‘We want to carry that legacy on’ - March business owner aims to follow in inspirational father’s footsteps
The son of a March pharmacist, who ran a family business in the town for nearly 20 years, said he hopes to make the same positive impact on the local community his father did.
Bill Kalsi ran Selby & Taylor as a pharmacy on Dartford Road with wife Sushil from 1990, retiring in 2008 before the premises was converted into an opticians two years later.
Since moving to March when he started the firm, Bill, who died aged 63 on Sunday, October 11, would often help his customers with any issues and was known for his friendliness whenever patients would see him.
“He was the face of the pharmacy. If anyone wanted anything, he would help out wherever he could,” Maninder Kalsi, Bill’s son, said.
“Sometimes, people would come in for a chat to see my dad. He would take them to the back room and talk, and he was like that with many people.”
Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Bill moved to the UK to study pharmacy at the University of Brighton and owned pharmacies across Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.
One of the businesses he owned was indeed called Selby & Taylor, a legacy in the making that followed him and Sushil when they moved up to the Fens.
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“He got married to my mum who he met in Brighton and ran a number of businesses together,” Maninder said.
“He then started to run the chemist in March, which was really rundown, and turned it into Selby & Taylor, a name he had from a previous business in Stevenage.
“Mum and dad put their heart and soul into it for the community.”
It was not just the local community that Bill cared for, but he was a real family man too.
Maninder, who now owns the business, recalled the times he would help at the chemist while studying at university, and the support his parents would give him to where he is today.
“We used to help cleaning up and delivering prescriptions,” he said.
“Mum and dad supported us over the years with education and extra-curricular things. He used to encourage us to work hard and find a career path we would enjoy.
“For me, that was to become an optician and with mum and dad’s help, set up the business.”
After Bill retired, Maninder said he would regularly get stopped in the street, just to see how his father was. “It’s so heart-warming, all these people that have so much love for him,” Maninder said.
“When you love your family so much, it’s even more endearing to see that others love him so much as well.
“That resonates with me because I have a similar situation with my patients, who ask ‘how’s the family?’ and come to see how I am.”
During his spare time, Bill would go from a private pilot flying friends, family and patients to destinations around Europe, to preserving land outside his shop.
“We had a patch of land owned by Fenland Council and it wasn’t maintained, so people would walk past and throw their rubbish in it,” Maninder said.
“He would replant these flowers and hedges and take care of them. Although we didn’t own the land, we were dedicated to looking after it, and people respected it and refrained from throwing their rubbish on it.”
Many people in the town also benefitted from his generosity, including a group of students who enjoyed a school trip to the Royal Albert Hall, organised and funded by Bill.
He also sponsored an annual golf tournament at March Golf Club for over 15 years, which the business still does every year.
Bill and Sushil later moved to Huntingdon to live with his family.
The funeral procession on Monday, October 26 will pass Cassanos at 12.10pm, where Bill used to eat lunch and meet friends while he ran the chemists, through Broad Street and onto Dartford Road past Selby & Taylor Opticians at 12.15pm, before heading to Fenland Crematorium for a private family funeral.
Maninder hopes the people of March can turn out in force for a man determined to succeed while helping others.
“The way he raised my brother and I with so much love and attention has resonated in us and we want to carry that legacy on,” Maninder said. “I aim to follow that through for the patients that I see, always doing what I can for them.
“He used to say ‘always remember your beginnings, where you came from and the journey you have made to get to where you are’.
“He’d say ‘if you cannot put your heart into something, don’t do it because you will not do it right. If you’re going to do something, make sure you put 100 per cent into it.”