If you want to get to know the oldest Chinese butcher in North America, the best way is through your taste buds.
Loy Sing has been serving up mouthwatering crispy and BBQ pork, BBQ duck and chicken in Victoria’s Chinatown for the past 135 years.
Each bite is a taste of tradition. The shop itself is a relic, a record-setter.
“It is the longest continuously running Chinese business in all of North America,” said Charlayne Thorton-Joe, a visitor experience and facilities coordinator for the Chinese Canadian Museum in Fan Tan Alley.
Daniel Zheng and his wife, Shelly Rong, have owned and run Loy Sing for nearly 30 years, most of it working seven days a week. Operating the business allowed the couple to keep a connection to their culture, customers and city.
“I like the community. I like talking with people. They’re nice,” said Rong.
‘Everything was made better’
Their butcher shop also put their three kids through university. One now works for Island Health, while another is studying to become a teacher.
“It’s helped my family, everything was made better. I have a good life, and this made it better,” said Rong.
But now it’s come time for the couple to retire.
“First, we’ll take a rest, then we’ll go around the world,” said Rong, who says she wants to travel to China and other parts of Asia.
And though Chinatown seems to ebb and flow with new non-Chinese businesses popping up, the capital region’s Chinese community wants to keep this Chinese butcher and its legacy going.
“We really need to focus on continuing this business as it is,” said Thorton-Joe. “We’re open to anybody that may be interested but we probably want a partnership with someone who knows the traditions, and they’re willing to train the new owners on how to carry on this tradition.”
The Chinese Benevolent Association owns the building, but the shop is up for sale for an asking price of $75,000. The hope is for a buyer who will keep this Chinese butcher a Chinese butcher to keep its title as the longest continuously running Chinese business in all of North America.
“Hopefully, it will be someone who is partially Chinese or one of the partners may be Chinese because a lot of the customers that come here are fluent in Cantonese or Mandarin and speak very little English. So that would help with the business as well because it’s not just the day-to-day business, but the food is very important in some of the Chinese traditions,” said Thorton-Joe.
Rong and Zheng are even willing to hold off retirement to train the future owners so that the shop’s tradition, history, and flavours will all be passed on long into the future.
“We’re going to have to go over to Vancouver to get that Grade A pork!” said one Loy Sing customer.
“We’re going to make sure it stays here,” responded Thorton-Joe.