A former Sergeant Major in the army, Lionel Petty arrived in Coronation Street, Weatherfield, in May 1965 to inspect the corner shop, which Florrie Lindley was selling prior to emigrating to Canada. Lionel's teenage daughter Sandra had been to the street the year before and fallen for resident Dennis Tanner, so she suggested that Lionel buy the shop as a way for her to be close to Dennis. Lionel was impressed with the shop and agreed to buy.
Once in charge, Lionel quickly made his presence felt in the street as he began making changes to the way the shop was run, using his army experience to operate it efficiently and opening a sub post office. His approach to shopkeeping was a complete contrast to Florrie, who had been a popular proprietor. Lionel wasn't as personable and some customers felt intimidated by him; even his assistant Irma Ogden stayed off work so that she wouldn't have to be near him. When he was short with Ena Sharples, the resident busybody convinced many of her fellow street residents to boycott the shop. Lionel did not think he had done anything wrong but started making an effort to be nicer after Emily Nugent encouraged him to show an interest in his customers.
While Lionel lived in the corner shop accommodation, Sandra lived in the corner shop flat and worked behind the counter, although she wasn't happy and eventually moved to another part of Weatherfield when Lionel interfered with her taking a job at Gamma Garments. Lionel continued alone at the shop for a short while and took on Sandra's ex-boyfriend Dennis, but in 1966, after less than a year in the shop, he decided to sell up and move to Wales, with the intention of going into business with his brother.
Lionel's friends in the street included Rovers Return Inn landlady Annie Walker, who invited Lionel to escort her to a Licensed Victuallers Association dance. Lionel wore his army medals and ended up charming Nellie Harvey.
- In a February 1980 episode, Ken Barlow mentions that Lionel said he was an ex-army major and ran a sub post office. He states it was fourteen or fifteen years ago.
First and last lines
"Morning." (First line, to Irma Ogden)
"Look after yourselves." (Final line)