Fond farewell for Newham business that treated customers like family

A BUSINESS which has been the cornerstone of local life for thousands of people for three generations closed their doors to the community on Friday.

Tears flowed as Dave and Tish Bassett and their team ended 44 years business in East Ham’s Barking Road.

The branch of the Nationwide Building Society was so much more than that for customers - more like an extended family. It was a meeting place for many where people knew they could come in and be made to feel at home and made a fuss of.

The customers love the staff so much they were already planning re-unions and get togethers as they gathered for drinks and nibbles on the final day of trading.

Customer care wasn’t just something preached in a manual and trained into staff - it came from the heart naturally.

When deaf and hard of hearing customers came in 20 years ago, staff member Johanna Watson decided to learn how to sign to make them feel more at home.

When customers told how their electrical appliances weren’t working, staff would nip round and help fix them on their way home after work! Just two examples of dedication.

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And it worked both ways. Customers would bring in mince pieces and birthday surprises for staff. One former customer from Woodford turned up with mince pieces on the last day!

Dave, 65, started work at the feel good time just after England had won the World Cup Final in 1966. He was then employed by the London Co-operative, which had an estate agency and building society business on the premises next to its massive store which fronted both Barking Road and High Street North.

Years later it became his own business when after being made redundant, he went into partnership with Ted Keen, trading as the Keen and Bassett estate agency, later becoming part of the Team group of agents.By then the Co-op had become Nationwide.

Tish, full name Patricia, joined when Ted retired in 1989.

Nationwide became Nationwide Anglia and then went back to Nationwide.

But for Tish and Dave and the staff Johanna, Julie Berry and Stephen Tarling it was looking after the customers that was the most important.

Speaking on the last day Tish, 62, said: “We want to thank all our customers and yes, plenty of tears were shed. It was like a big family for all of us.”

Said Dave: “Many years ago a tradition started of staff and customers bringing in pencils as souvenirs of their holidays all over the world, which we kept on display. At the end we sold them off and raised �435 for Great Ormond Street Hospital.”

The staff were also staunch supporters of the Newham Recorder and Community Links annual Toy Appeal for children.

The customers reflected Newham‘s multi-ethnic community and all were welcomed and given that bit extra by the business that always “went the extra mile.”

The shop still had until its last day of closing, the former safes from the Co-op.

One customer summed up their service to the community.

“I came in here as a boy, and now I come in as a grandfather. I don’t know where I will go now,”

he said.

Former customers and staff pledged to keep in touch by phone and e-mail.

The business was forced to ends its days of serving the community after Nationwide decided to close all its 130 chain of agencies.

It dealt with customers who would come in each day to put in or take out �5 to those paying in thousands, to those with pools or bingo winnings equally.

Even the fact that it was one of the busiest in the country could not save it.

“We will miss all our customers as they were just like our family,” added Tish.

“Many would pop in to talk and many also used it to meet family members. It has been a way of life for so many years and it has been an emotional farewell.”