Winnipeg couple left ‘speechless’ with support after convenience store destroyed in Kirkwood Block fire

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Young Ae Lee and Min Soon Lee, owners of Eben Convenience Store – a store destroyed in a fire that shut down Portage Avenue for two days – say they have passed the initial shock of having lost everything and they can’t wait to move on.

The two spoke to CBC in Korean, asking their son Kevin Lee to do the translation as they stood at the corner of Langside Street and Portage Avenue in Winnipeg, outside the burned-out store where they kept many of their their possessions and spent most of their time. days.

“They are very sad to see their 24-year-old business in the state it is in now,” Kevin said.

“They’re mostly worried about all the paperwork…what they have to deal with and what to do in the future,” he said.

Plumes of smoke pour from a fire at a building on Langside Street in Winnipeg on the morning of Wednesday, February 2, 2022. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Kevin says his parents are currently staying at an Airbnb donated by his girlfriend’s boss until they find permanent accommodation.

“This business has been our breadwinner, their breadwinner, our family’s breadwinner for 20 years,” he said. “They spent most of their lives there.”

He said his parents are planning to open another store, but right now it’s too early to tell.

“Incredible support”

Kevin and his brother Paul Lee started a GoFundMe page for their parents’ recovery and the page has raised nearly $27,000 since Wednesday.

Speaking in Korean, Kevin’s parents say they don’t usually ask for help.

“Growing up, we always took care of each other. That’s all we had, so it was very embarrassing for my parents to see how much support [they had]not just in Winnipeg, in this community, but across the country,” Kevin said.

“They’re just speechless. It’s just incredible support from everywhere and they just want to thank everyone. I want to thank everyone,” he said.

WATCH: Kevin Lee on his parents’ reaction to public support:

Eben Convenience Store owners react to public support after fire

Kevin Lee, whose parents ran Eben Convenience Store in downtown Winnipeg for 24 years, talks about their reaction to the support they’ve received from the city and beyond since their store was destroyed in a devastating fire. 0:42

Their story has also garnered support from celebrities like Andrew Phung, who played the character Kimchee Han on the CBC sitcom. Kim’s Convenience.

Phung tweeted a link to the GoFundMe page and it was retweeted by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who played Kim Sang-il on the same show.

“They’ve never seen the show, but this show is our life,” Kevin said. “Just the fact that someone as popular as Andrew Phung tweeted his support for our family means the world to us, just to get our story out there.”

Next steps

Kevin said he was currently trying to find permanent accommodation for his parents and help them recover their IDs and papers, as their wallets had also been lost in the fire.

“We had all our love affairs in there and that’s what hurt my mom the most,” he said. “My parents’ childhood albums, wedding albums were all in there.”

Last Thursday, fire crews continued to hose down the building early in the morning. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

Kevin works in Terrace, British Columbia, and flew home to help his parents when he heard about the fire.

“It really puts things into perspective, what your priorities are in life,” he said.

“Think of how much we’ve lost, it’s devastating. But you know, we still have each other and I think that’s what matters most.”

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