Helmcken Market will be remembered for its friendly and devoted staff as the business’ half-century history saw it become ingrained in View Royal in a way few others could.
After opening the market in their early ‘20s, Shanon and Garvin Tse are now in their 70s and it’s time to retire. Minutes before the grocery store closed its doors for the last time on Friday, a small crowd gathered out front to give their grateful goodbye.
The couple looked stunned and overjoyed as they walked through the market’s automatic doors to see familiar faces and listen to the sound of cheers.
“It’s an unexpected surprise, we’re just really, really thankful for all the people around us and the community,” Shanon said. “Wow, amazing.”
The market has changed and grown a lot over the last 48 years. The store was a tiny fraction of its current size and the couple lived in the back of the building when it opened in 1973 – more than a decade before Victoria General Hospital would be built across the street and when some shoppers would tie their horses up to the hitching post in front of the market.
As the store grew, so did the community’s appreciation for it.
Community members met Shanon and Garvin with waves, applause and hugs on Friday, with people waiting their turn to personally say thanks and wish them the best. “If anyone has earned it, it’s you guys,” one man said to the couple.
“You’re not a customer when you come, we are friends,” Garvin said. “We’re like a family, this area, that’s why I like it here.”
The competition also grew around them over the years, but the community always supported Helmcken Market.
“It was our whole life and career here,” Shanon said. “So we’re just so proud to have served the community for so long.”
The store was one of the longest continuously running businesses in View Royal. The couple’s homemade sausage rolls and buns became local favourites, with Mayor David Screech among their biggest fans.
“It’s been a huge part of the neighbourhood, but really for all of View Royal,” Screech said.
It was a place where even on holidays, Helmcken Market would be open to save the day when you inevitably forgot to get something. But more importantly, it was where you’d be met, always with a smile, by friends in Shanon and Garvin.
“Everyone knows them, they’ve just been a big part of the community and are always pleasant and kind, so they’ll be missed,” Screech said.
As they enter retirement, Shanon said they’re looking forward to lots of singing, reading and travelling.
“Just enjoying the rest of our life,” she said.