Honey Harbour is Home
“The Honey Harbour General Store was my Dad’s retirement dream.”
If you visit the Honey Harbour General Store today, you will be greeted with a big smile from the owner Yong-Woong Lee. Yong is living his father’s retirement dream of owning and building a local business in small town Ontario. One day in the Fall of 2016, Yong’s father Hee Gu Lee discovered the store which had been for sale for four years and asked Yong to drive up and take a look.
“The Fall colours were out. I was driving down the Honey Harbour Road for the first time and I began to feel a sense of deep relaxation and unadulterated excitement! I knew from that moment, at some point along the nine winding miles, that this is where I wanted to be. Even before even seeing the store. The rest is history.”
Since then, Yong smiles every morning, even as he faces the challenges of every small business owner of “renovation, restoration and resuscitation”. The first challenge was the foundation of the building, then the infrastructure - new walk-in cooler/freezer, produce cooler, and a new meat counter and all the requirements for safety regulations. Always a work in progress, Yong decided to recreate the feeling of the original store, called the Honey Harbour General Store and he has been working at it ever since. A new logo, a new deck, and a new look for the town centre.
“I am excited about the future of Honey Harbour with the marinas, the gateway to the Bay and the possibilities for tourism. I share a belief in the future with many of the business owners here.”
Unfortunately, Hee Gu Lee did not live to see the improvements in the store. He passed away on Remembrance Day in 2017 from a brain aneurysm on his way to open the store for the day. Yong’s Mom, Pan Za Lee or, as we know her 'LeAnne', continues to live in the house they purchased in town and works at the store any time she’s needed. She is the master Kimchi maker and provides a steady supply of Kimchi to all the cottagers.
“One day a gourmet cook was here and surprised to see fresh Kimchi in the coolers. The next day he told us that it was the BEST kimchi he had tasted, even better than he could find in Toronto!”
Yong’s father was looking for an opportunity to find the right business to retire. Now Yong is in charge of the future and he made two promises to his Dad - take care of his mom and continue to work relentlessly in the journey that they had started together in Honey Harbour.
“My Dad was the most selfless, ambitious and relentless person I have ever known. My father, mother, brother and I immigrated to Canada from Busan, South Korea in the summer of 1982, literally with the clothes on our backs, one-way tickets and $100. We had the hope of our father would provide us with a better life. I can count on my hand, how many days he had off to enjoy life. He was the definition of kindness, patience, work ethic and sacrifice.”
Yong and the team at the General Store practice what Hee Gu Lee believed - hard work, dedication and a positive attitude are the new “virtual foundation” of the store today. This belief will keep the store thriving, even in these difficult times.
“Thank you to my unconditionally loving father who is always in my heart. I hope he is proud.”