A longtime White Rock business closes its doors for the last time tomorrow (Friday), after 46 years in the city’s Five Corners district.
Terry and Sheila Soo have operated J&H Food Market, located at 15259 Pacific Ave., since 1970, when they moved their young family to White Rock from Vancouver.
Much has changed over the years – from the businesses operating around the store, to the store itself, which started at the front of the home they bought, then was rebuilt in 1982 to encompass the entire lower floor, with the family’s five-bedroom home above.
Generations of families have passed through its doors and perused the aisles, buying everything from basic groceries and newspapers to lottery tickets and fresh bouquets of flowers.
If customer comments Wednesday morning were any indication, the latter will be particularly missed.
“You guys have the best flowers,” was heard a number of times in the space of one hour at the store, as shoppers came and went, offering up thanks, congratulations and tips for things to do after Sept. 30.
Terry, now 79, said he has gone faithfully to the auction at United Flower Growers in Burnaby three mornings a week in order to offer up the colourful bouquets and arrangements.
“The auction starts at 6 o’clock,” he said. “Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 6 o’clock, I would be there.
“People all over, they know I got good flowers here.”
Bouquets are among purchases that Joyce Burwash has returned for time and again, and Wednesday was no exception. Grasping a small yellow arrangement, the South Surrey resident said the friendly treatment she has always enjoyed from the Soo family has been a highlight of her shopping experience over the years.
“They’re always so kindly,” Burwash said.
“Thank you for shopping here all these years,” Terry said, from behind the counter.
Just as Terry and Sheila have watched many customers’ children and children’s children grow over the years, so did customers with the Soos’ four children: daughter Coral, and sons Glen, Ray and Steve.
Steve, who was two when the store opened, said he started helping out with the business at about eight years of age, sweeping the floors, stocking shelves and the like. It became a more involved endeavour during his university years, after his father asked him to work full-time: “And here we are today.”
The store has only ever closed twice during normal operating hours – about eight years ago, for just a couple of days, so the family could attend one son’s wedding; and it didn’t open on May 15 of this year, after fire broke out at the nearby Ocean Ridge condominium complex, displacing nearly 100 residents and a dozen businesses.
As devastating as the fire was, it is what led the Soos to be able to retire. Terry said he had started looking to do that a few years ago – “I’ve been here so long, I just couldn’t carry on any longer,” he said – and remembers jokingly asking Laura Cornale of Laura’s Coffee Corner about a year ago if she would like to rent the space.
“They’ve got good coffee there. Every time I went there, it’s busy,” he said. “I tell my son, maybe better for her to find a bigger area.”
But while Cornale didn’t answer right away, the question opened the door to helping the coffee shop get re-established.
Terry said Cornale came to him about four weeks after the fire to discuss his offer, and the rest is history.
Terry and Steve said they will miss their customers and suppliers, but the family is looking forward to a quieter pace.
“(It’s) a real neat neighbourhood to run a business,” Steve said. “Made a lot of friends that way.
“It’ll take time to get used to. But life is about change.”
“People here are friendly, we get along with everybody,” he said.
“It’s been a very good life.”