfect.”

Dee recalls a heartwarming story of an elderly woman and regular customer called Dot who had volunteered all her life for retired soldiers and had her money stolen from her home.

MULTICULTURAL: The family are Hindu but enjoy Christmas festivity

“We decided to get the community involved and got money and gifts together to give her on Christmas, she was in tears and said it was the best Christmas she had ever had.

“Since then we’ve thought there are so many elderly people isolated so we should open up for them so that everybody has a place to go.” 

The shop is not half-hearted with Christmas spirit, as each year it is fitted with disco lights and a bubble machine, with plenty of decorations, carols and party music. 

The family provides spreads of food and countless mince pies are eaten every year (vegan included).

“I think Iceland thinks my Dad has some weird addiction because he keeps asking for 10 packs of mince pies,” joked Dee. 

To embrace multi-culturalism within the community, this year the shop put on a Bollywood theme, over 150 samosas and spring rolls were enjoyed while Dee and Meeten dressed in traditional Indian outfits.

From speaking to Dee, it was clear the shop is at the heart of the community as he was constantly interrupted by regulars wanting to chat, and it is clear their efforts are appreciated by locals. 

“Great to live in a neighbourhood where they welcome, speak and embrace anyone,” said one Twitter user, @ABasilioLCHDip. 

Their charitable work also became recognised throughout the country as the family went viral in 2018, appearing on Sky News and the Huffington Post.   

“At first we thought it was a joke when Sky News called, it was really overwhelming but since then a few shops have come forward to us and said they’re going to do the same in their local towns so it made us happy that we’ve set an example,” said Dee.

Charity is an important part of the Hindu family’s lives due to their strong belief in karma and doing good for others.

In 2016, Dee raised around £900 for Epilepsy Research UK and SUDEP for growing his beard for four months, while in 2019 he grew his beard to eight inches long in nine months, which was later donated to make wigs for children suffering cancer, overall raising more than £1500 for Altzheimers UK and the Little Princess Trust, charities close to the hearts of their regular customers. 

The family also get the community involved in events throughout the year, on Easter and Halloween they dress up and give out sweets to locals, and this Valentine’s Day they plan on selling long stem roses and heart teddies for charity.

Related Articles