Tributes have been paid to Asaf Rifat, the owner of Stoke Newington’s oldest shop, who has died at the age of 76.
When he wasn’t helping customers find the perfect bolt or widget in his hardware store Kac, Asaf loved nothing more than listening to Motown - he was a big fan of Ray Charles and had an enormous vinyl collection.
“Every Sunday, surrounded by his family, he’d put on a record and his foot would start tapping,” recalls his wife, Linda.
She added: “We met 56 years ago when I worked at the dry cleaners opposite Kac (it’s now Oakwood Estate Agency) and we were married for 52 years. He’s the only person I’ve ever been out with; he was cheeky and definitely had a swagger – he was a Mod back in the day.”
The couple married at Stoke Newington Town Hall and had three children Grant, Aysha and Leyla, all of whom have worked in the family hardware store at one time or another. Linda worked as a secretary for a solicitors’ firm.
Linda said: “Our son Grant runs Kac now – he’s helped out there since he was knee-high. Actually, I was sweeping the floor there when I was pregnant with him!
“Asaf was a family man – he smiled the most when he was with his six grandchildren. He numbered them one to six and they all knew their number! We had big family holidays all together in Swanage and the Isle of Wight.”
Asaf grew up in Famagusta, Northern Cyprus until the age of 10. One of seven siblings to a young mum, he emigrated with his grandparents to Haringey and they raised him. He became a passionate Spurs supporter and a season-ticket holder. Linda grew up in Stoke Newington and she and Asaf moved to Haringey and Edmonton before settling in Hertfordshire.
He loved sports cars and at different stages of his life owned an MG Midget, two MGBs and a Triumph Stag, which they bought in 1974 and still own. He also had a Lambretta scooter.
Linda added: “He’d worked in Kac since 1964. It’s Stoke Newington’s oldest shop. It was originally opened in 1951 by a Polish Jewish family – their name was Katz, but the name was lost in translation when they registered it so it became Kac! We bought it from them in the 1990s. He was very happy there.”
Asaf suffered from heart problems and five years ago had had a double heart bypass and a stent fitted. He stopped working in the store when the Coronavirus pandemic broke out.
“He watched a lot of TV for the last few years. I think he saw every black and white western ever made!” added Linda.
Asaf died on September 12th after a brief pulmonary illness.
Paying tribute to him on social media, one customer wrote: “Despite his best attempts to appear grumpy, the twinkly eyes and wry smile gave him away every time.”
Another wrote: Asaf, without knowing, showed me how to become a great father and husband. Over the years I watched and listened to the way he spoke about Linda and his kids and the way he wound all four of them up with his relentless jokes. He was a true gentle giant with a heart as big as the moon.”
Linda said: “The tributes people have paid have been amazing – it’s really lovely to know how well liked he was.”