Photo: Cohens Chemist

Tributes have been paid to the “kind and compassionate” pharmacist and co-founder of Cohens Chemist Anwer Patel, who died last week aged 66.

Patel from Bolton was unwell for a couple of years before passing away in the early hours on Wednesday (April 28).

Paying tribute, superintendent pharmacist and head of operations at Cohens, Zoe Serrant, said: “His passion for Cohens and his employees was evident in all that he did. He had an incredible presence which made anyone that he spoke to feel important.

“He was a warm, kind and compassionate man who was always willing to help others, especially those who were less fortunate than him.

“Anwer has left a massive legacy behind and his absence will be felt acutely, not only within Cohens but also in the community which he served. He has been a true inspiration to us all and he will be sorely missed.”

Anwer Patel and his elder brother Yakub set up their first pharmacy in Rochdale in 1979, and soon acquired their second, the Cohens pharmacy, in Little Lever, Bolton.

The name would stick and the chain would expand to some 170 branches in the peak of its first stage and it would end in 2005 when Lloyds, another pharmacy chain, came knocking.

They sold 111 of their pharmacies to Lloyds for £130 million and kept 30 branches, mainly in the north of England, which would serve as the platform for the next stage of expansion.

The Cohens’ directory now lists 215 stores, making it one of the largest independent pharmacy networks in the country.

Anwer Patel was a founding member of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp).

In her tribute to Patel, Dr Leyla Hannbeck, the CEO of AIMp, said: “On behalf of AIMp we would like to offer our deepest condolences upon the sad news of the death of Anwer Patel of Cohen’s Chemists. Anwer was not only the founder of the group along with his brother Yakub in the early 80s, but became pioneers in growth and models of innovation across our sector.

“Anwer was a man who liked to listen and learn. A modest man hugely respected for his council and pleasant disposition. He will be sadly missed by this sector and community pharmacy in general. Our thoughts and love go out to his family on this sad day for all who knew him and the legacy he leaves.”

Essa Academy in Bolton benefited greatly from the proactive role the brothers played, pledging £2 million of the £20 million needed to convert the former Hayward Grammar School into a city academy. Today the school is in the top 20 per cent nationally for pupil progress and is oversubscribed.

Its chief executive Andrew Cooper said: “Everyone at Essa is saddened by the news of Anwer’s passing. He cared deeply about his local community and was one of the co-founders of Essa Academy and was its chair of governors for several years. When Essa Primary Academy opened in 2014 on our Lever Edge Lane site, he became chair of the trustees board.”

In 2009, Patel, along with his brother, was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Bolton in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the Bolton community.

The Patel brothers were valued at £170m on Asian Rich List, the authoritative guide to Asian wealth in Britain produced by the Asian Media Group, parent company of Pharmacy Business.

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