A Northumberland fish and chip shop owner says he has ‘fallen in love with the area’ after opening his doors last summer and already winning a national award.
Zeeshan Mir, his wife Frida and seven-year-old daughter Ana moved to the Northumberland coast from Rochdale in Lancashire two years ago, with Zeeshan following his dream of opening a fast-food joint after 11 years as an avionics engineer in the RAF. The Mirs opened The Front in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea on August 4 2022 with a little support from another well-known chippy on the coast with a family connection: The Harbour View in Seaton Sluice.
On April 23, The Front scooped the award for best fish and chips in Northumberland at England’s Business Awards. Zeeshan dedicated it to his customers and staff, saying it wouldn’t have been possible without them.
He told ChronicleLive: “I pride myself on customer service, providing a good quality product, and that’s what’s helped us achieve such success. But it was down to customer’s nominations that we were up for an awards in the first place, and the vast amount of nominations helped us to win.”
The former avionics engineer, who has been in the RAF and had a spell with British Airways, says it has always been his dream to open his own fish and chip shop. He added: “During my time in the forces, I believe I’ve served the country to the best of my ability.
“I want to continue serving the public in a fast food environment so I’m hoping to exceed the customer service side.”
Zeeshan cited support from his brother-in-law Waseem Mir of the Harbour View in Seaton Sluice, in getting The Front established, but insists there is no competition between the two chippies as they’re targeted at a different clientele. Whereas The Harbour View is closer to Newcastle and has a lot of people travelling especially for it, The Front is a more local affair.
However, Zeeshan is expecting to see an increase in numbers during the shop’s first full summer, and hopes that word of mouth will help to bring more people to the town which has been named one of Airbnb’s top trending destinations and one of the cheapest coastal destinations to buy a house in the entire country in the last year.
He said: “There are a lot of holiday makers and caravanners who come through Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, and we’re hoping to get more of them coming in in the summer months. A successful summer would mean we can take on more local employees, which can only be a good thing for the area.”
Employing more people locally is part of the Mir family wanting to give something back to Newbiggin, who say they have been “warmly welcomed” to the seaside town. Zeeshan continued: “It’s been an enjoyable experience and I’m in it for the long term.
“Since we moved up here, I’ve really fallen in love with the area and the people. The locals are really friendly and welcoming and the area’s in development so things are getting better and better each year.”
However, it hasn’t all been easy since starting. The Mirs were faced with increasing costs for builders and building materials while converting the former off-licence into a chippy, and upon opening its doors they were faced with skyrocketing bills for energy bills and ingredients, with the price of potatoes doubling in a matter of months.
Despite that, Zeeshan refuses to raise prices and feels a sense of duty to the community. He said: “Because I live in the area and support the area, I can’t increase the prices because customers obviously have to face a cost of living crisis as well.
“I’m trying to look after our older customers and a lot are suffering. They concern me more than anything because some of them struggle to afford general day-to-day living.”
With the cost of living crisis showing no sign of abating, for now Zeeshan and his family are focusing on the positives. He finished: “My wife and daughter live in Newbiggin with me and we love the area.
“It’s nice to have the support from them, and the support from my parents and Frida and Waseem’s parents has been key to the whole success. We can’t wait for the summer!”
Finally, they are running a joint competition with fellow England’s Business Award winner in Newbiggin, Ocean Bloom, with the prize a meal from The Front and a bouquet of flowers from Ocean Bloom. For more information visit The Front’s website.
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