THEY are the octogenarian fish and chip shop owners who go the extra mile to keep their loyal customers satisfied.
Jackson Reed-Stephenson, 80 and wife May, 81, hung up their frying aprons 18 months ago after 50 years of running Graveley’s chippy on George Street in Leeds city centre.
The great-grandparents left their former home in Garforth and bought a bungalow in Northampton to be near family.
But they missed the banter with staff and customers and the lure of the chip shop now reels them back to Leeds every Saturday.
The couple, who have been married for 60 years, make the 240-mile round weekly trip to put in a shift at Graveley’s by Kirkgate Market.
Mr Reed-Stephenson said: “I fry on a Saturday. I need a reason to get out of bed on a morning and I will carry on working as long as I can.
“I just enjoy it. While ever I can drive my car I will be there amongst it, God willing.”
Mrs Reed-Stephenson, who works on the front counter, said: “We just want to keep our hand in. It’s my staff and customers I miss. I love it, I really do. If we were 20 years younger we would be opening more fish and chip shops.
“We have wonderful staff, we couldn’t do it without them. Three of my girls in Leeds have worked for us for more than 100 years between them. They came as Saturday girls and they are still with us.”
She added: “Fish and chips are the best takeaway in the world if done right. There’s nothing more nutritious, appetising, or good value.”
And the couple’s dedication is set to be rewarded as Graveley’s is one of five fish and chip shops in North East England in the running for the title of regional Independent Takeaway of the Year at the 25th National Seafish Fish and Chip Awards 2013,
The five shortlisted shops will compete against 45 others across the UK in the race to bag the ultimate title.
The contest culminates in a glitzy awards ceremony at The Lancaster Hotel in London on January 24 next year.
The Reed-Stephensons bought and lived above their first chippy in Chapel Street, Halton, Leeds, in 1960.
Their fish and chip empire grew to five shops at its peak when they also ran businesses in Cross Gates, Kirkgate and Albion Street.
Now the couple own four businesses – Graveley’s in Leeds, two fish and chip shops in York and one in Whitby.
Mr and Mrs Reed-Stephensons’ two sons Graham, 58 and James, 43, work in the family business as do two of the couple’s seven grandchildren.
Mr Reed-Stephenson said: “We have customers who came in to the George Street shop as children with their mothers 40 years ago who now come in with their children.”