Residents have come together to say goodbye to a much-loved couple who are retiring from running their Post Office branch after 23 years of service.

Colin and Rush Patel, of the Post Office branch on Church Road in Smithills, will be in charge of the store until Monday before they hand over the reigns on Tuesday.

And in a heartfelt goodbye, customers who have known them over the years gathered on Saturday to say farewell to the couple and wish them luck for the future – with cheers of celebration.

Locals came together outside the shop to see the pair close the shutters at 12.30pm.

Colin said he feels sad to be leaving the store because of the friendships they have made.

The 60-year-old said: “We have been here 23 years, and I reached the big 60 last October and we had been thinking about calling it at 60.

@theboltonnews Customers, friends and family gathered today to say goodbye to Colin and Rush Patel as they retire. Read more on The Bolton News website. #theboltonnews #postoffice #bolton ♬ original sound - The Bolton News

“It has happened a lot quicker than we expected but we just took the opportunity.

“It’s one of those where it is upsetting because we have been here for 23 years with all of our customers, but we had an off licence for 17 years before this too, so I have done my 40 years and have decided to retire.

“We are a bit upset today because it is all of our regular customers here to say goodbye and they have become our friends over the years, they have supported us a lot so that’s why it is a bit upsetting.

“I would just like to thank our customers for their support over the years and the friendship because they have been our friends.

“When our customers found out we were leaving they said we couldn’t, there has been a lot of upset and we have had a lot of tears in the post office already.”

Colin and Rush with family members, customers, and staffColin and Rush with family members, customers, and staff (Image: Henry Lisowski) Colin and Rush will be spending their retirement years with their family, looking after their two grandsons, the family dog, as well as travelling and taking part in hobbies they have not had time for in recent years.

This includes reading for Rush.

Rush, 59, said: “I feel mixed emotions about retiring, I am a bit happy but a bit sad too really because we have been here so long and it's my home as well.

"It's not just my business, but I also do want to turn the page and start a new chapter as well.

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“I am going to miss it and miss talking to people. One of my favourite memories during my time here is having my third child here.

“I was pregnant when we found out 23 years ago that we were taking over.

"He is 22 now, and that is my best memory but also talking to customers and making friends with them and being part of the community have also been highlights.

“The community has been really sad that we are leaving, we have had so many cards.

“We will miss them.”

Colin hugging his son KieranColin hugging his son Kieran (Image: NQ) During the goodbye event, Colin and Rush’s son Kieran made a speech.

He said: “Mum and dad have been working hard for over 40 years, 23 years in the Post Office, and they have finally decided to call it a day to spend some time with their family.

“We are all going to miss being in the Post Office, after all these years we will now have to queue to send a parcel.

“On behalf of my parents we would like to say thank you to Janet and Shona and previously Pat who have always been great to mum and dad with their constant support and who I am sure will still look after the community once mum and dad have left.

“Finally, to mum and dad on behalf of all of our customers, family and friends, thank you for all of your hard work, working long hours and weekends, but now you can relax and enjoy your retirement.

“Thank you all for coming, we may see you all in the queue one day as I am sure none of us will be able to use another Post Office.”

Colin and Rush will say goodbye to the branch on Monday with the final shutters closing at 5.30pm.

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