It’s a Monday morning at the Ebrahim Electronics shop next to Sarova Stanley Hotel. Ebrahim Nurali, the founder of Ebrahim Supermarket, sits pensively at the far end of his store.
His eyes are glued to the television set as workers attend to customers at what remains of his once thriving business empire that included the iconic Ebrahim Supermarket on Moi Avenue, the last branch standing of a chain of outlets in towns like Mombasa, Nakuru and Kisumu.
It is a week since the 75-year old supermarket closed for undisclosed reasons, ending its reign as the oldest retailer in the capital.
Mr Nurali, now frail and in his 90s, notices me as I approach him and politely asks how he can be of help.
When I mention that I am there to talk to him about the supermarket, his body language shifts and he becomes uneasy.
“Hiyo duka kwisha. Sitaki hiyo maneno (That shop is no more. I don’t wan’t to hear more about it),” the man says, his tone portraying the disappointment of seeing his once-prime supermarket close its doors to shoppers for good.
Efforts to get him to open up about the reasons behind its closure bear no fruit. What he says, however, draws more sympathy than curiosity.
“Kindly I am sick and do not want to talk about the shop. It is finished so give me time, please,” Mr Nurali says.
He then tells me to wait for his son who is set to arrive from Canada this week if I wish to discuss the matter further.
Mr Nurali paid all his workers their terminal dues before the supermarket closed down earlier this month.
However, even as he remains cagey about the reasons behind the sudden closure, some of his former staff point to dishonest employees who colluded to fleece the business.
That, they reckon, coupled with financial imprudence on the management’s part, squeezed the life out of the retailer.
Attempts to seek answers on-the-record from some of Ebrahim’s longest-serving staff were also unsuccessful.
The supermarket is only the latest in a series of family—owned businesses that have faced hard times in recent years.
The Atul Shah-owned Nakumatt Supermarkets fell to its knees last year, closing more than half of its outlets owing to debts running into billions of shillings.
Akamba Public Road Services — East Africa's oldest transport company — also wound up in 2012 just 12 years after its founder, Sherali Hassanali Nathoo, died.
At its peak, it operated long distance passenger buses and offered courier services to over 50 destinations across East Africa.