TRIBUTES are being paid to a millionaire greengrocer with shops across Coventry and Warwickshire after he was found dead aged just 46.
Coventry businessman and ex-Army serviceman Joe Richards was found dead at his home in the Gibbet Hill area of the city on Friday afternoon (July 24).
He was a well-known figure with a string of fruit and veg shops bearing his name in Coventry and the wider region – successfully competing against the growth of supermarket stores.
He was among a group of independent businessman who in 2012 won a judicial review against initial planning permission for the ASDA development at the former Cheylemore pub site – close to his Daventry Road store.
He also hit the headlines following a brutal assault as he left Scholars nighclub in Coventry in 2005, which left him in a coma and with extensive medical problems.
His attacker was given a community sentence, and it is understood Mr Richards was still continuing his legal fight for a stiffer sentence when he died.
Mr Richards was in the Queen’s Own Hussars before becoming a greengrocer, and leaves a teenage son.
The cause of death is ‘unexplained’ and is expected to be considered at an inquest.
The police said: “Police were called shortly before 3.15pm on Friday 24 July by the ambulance service to reports of the body of a man found at a house on Stoneleigh Road.
“The death of the 46-year-old is not suspicious and has been referred to the city’s coroner.”
Joe Richards shops expanded from Coventry into Kenilworth, Bedworth, Solihull, and as far afield as Birmingham and Lichfield.
The Joe Richards stores in Coventry are in the city centre, Radford, Earlsdon, Cheylesmore and Ball Hill.
Mr Richards was also well known for supporting local charities.
Public relations businessman John Clarke, a friend of Mr Richards who knew him through Mr Richards’ charity work for NSPCC, said: “We saw Joe only a few days before his untimely death. He was very upbeat and looking well.
“He will be sadly missed and our thoughts go out to his family.
“He was one of the most generous and caring people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.
“He was an extremely popular personality in the Coventry area and throughout the West Midlands.”
Muna Chauhan, corporate manager at Coventry baby hospice Zoe’s Place, said: “He had a huge heart. Such a friendly person who was lovely speaking with the staff and was part of the Zoe’s family.
“He knew so many people in Coventry and always offered to help whenever he could.
“He could never do enough for Zoe’s Place and was going to play a pivotal part in the launch of our business group. He had fantastic ideas about how he could help put Zoe’s Place on the map.
“It’s truly devastating, and we can’t comprehend what his family are going through.”
Other tributes poured in on social media.