One of the oldest remaining merchants in Cook Street Village icon is changing hands.
Oxford Foods, part of five decades of food retailing in the neighbourhood, has been sold to Adam and Daisy Orser, operators of The Root Cellar Village Green Grocer in Saanich.
Owner-operator Ed Louie, the third generation in his family to run a grocery business at the corner of Oxford and Cook streets, said the time was right to move into the next stage of life – retirement.
“It’s been stressful at times, but I was able to put my son and daughter through school and I’m happy to have owned the business. I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
The last day of business for Oxford Foods is Nov. 30, after which The Root Cellar officially takes over, Louie said. The plan is for a major renovation on the interior and exterior, expected to take approximately six months.
While other suitors were keen to secure the valuable corner property, only The Root Cellar was willing to not demolish the building, said Louie, who lives near the store and wasn’t keen on having a major construction site next door.
“Honouring the farmers and food makers in our community is a vital part of our business model, as is honouring the generations of grocers before us,” said Daisy Orser in a release. She called the new location a “perfect home for a Root Cellar.”
With many new businesses spring up in the burgeoning Cook Street Village in the past 20 years or so, Oxford Foods has remained a constant in the neighbourhood.
“We’re resilient,” Louie said of the operation. “We’re family owned and we do what we can [to serve the community].”
Louie’s grandfather, Jew-Nam Louie, opened Fairfield Produce on the corner in 1951 and gradually expanded his offerings, ultimately building a new structure with apartments overhead. The business became Oxford Foods in the early 1970s, when Ed’s father Tommy took over. While he’s been retired for some time, Tommy still spends time in the store keeping an eye on things and visiting with longtime customers.
Having worked in the store from a young age, Ed, now 59, is looking forward to having more time to visit his kids in Vancouver and relax in the Cook Street neighbourhood that has been his lifetime home.