A change of ownership and management is underway at The Rooster – the iconic 24-hour convenience store in Hay River.
The ownership officially switched on July 31, but the former owners will remain for a couple of weeks to help with the transition.
Louis and Kim Choi owned the store, which opened in 1982, for the past eight years.
Louis Choi said, when he and his wife bought the store, he was planning to stay longer than eight years, even until he retired.
“When we first came up here, all the people treated us real nicely, gently, kindly, friendly,” he said. “So we had no hardship to run the business. It was so easy because the customers really treated us good.”
However, Kim Choi had surgery a couple of years ago, and needs a slower pace than running The Rooster.
“The main reason is she has to settle down now and relax,” said Louis Choi.
Kim Choi agrees it is a lot of work at The Rooster, which employs close to 20 people.
“I’m the one who works most in here,” she said, noting that includes doing payroll, training and ordering.
“It’s too much for me,” she admitted.
The Choi family will be returning to Edmonton, where they lived before coming north and where they have relatives.
“Edmonton is the first town that I started my Canada life,” said Louis Choi. “So I call it a second hometown. So I go back to my hometown.”
Over the years, the couple’s sons have also worked for various times at The Rooster.
“It was kind of a family business,” said Louis Choi.
The Choi family is originally from South Korea, as is Joey Jung, the new owner of The Rooster.
Jung noted he is not related to the Chois, but found out about the opportunity at The Rooster from acquaintances in the Korean community in Edmonton.
The new owner explained he was attracted to that opportunity partly because Hay River is a small, peaceful community.
“Because I came to Canada to enjoy my life,” he said, noting Korea is always busy. “It’s hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry. Just keep moving. That’s just normal. And it’s really packed.”
Even Edmonton is a little too face-paced for him.
Jung also noted he loves fishing and will therefore enjoy living next to Great Slave Lake.
“I’m going to do my best,” he said of his new business, noting he has worked as a manager before, but this is his first time as an owner. “It will be a little bit tough, but I will do my best.”
One of Jung’s friends in Edmonton, Chris Ahn, has also come north to Hay River to manage The Rooster.
Ahn, who is from Korea, said he also wanted a quieter life than in his home country, where he worked in a hotel for five years
“The customers, they complain about everything to us,” he said of that experience. “It got so stressful. So I decided on Canada, and I’m enjoying it.”
Ahn is looking forward to living in Hay River and working at The Rooster.
“It’s going to be fun up here,” he said.
Jung and Ahn didn’t know each other in Korea, but met in Edmonton.
They arrived in Hay River about a week and a half ago.
Jung’s wife and children will also be coming to Hay River this month from Edmonton.
Ahn’s fiancé will be coming to Hay River from Korea in December.
As the former owners and the new owner and manager were being interviewed by The Hub in the office at the back of The Rooster, a knock came on the door and a customer entered to bid farewell to the Chois.
“I don’t call them my customers. I call them friends,” said Louis Choi. “I’m going to miss them.”
Such farewells have not been uncommon, noted Kim Choi. “I don’t know how many times I got hugged.”
The Chois will be leaving for Edmonton in mid-August.