Jim’s Food Market marked a 100-year milestone last weekend, with friends and family gathering at the Little Fort location to celebrate the occasion.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Kym Jim, grandson of the store’s founder, Kam Kee Jim.
“We’ve been thinking about this for a long time and actually got something together and organized a party for this. It’s something you count down the years when you see 1919 on a sign and finally, we’re there — 2019.”
According to articles in the Times archives, Kam Kee Jim’s father, Jim Young Fat, emigrated from China to California in 1868 and first worked as a labourer helping the construction of the California Pacific Railway.
In 1910, Kam Kee Jim moved to Burnaby, and Jim Young Fat joined him and set up a sawmill business.
The two then moved to Lillooet in 1911 and built their first general store on the main street before moving to Little Fort in 1918 and buying a hotel that burned down one year later. In its place, The Jim Man Lee Store was built with a 10-acre garden and a dairy to help supply the store.
In 1920, Kym’s father, Gung Loy Jim, was born in the back of the general store. Loy Jim would eventually get married to Mary (Marie) Peleshaty in 1956.
Marie’s parents had immigrated to Canada from Romania and also had a history with railroading. Together they ran the family store, ranched, were involved in mining and construction, and operated Taweel Lake Fishing Camp.
The first location of the store in Little Fort was on Ferry Road, closer to where the ferry is still located today, with the store moving to where it is now in about 1958 when the new highway went through.
“Originally this was one of those stores you saw in the movies where the proprietor stood behind the counter and you went to the store counter and asked for the things you wanted,” said Kym.
“That’s how it all started and it evolved from there.”
When the store moved locations in ‘58 it operated as a standard grocery store. Kym noted Little Fort was larger at that time than it is today, and there was enough of a population to support the business.
In the 1970s it began to run more like a convenience store and in the 1980s also became a Texaco gas station. Kym added they evolved through a few different gas brands from there, becoming a Shell then a Husky.
“In 1999 the store as we know it kind of came into existence,” said Kym.
“What people might not know is, as a family we actually grew up in the back of the store. The store was half living quarters and half store until about 1999.”
Throughout the century the store has operated ownership remained in the family and still does today and Kym said like any family business the Jims take great pride in their store.
“We certainly thank all the patrons and customers, family and friends, that have supported the business over the 100 years,” he said. “Literally millions of people have passed through the store during that time.”