With shelves bare and everything remaining up for sale

Sam and Shirley say goodbye to Haida Gwaii

After 26 years running Sam & Shirley's Grocery, the Leungs are getting ready to leave Haida Gwaii for Hong Kong.

After 26 years of near-continuous operation, Sam and Shirley’s Grocery is closing its doors for good.

Owners of the Queen Charlotte convenience store, Sam and Shirley Leung will leave Haida Gwaii in early August, first moving to Vancouver for a couple of years then permanently to Hong Kong to spend their retirement years with family.

“It’s sad to leave, but I will come back to visit friends,” says Shirley. “I really want to thank all the Haida Gwaii for supporting our business for 26 years.”

Open 13 hours a day, seven days a week and staffed exclusively by the Leungs themselves, Shirley is looking forward to a rest, but Sam says he’ll miss those long days.

“I’ve always loved it. It’s easy to get through the day because you come to me, we talk and then you pay me money,” he says with a big laugh. “I talk to people all day and make money—that’s pretty good.”

The Leungs came to Queen Charlotte in 1990 after agreeing to purchase what was then an auto body shop from a personal friend. However, when they arrived they realized the deal was not as glowing as assured.

The previous owners left town before fulfilling their promise to train Sam and Shirley in managing and operating the shop.

Then, about one year into the business, industrial chemicals were also beginning to affect Shirley’s lungs. Something had to change, but their options were seriously limited as neither spoke a word of English.

But they had three young daughters depending on them, so they made a quick decision to start selling a few confection items at the counter.

Within five years they knocked down a wall and got rid of the body shop for good, transforming the space into a unique, ramshackle convenience store for which they’re so well known today.

Regular patrons of the store will remember the Leungs daughters growing up in the shop, helping with the duties and finishing their homework behind the counter.

All three daughters are now in their early to late 30s, and living in Hong Kong. Patrons will also have many memories of being quizzed by Sam or Shirley over the meaning or pronunciation of a new word they had just learned.

It was by this method, in large part, that the couple eventually learned to speak English.

When speaking with the Observer, the couple firmly but politely requested that the story mention their gratitude for the community’s patience and generosity over the years.

“At the beginning it was very hard to ask for help—’Excuse me, but how do you say this, How do you spell this?’—but it was very helpful,” says Sam.

Shirley adds, “All the islands were our teacher. We will miss it here.”


Just Posted

Update: North Beach clam harvest closed due to PSP biotoxin

Marine biotoxin results in closure for all bivalve harvesting from Wiah Point to Rose Spit

In Pictures: Rock the Plank! brings in the booty

Pirate-themed skate party raises $2,500 for new Masset Skate Society

Haida Gwaii fishing grounds are key to survival of northern resident killer whales: DFO

Plan marks waters from Langara to Rose Spit as critical habitat for northern resident killer whales

Masset suggests a simpler structure for Gwaii Trust

Change would parallel existing municipal, regional district representation for non-Haida communities

Grade 9s on Gwaii Haanas trip visit “the best spot on Haida Gwaii”

Now in its fourth year, Grade 9 trip gives Haida Gwaii youth a chance to visit Tanu and Windy Bay

Here’s what you need to know about Day 1 at the BC Games

All 18 events kick off on the track, riding ring, fields, courts and lake in the Cowichan Valley

VIDEO: How to throw a frisbee

Ultimate frisbee player Amy Mackay shows off the proper technique

Site C dam project plagued by problems: expert

E. Harvey Elwin expresses concern about internal BC Hydro and government documents

Seal attacks kayakers in the Broughton Archipelago

“It has to be one chance in a million of this happening.”

Victoria-area park sign removed after glitch redirects to porn site

Resident looking to learn more about workout equipment discovered the problem code

Special Olympic athletes take on BC Games during special anniversary

Known as the Global Day of Inclusion, July 20 marks the first Special Olympics in 1968 in Chicago

Scammers dressed as Mounties threaten to arrest senior if she doesn’t cough up cash

Pair of fraudulent officers threaten to arrest 90-year-old woman

Fundraiser to help mom of jogger detained after crossing U.S. border

Cedella Roman, 19, was held in U.S. after accidentally crossing border in South Surrey

Okanagan Wildfires: The latest on wildfires and evacuations

A Friday morning look at the major wildfires impact the Okanagan and Similkameen.

Most Read