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Scott Jagow: The day Princess Diana died was one of those the days you remember where you were. I was in a phone booth when I found out. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years now. Today, in London, there’s a memorial service with plenty of royalty and celebrities attending. There’s one small shopkeeper who won’t be there. He wasn’t invited, but he’ll be paying his own tribute — to the Princess who helped keep his business afloat. Stephen Beard has more.
Stephen Beard: Naming a pokey little cafe after the world’s most iconic Princess may seem a trifle ambitious, but Abdul Basit Daoud did just that.
Eighteen years ago, then a recent immigrant from Iraq, he called his tiny new coffee shop Café Diana. He’d spotted the Princess driving to her nearby home Kensington Palace.
Abdul Basit Daoud: The day I saw her she give me the inspiration . And I decided to call it Café Diana because if I call it Abdul Café maybe it doesn’t sound good.
Beard: You wouldn’t get so many customers.
Very soon, says Abdul, Diana became one of his customers, popping in to the modest little shop once a month with her bodyguard for coffee and croissants. Within a year of opening, however, a deep recession struck and Abdul contemplated closing down.
Daoud: Sometimes I want to pack up the shop and go. I always remember that she came and she give me the support and always gave me the push to go forward and to stay and be patient.
Her patronage helped, he says. Customers turned up in the hope of bumping into the Princess.
Abdul plastered the walls with photos of Diana. Cheekily he put “Diana dishes” on the menu with the waiter claiming that this lentil soup or that salad sandwich was “Diana’s favorite.”
He says the Princess never objected. After her death 10 years ago, his coffee shop became a kind of unofficial shrine.
Daoud: People start to come and visit the place, curious about it, out of respect for her. They come from all around the world. She’s been very good in her life to us and in her death as well.
Abdul rejects any suggestion that he has tastelessly exploited Diana’s name. She was a customer, he says. She endorsed the cafe, and she always tried to help the little man.
In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.
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