Allen Hickson will close the doors to his greeting card store in Tauranga's CBD after nearly two decades.
Hickson has been the smiling face behind the counter of the Piccadilly Greeting Cards store six days a week for the last 18 years. Now, he says, it is time for a break.
"It has been very very busy this week. The shelves are looking pretty empty now."
He previously ran a book store in Cherrywood with his wife Lesley who was now in aged care.
"It was easier just selling cards rather than books."
Hickson said his highlight over the years has been getting to know all of the customers who would regularly pop in to buy cards for loved ones.
Birthday cards for grandchildren were his most popular seller over the years, he said.
"We have lots of regulars. Mainly older ones. They traditionally send cards, the younger ones send more emails."
While Hickson was "very sad" to say goodbye to his regulars, said he would think about opening a "smaller, cheaper" store after a year or so if demand was still there.
"It is hard finding enough money to pay the bills. The pandemic has been hard, it has been a bit quieter," he said.
"We may open up again somewhere if people are going to miss it."
But for now, he was keen to spend more time with his wife and get his garden at home under control.
Chairman of Downtown Tauranga Brian Berry said Hickson was "a bit of an institution in the CBD" and wished him well for the future.
"We are sad to see him go. I have used him a lot over the years. We are always sad to see a longstanding business go."
A post on a Mount Maunganui community Facebook page about Hickson's store closing garnered more than 1500 likes and had roughly 300 comments.
Customer Sandra Paterson made the post to help Hickson - who did not have social media - advertise the closing down sale.
She said it was "heartening to see how much he is loved and appreciated".
"I wanted to make sure his sale went well - it's not cheap having a family member in a rest home for a long period.
"He's a lovely man - bright, cheerful, onto it, and interesting - as so many people said in the comments online. I think people really appreciate him for simply always being there. He's been a long-standing presence for a lot of locals."
Paterson planned to read out the hundreds of kind comments to Hickson in the coming days.