At 87, Fia Gillis is no longer the youngest. She therefore stops her neighborhood supermarket Gillis in Oisterwijk. And that is not only an emotional moment for her and her family, but also for the entire neighborhood.
Fia was 14 when she started working in her parents’ grocery store. “My mother was in poor health so I had to help out and dropped out of school. You just did that,” says Fia, sitting in her regular checkout chair. “I worked in that store for 13 years and then I took over the business and my husband and I moved the store to Prinses Marijkestraat. In total I have now been there for 74 years.” Six years ago, Fia’s husband passed away.
“In all those years I have seen a lot. We used to have to weigh everything by hand and now so much is done digitally.”
The people, on the other hand, have not changed. “I’ve had three generations from this neighborhood at my register now. I see people getting old and then they come here with their children or grandchildren.”
The fact that the neighborhood will miss Fia can be clearly seen from all the flower arrangements at the entrance of the store. Local residents come and go to thank Fia. “I can’t get to work like this,” she laughs.
Fia will especially miss the chat. “I just like to chat, but I go for walks and then I have coffee everywhere. I will pass my time.”
In those 74 years, Fia has never called itself unsafe. “Of course you are older and maybe an easy victim, but I never felt that way.”
Yet Fia will not soon forget an event from five years ago. “Then a boy walked into the store with a machete, well then you’re shocked!”
For a while there was talk that Fia’s son, Maurice Gillis, would continue to run the business on his own. He has been working in his parents’ shop for 30 years now, but for him too the cake is finished. “We’ve had a lot of fun all these years, but at some point it’s done.”
Maurice works about 70 hours a week and never goes on vacation. “I have two teenagers at home and I want to spend more time with them. The family is more important to me now.” Maurice would like to do something else before he retires. “Something with the police, I think it’s something.”
This Saturday is the last day the store is officially open. In the coming weeks, the family will be cleaning up and everything will go on sale. “We are going to sell the property and mothers would like to move into an assisted living accommodation. She still lives above the shop.”