Young Ae Lee and Min Soon Lee, owners of Eben Convenience Store in Winnipeg — a shop destroyed in a fire that closed down Portage Avenue for two days — say they’re past the initial shock of having lost everything and are looking forward to moving on.
The two spoke to CBC in Korean, having their son Kevin Lee do the translation while standing on the corner of Langside Street and Portage Avenue in front of the burned-down shop where they kept many of their possessions and spent most of their days.
“They’re very sad to just see their business of 24 years in the state it is now,” Kevin said.
“They’re mostly just worried about all the paperwork … what they’ve got to deal with and just what to do going forward,” he said.
Kevin says his parents are currently staying at an Airbnb that was offered by his girlfriend’s boss until they can find permanent housing.
“This business is our livelihood, their livelihood, our family’s livelihood for the past 20 years,” he said. “They spent most of their life there.”
He said his parents are considering opening another shop, but right now it’s too soon to tell.
‘Amazing amount of support’
Kevin and his brother Paul Lee started a GoFundMe page for their parents’ recovery and the page raised nearly $27,000 since Wednesday.
Speaking in Korean, Kevin’s parents say they’re not used to asking for help.
“Growing up, we’ve always just taken care of each other. That’s all we had, so it was very awkward for my parents to see how much support [they had], not just in Winnipeg, this community, but the whole country,” Kevin said.
“They’re just speechless. It’s just been an amazing amount of support from all over and they just want to thank everybody. I want to thank everybody,” he said.
WATCH: Kevin Lee on his parents’ reaction to public support:
Their story 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 that show is our life,” Kevin said. “Just the fact that someone as popular as Andrew Phung tweeted support for our family means the world to us, just to get our story out.”
Just heard the heartbreaking news of the Eben Convenience Store in Winnipeg. They lost everything in a recent fire. The sons have set up a GoFundMe to help their parents get through this tough time. Let’s show up for the Lee family! Please donate + share! <a href=”https://t.co/RbAOxVgbeo”>https://t.co/RbAOxVgbeo</a>
Kevin said right now, he’s looking at finding a permanent living situation for his parents and helping them recover their ID and paperwork, as their wallets were also lost in the fire.
“We had all our sentimental belongings in there and that’s what hurt the most for my mom,” he said. “Childhood albums, my parents’ wedding albums were all in there.”
Kevin works in Terrace, B.C., and flew back to help his parents when he heard about the fire.
“It just really puts things into perspective, what are your priorities in life,” he said.
“Thinking about everything we lost, it is devastating. But you know, we still have each other and I think that’s what matters the most.”