Award recognizes humble grocery store visionary

Fairway's Don Yuen earns kudos from Ethno Business Council of B.C.

Don Yuen

In the 50 years that Don Yuen has been in the grocery business, the Fairway Market owner has come a long way since not knowing the English names of the vegetables he was selling.

“It took me 10 times to say ‘lettuce,’” Yuen recalls with a smile.

Today, Fairway Market has 780 employees, and a 10th store is scheduled to open in Brentwood Bay in July.

“He didn’t plan it that way,” says Yuen’s son, Doug, Fairway Market president and CEO. “He did what he enjoyed.”

In recognition of Yuen’s achievements, the Ethno Business Council of B.C. recently awarded the 78-year-old Oak Bay resident a lifetime achievement award.

But his path to success was not easy.

Growing up in southern China, he learned the ways of the grocery business from his grandfather and father, who had a supermarket. But faced with difficult political and economic times, Yuen left at age 17 to work for his uncle’s grocery store in Duncan.

Despite not knowing a word of English, Yuen worked hard to send money home to help his parents.

When his uncle sold the store, Yuen worked in a sawmill for eight years, always dreaming of one day opening his own grocery business.

“I didn’t know how long it would take,” he says. “Eight years is a long time.”

Since buying his first grocery store in 1963 in the same block where his first Fairway Market now sits at Gorge and Tillicum roads, Yuen has slowly yet steadily built his company from scratch.

Still, Yuen is most proud that some of his first customers are still regulars, and generations of families work for him.

“Fairway is like a big family,” Yuen says.

emccracken@vicnews.com

 

New Canadians

• The Ethno Business Council of B.C. was formed in 1988 to recognize and celebrate the achievements of new Canadian entrepreneurs.

• It aims to provide information about opportunities and programs available for new Canadians and immigrant entrepreneurs, and a chance to network with other business people.

• It provides supports to help ethnic newcomers to B.C. establish and develop their business.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Ferries hybrid ships arrive in Victoria on Saturday

The battery-operated vessels will take over smaller routes

Hydro pole fire closes portion of Metchosin Road in Colwood

Motorists are advised to avoid the area of Metchosin Road near Royal Bay

Esquimalt arsonist sentenced to two years in jail, thanks police, defence lawyer and taxpayers

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

Strong winds expected in Greater Victoria Friday evening

Winds are expected to ease Saturday morning

VIDEO: The Victoria byelection leads a selection of today’s news stories

A selection of Greater Victoria top stories for Jan. 17

Theft victim confronts suspects with baseball bat on Vancouver Island

RCMP in Nanaimo seek to identify of two people alleged to have used a stolen credit card

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

VIDEO: Missing cat reunited with Vancouver Island family after three months

‘It was like one day she was there, the next day she was gone,’ said owner

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Clerk bruised, traumatized after armed robbery at Nanaimo liquor store

Few details on male suspect in Wednesday incident, says Nanaimo RCMP

One last blast of winter tonight for parts of the Island before temperatures on the rise

A snowfall warning is in effect Friday including east Vancouver Island.

POLL: Has the recent snow had an impact on your daily life?

Old Man Winter had Greater Victoria in his icy grip this week.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 14

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Most Read