FINAL SHIFT: Ipswich icon retires after 35 years
SHE has dedicated the past 35 years of her life to making things a bit easier for her beloved neighbours, but sadly, Lela Nicolaides' final shift is almost done.
At the ripe old age of 84, Lela is reluctantly saying goodbye to the corner shop she has run alongside her son Phill since 1983.
The widely-loved Blackstone shop owner and renowned tough cookie - who has seen off not one but two would-be robbers over the years - was brought to the brink of tears as she described how much she'd miss her loyal customers and neighbours once she retires to Brisbane after her final shift this Friday.
"I'm very happy with all the people I've met here over the years - my customers, friends and neighbours," Lela said.
"The customers have been very good to me. They always looked out for me and I'm very grateful to them."
Aside from working 12 and 13-hour days seven days a week for the past 35 years, Lela also earned her tough reputation after slapping a would-be robber in the face with a loaf of bread.
Lela was closing the shop back in April of 2013 when a man armed with a knife and a metal bar ran in and demanded money.
As the masked robber tried to reach for the cash register, a fired up Lela belted him with a loaf of bread and attempted to remove his balaclava, saying: "I want to see your face."
The startled crook couldn't get out of the shop fast enough, knocking over a chip stand as he fled empty handed.
About five years earlier, Lela was ambushed by another crook as she was closing the back shed.
Fortunately, the shop's then guard dog, Prince, was on hand. The noble German Shepherd ran inside and threw himself at the crook, grabbing him around the collar.
Lela's son Phil will look after the popular little shop and fuel station until it sells, but the family hopes the new owner will keep it going.
Phil paid tribute to his mum's dedication over the years.
"Mum battled on until the end, like she's always done," he said.
"They don't make them like her anymore.
"She's never had a holiday the whole time."
Several of Lela's loyal customers contacted The Queensland Times this week to notify us of her retirement.
Kym Wellen said Lela deserved recognition.
"My son started working there at age 11 and stayed there until he was 19," she said.
"A lot of the children worked there and as they were growing up they would have 'stopped at Lela's' on the way home for lollies and ice creams.
"She is someone you'd class as part of the family."