Described by many as pillars of the Crescent community, Keith Ro and his wife, Joanna, have sold Crescent Park Market and are looking forward to retirement.
After word spread that the pair was set to retire by the end of the month, several neighbourhood residents reached out to Peace Arch News to express their gratitude for the service, kindness, and sense of kinship the couple has offered to the community over the past 25 years.
Keith, 70, who married Joanna more than 40 years ago, settled in the Crescent Beach area shortly after immigrating to Canada in the 1990s. When the couple first arrived from South Korea, they resided in Port Coquitlam prior to purchasing the quaint corner store across the street from Crescent Park. The store, Keith said, has been a fixture in the neighbourhood for 60 to 70 years.
Keith, who used to work for a big company in Korea before coming to Canada, said he purchased the store simply because he wanted to own property in Canada.
Keith is famously known for his ability to recall the names of every child that walks into his store. While a reporter was talking to Keith in his store Wednesday, he demonstrated that ability by greeting each of his school-aged customers by name.
“When kids come here after school, I know every kid. Sam, Nathan, William, everyone,” Keith said, before briefly pausing the interview.
“Oh, hi Andrew, how are you?” Keith said to a youngster who walked through the door.
Keith explained that he doesn’t intentionally memorize the names of the children.
“But they come in here with their parents and their parents say, ‘Wyatt, not too many candies,’” Keith said. “Years and years, I hear. Naturally, I remember, oh yeah, his name is Wyatt.”
Some of the parents that come in with their children today, Keith said, were once youngsters who shopped for candy in his shop.
The store has been staffed almost exclusively by Keith and Johanna. Keith said they work 365 days a year, from early morning until late at night.
Keith said he’s looking forward to retirement as an opportunity to have more free time.
“To have more time for myself. From early morning to midnight, around 10 o’clock, I have very little time for myself. I will now have more time for myself,” Keith said.
Asked if he enjoyed owning and operating the business, Keith said “so far.”
“They’re very nice people here,” Keith said of the surrounding community. “Mostly, very nice. Lots of work, but nobody frustrated me around here.”
Joanna, who expressed that the couple are hard workers, said she’s also looking forward to retirement.
Asked if she enjoyed working alongside her husband all of those years, she let out a laugh.
“We are working together all of the time,” she said. “Sometimes good, sometimes bad.”
Crescent Park Market customer Rebecca Hein told PAN that Keith has been an incredible part of the community over the years.
She said Keith has been known to give treats to children who don’t have enough money and offer kids goodie bags on their birthdays.
“He never gets annoyed with the kids as they rumble into his store daily after school, only welcomes them and treats each one with kindness,” Hein wrote.
Hein said the neighbourhood children know the store is a safe place they could go if they need help or need to report anything suspicious.
“Keith would always be there. Everyone will miss him dearly.”
As for the future of the property, Keith said he believes it will still be a business, whether or not it will continue to be a corner store, he’s not sure.
“I have no idea,” he said.