A FRUIT and veg wholesaler from Oxford who has been working in his family firm for nearly 60 years has said farewell to his loyal customers.

Harold Hicks Ltd has been providing the people of Oxfordshire with fresh fruit and vegetables for 95 years, and at one point, served 10 of the Oxford University colleges.

Last Friday 75-year-old Malcolm Hicks, who officially took over the company from his father Harold nearly 30 years ago, said a final goodbye to his staff and customers as he closed down the company to coincide with his retirement.

Mr Hicks, his wife Vivian and two staff members are retiring, while a fifth member of the team is taking redundancy.

Mr Hicks said: “I’m sad in as much as we are closing an era. We have had some wonderful customers. It’s been a joy to serve them.”

Malcolm Hicks took the helm at Harold Hicks Ltd in 1987, just five years before his father died.

He added: “During the war my father was collared by the Ministry of Supply and was responsible for supplying fruit and vegetables to all the army and navy camps.”

Harold Hicks Ltd was set up in the mid-1920s. Harold’s parents, Malcolm’s grandparents, were also greengrocers, so he started early in the family trade.

Originally Harold set up a shop in Magdalen Road selling fruit and vegetables. In 1955, he expanded to premises in Percy Street, East Oxford, and became a wholesale merchant.

In 1995, the business moved to Pony Road, Iffley Road, before settling at Chiltern Business Park off Garsington Road in 2006 – where the firm was based until its closure. As a boy Malcolm and his two brothers were involved in helping with the business but Malcolm who took the lead when Harold died.

The father-and-son company is well known across the county, with some customers staying loyal to the firm for more than 50 years. The firm was always in demand and Mr Hicks said during the bad winter of 1963 they were storing more than 400 tons of potatoes in the warehouse.

Jane White, who works in the kitchen at Headington Girls School, said she was very upset when she heard of Mr Hicks’ retirement.

She said: “He used to give us a Christmas tree and would help out with the Christmas raffle I would organise. He would donate a huge Christmas basket full of fruit and vegetable.

“He will be hard to replace.”

Mr and Mrs Hicks, who live in Old Road, Headington, will be celebrating their retirement by going travelling.

He said: “I’ve done quite a bit of travelling across the continent and I’d like to do more.”

The business has closing down for good due to the fact that the couple have no children or grandchildren to continue it.