A must-visit store known for its unique layout and merchandise in Victoria’s Chinatown is gone for good.
The Chinatown Fan Tan Trading Company on Fisgard Street officially closed its doors Saturday after its lease expired and no one offered to purchase the popular store that had been in operation for more than 50 years.
“To be honest, I cried three times yesterday and I didn’t have time to cry for today yet, I am too busy to cry. I’m trying to be happy to everybody,” Grathy Li told CHEK News on Saturday.
Grathy Li purchased the store four years ago and moved to Victoria from China with her family to operate the business.
“This store is my whole story, my whole life in Victoria,” she said.
Unfortunately, Li ran into some immigration issues with her work permit and can no longer be a self-employed worker. Because of those issues, she said she had to obtain a study permit and will be moving to New Brunswick to pursue a college certificate.
Furthermore, the store’s lease expired and after months of trying to find a buyer, Li had no choice but to close her doors for good.
“Too many people told me that this is an institution and this is an era. So, I’m so sad to just end an era,” said Li.
The Chinatown Fan Tan Trading Company had been at its location on Fisgard Street for over 50 years and became a must-visit for locals and tourists alike, with its unique layout that would allow customers to walk all the way through the store, made up of several mini rooms full of merchandise, and through a door into Fan Tan Alley.
In 2017, shortly before Li took over, the store was split into two, with the other half becoming home to a furniture store nestled in Fan Tan Alley.
However, the store’s original layout was also the inspiration for a scene in White Jade Tiger a children’s book by Victoria-born author Julie Lawson. In the novel, the main character, Jasmine, visits the “Never Ending Store” — inspired by the Chinatown Fan Tan Trading Company — and goes through a door that transports her back in time, in a nod the store’s previous layout.
At the end of the day, Li says she did everything in her power to keep the store open — even lowering the selling price — but no one ended up buying it.
“That is a pity because I have tried all I can do,” said Li.
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