Business

Lee’s Market is a place where everybody knows your name

Lee’s Market owner Robert Lee is busy putting the finishing touches on his Fort Langley store before its grand opening this Sunday. A fire destroyed the former IGA store in January 2011. The market welcomes back a lot of the same employees, but will concentrate on serving local food.   - Monique TAMMINGA/Langley Times
Lee’s Market owner Robert Lee is busy putting the finishing touches on his Fort Langley store before its grand opening this Sunday. A fire destroyed the former IGA store in January 2011. The market welcomes back a lot of the same employees, but will concentrate on serving local food.
— image credit: Monique TAMMINGA/Langley Times

The time has finally come. This Sunday Fort Langley will have its grocery store again. Lee’s Market (the former Fort IGA) is celebrating its grand opening on Sunday, Dec. 9, at 9 a.m. There will be door prizes, gift baskets and fun as the community welcomes the Lees and all the employees back to business.

The new store, set back from its original footprint on Glover Road to Mavis Avenue, will be open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

This is Fort Langley’s main grocery store and very much a gathering spot for locals. Just like the famed TV show Cheers — Lee’s Market is the kind of place where everyone knows your name.

“Through it all, we have had so much support from this community,” said owner Robert Lee.

The Lees have owned the grocery store since 1975. A fire burned the store down on Jan. 4, 2011.

“I say this with pride, I don’t know another community like this. These aren’t customers, these are our friends and family,” said Lee.

That’s why Lee designed the market with the community in mind, including the “Mavis Avenue Cafe” which offers a lot of comfy seating in the deli. With garage-style glass door walls and exposed wood beams above, Lee is very happy with what local builder Marcon created.

“We are going to have sandwiches made to order, signature salads, Chinese, Mexican, pizzas and full service seafood,” said Lee of the deli/cafe.

Store manager Andy Abreo “can’t wait to see everyone again.”

Abreo said before the fire, working there didn’t feel like a job.

“This is the kind of place where you don’t rush off after your shift, you hang around because it’s fun.” Several of the 25 to 30 employees are returning to work at Lee’s Market and new hires are already catching on to the spirit, he said.

He’s looking forward to seeing all the familiar faces again.

Abreo worked for Lee in the Walnut Grove store when he was a teenager. Lee liked his work ethic and “passion for the business” and hired him as the manager.

“Fort Langley is in good hands with Andy,” Lee said.

The grocery store has served Fort Langley since 1897.

It was first known as Coulter Berry store. Other stores followed including Tommy’s Market, Lucky Dollar, Link’s Hardware and IGA, and the Fort Supply Company which was the name in 1975 when the Lee family took over. Before the fire, the store was called Fort IGA.

After a lot of thought, the Lee family decided to carry on business under the “Lee’s Market” name. This allows them to support more local suppliers and carry a wider variety of natural products.

Socializing and shopping will return, and the popular deli, which covers almost one third of the store, will go a long way to re-establishing a much-missed convenience in the village.

Lee’s Market is named after Robert Lee, his brother Peter, and Robert’s nephew, Charlie (who runs the Walnut Grove IGA).

Lee put out a call to farmers and producers that he wanted to buy as much local. Now he will be carrying everything from vegetables, cheeses, meat, eggs and honey that all come from the Fraser Valley.

“The beef we will sell is natural and comes from a great family who raise beef right here in the Fraser Valley. So customers are going to know where their meat comes from,” said Lee.

The rustic beams throughout the store were fashioned from Douglas firs harvested at UBC’s Demonstration Forest in Maple Ridge.

Two large garage doors, one on the west wall of the deli, will allow customers to enjoy their coffee and food on the patio.

The store will have a large section for organic produce.

“We’ll still be carrying name brands, but we’ll have a wider selection of natural, organic and local products,” Abreo told The Times earlier this fall.

“We are more passionate about what we are selling. We are telling a story here.”

Monique Tamminga

Nearly two years after the Fort Langley IGA burned down, Lee’s Market is set to open on Sunday.

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