Langley Times Story by Dan Feguson
The IGA supermarket in Fort Langley was the kind of store where the staff remembered your name and treated you like one of the family, residents say.
Most of the customers who shopped at Fort Langley’s only full-size grocery store were on a first-name basis with the Lee family, who’ve been running the outlet at Glover Road and Mavis Avenue for the last 35 years.On Tuesday, after a four-alarm fire of unknown origin reduced the 70-year-old wood frame building to charred wreckage, co-owner Peter Lee was standing across the street from the fire, trying to give some of his customers coffee and doughnuts and reassuring them that the family intends to rebuild. “We have insurance,” he said. No one seemed too interested in the doughnuts, even though Lee kept offering.
Instead, store customers kept shaking Lee’s hand, patting his back and even hugging him as he stood behind the yellow caution tape watching fire crews pour water on the smouldering remains of the business he co-owned with two other family members.
Most people, it seems, don’t call it the IGA store, preferring to refer to it by the first names of the people who own it — Peter or his brother Robert, Linda or Judy or the other Lees who have served generations of Fort Langley residents.John Ritchie and his daughter Loralee made a special trip just to show support for Lee, who, true to form, immediately recognized Ritchie, smiled and greeted him by his first name.
Ritchie called the store a “mainstay” for the community, “just like your best friends, pretty much.”
Loralee, now a grown woman with four children of her own, said she has been a regular customer of the store since she was a baby.
Jon Rempel said the owners and the employees had a different attitude from more impersonal big-city supermarkets.
They would recall the smallest details, like the time his ailing cat required a special diet and days later, he said Judy Lee asked him how his pet was doing.
Kathleen Arend went to the same school as the Lee kids and she studied highland dancing with Judy, and she remembered how Peter Lee would give the class chocolates after an especially good performance.
“They’re lovely people,” she said, wincing slightly as she looked across the tangle of fire hoses at the fire scene.
“It’s sad, but I’m glad they’re going to rebuild.”
Arend said her oldest son was one of many local kids who got their first job working at the Lee store.
Laura DePedrina described the Lees as a strong part of the community.
“They even know who your kids’ friends are,” she said.
The blaze was reported around 5:30 a.m. when it set off the building’s burglar alarm.
There were no sprinklers, the fire department said.
The fire started in the back of the store and spread rapidly, threatening a nearby hardware store and the people who lived in a second-floor apartment.
They were evacuated without injury, and were allowed to return once the fire was under control.
One of the few things to survive the blaze was the old-style IGA sign the Lees kept when they modernized the building a few years ago.
About 30 people were working at the Lee store.
The family is hoping to find work for some of them delivering groceries from the IGA store the Lees operate in Walnut Grove to elderly and infirm customers in Fort Langley.
The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.
Filed under: News Coverage of Fire |