A FISH and chip shop that was devasted by fire is to reopen completely refurbished and with a new name.

Seafare at St John’s will be serving again as Molly’s Fish ’n’ Chip Shop, taking on a fresh identity as the business recovers from the blaze.

The shop in Hermitage Road had to close after thick black smoke from a fire in the ventilation system in August badly damaged the whole premises.

The owner, Jonny Ayling, has taken the opportunity to move away from the Seafare identity as he replaces all the equipment, including the frying range, electrics and counter, along with an internal redecoration and new shopfront.

“I bought the business from Seafare five years ago, but people still think it belongs to that company,” he said. “The new name and refurbishment will show that we are completely independent and not associated with Seafare now.”

Jonny has renamed the shop after his daughter Molly, 15, who helps out in the shop when not at school.

He managed the business on behalf of Stoughton-based Seafare before buying it. Now 42, he started learning the trade at the age of 13, in a chip shop in his home town of Guildford, being taught how to cut and fry perfect chips.

Apart from four years when he managed a hotel in Wales, he has worked in the industry for around 20 years, including spells in several Seafare branches before taking over the St John’s shop.

Stoughton Seafare won the title of best chip shop in the South East in the National Fish and Chip Awards when Jonny managed it in 2012.

Molly’s will be run by the same team when it opens this week and is very much a family business. Jonny’s stepson Kieran, 24, is a manager who has worked there for 10 years and Jonny’s wife Debbie is also on the staff.

“We are aiming to keep up our reputation for serving quality food,” said Jonny. “We are the only fish and chip in Surrey and Hampshire that has a Marine Stewardship Council blue tick for our cod and haddock. That shows the fish was responsibly caught, from sustainable sources.”

Jonny is continuing with the shop’s popular special offers, such as free chips at lunchtime for meals bought by pensioners, and is planning to run a draw with Christmas dinner as the prize.

The refurbishment will have the added bonus during the coronavirus pandemic of two doors being installed in the new frontage.

“We will have an entrance and an exit for customers,” said Jonny. “That will help us in imposing the strict COVID-19 precautions we will be following.”