Growing up in the ’70’s, it seemed like family-operated corner stores were everywhere. It was quite nice really.
They became known as “mom & pop” stores as they were usually run by a husband-and-wife team. Many of the stores were attached to houses or suites where the owners lived.
Then in the ’80’s, chain stores seemed to pop up all over the place. Lots of the smaller stores couldn’t compete and started closing down.
While these smaller corner stores are fewer and farther between in most parts of the city these days, there are still quite a few in the North End, stocking everything from groceries, snacks and basic toiletries to hardware items and toys for the kids. Many of the stores’ products are quite reasonably priced, too.
I recently spoke to the couple that operates the Smile Food Store at the southeast corner of Manitoba Ave. and Aikins St.
Smile is a very appropriate name as there were many smiles on their faces and their customers as they did business while we chatted.
Jin Young and his wife, Ae-Hyung, took over the store six months ago from Jin’s brother, Sung Kang, who opened up 17 years ago, a few years after his family moved here from Seoul, Korea.
While the store hours are 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Jin’s day starts around 5 a.m. when he purchases items to restock the shelves daily. They both work in the store and their son Nic helps out.
Nic has taken a year off from his studies to assist his parents. Nic told me they “try to be competitive with other grocery stores by keeping their prices reasonable.”
I was very impressed with their genuine friendliness and great attitude. They definitely put the customer first.
And even though one of the chain convenience stores recently opened nearby, another chain store in the area closed its doors.
I have frequented many of the smaller stores in the area. It seems wherever you are in the North End, there is one, well…on every corner.
Now that’s convenience.
Story originally published Apr. 19, 2017 in The Times (www.canstarnews.com) All photos by Doug Kretchmer