After over a quarter of a century Prairie Family changes hands

A Kamsack business that has been owned and operated on Main Street by a man who has called Kamsack “home” for his entire life, has recently changed ownership.

A couple who arrived in Canada from China in November of 2018 are the new owners of the Prairie Family Centre convenience grocery store. Rick Li and his wife, Grace Hu, assumed ownership of the business on April 15.

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“My wife, Michelle, and I started this venture in 1992, when this was just an empty building on Main Street,” said Tomochko. “We started by bringing a few things over from the drugstore just down the street, owned by my dad, Nick Tomochko, and just kept going from there. Over the years, we have made some significant changes.

“The business has been for sale for around five years now, and we have had plenty of offers, but I was waiting for the right person to take it over. It was really important to me to find new owners who were motivated to keep the business running successfully.”

Li and Hu are not only going to be running the business, but have decided to make the upper level their residence. There are currently eight apartments above the grocery store which haven’t been rented for around 10 years, Tomochko said, and the new owners plan to make some renovations to turn the top level into their permanent residence. They began living upstairs on April 1.

Li and Hu have one son, Duke Li, and since he was already enrolled in school in Saskatoon, he will finish the school year before moving to Kamsack to join his parents.

Duke speaks fluent English, and Rick has an excellent grasp of English, having learned it through schooling, and later his work, back in China. Hu is working to sharpen her English skills, the couple said.

“It’s time for me to try something different,” said Tomochko, mentioning that he has operated the business for over a quarter of a century, at 27 years. In that time, he and his wife Michele, an administrative assistant at Kamsack Comprehensive Institute (KCI), have raised their three children, Kody, Lexie and Nicholas, and have been active citizens of the town, with Tomochko having served on Town Council for two terms in the past.

As for Li and Hu, they are happy to be living in Canada where “the scenery is so beautiful and people are so friendly and kind.”

Having lived through their first prairie winter, one of the harshest in years, the couple said they were “excited about being able to go fishing this summer.”

The new owners are planning to bring in more of a variety of inventory for the store, and say they will be receptive to customer requests for specialty items.

They plan to operate the store seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and will keep existing employee, Lynn Gurski, on staff.

“We will find the time to get out to the lake and go fishing,” said Li with a smile.