30 Years Celebration Blog Series – Sum-m! of Our Homes

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Fine Choice Foods is celebrating 30 years in business today!  We’ve come a long way from hand rolling spring rolls, finger pinching potstickers, wontons and more in the back room of a small retail store on Cambie Street to running a semi-automated 50,000 ft2 facility in Richmond, BC! Have a look back with us through Sum-m! of our homes throughout the years.

Let’s take you back 30 years to February 26th, 1986.  Imagine a tiny nondescript shop reminiscent of what you might find in your travels to China Town. And when you take a peak in the back room, you see a tiny kitchen that fits about 2-3 family members hand rolling spring rolls, hand wrapping shu mai, har gow, won tons and steaming BBQ pork buns. Now imagine these delicious dim sum items getting packaged in a clear plastic container with a simple label on top, and then sold out of a freezer that lined the store’s wall. Actually, let us just show you!

Christina Lui with her father in law

Christina Lui with her father in law

Handmade Shu Mai

Handmade Shu Mai

Sum-m! Packaging early days

In the late 80s, Chinese foods saw a growth in popularity in Vancouver with the large wave of immigrants coming from Hong Kong. It did not take long for the Cambie neighborhood to discover us, deemed us one of their favourites and kept coming back. With the popularity of our frozen dim sum concept, ideas of franchising our store came to mind. We set out to create a new image for ourselves and reinvented the store, going from a drab cream colored store to a flashy red, black and yellow haven of dim sum, sauces, and steamers to cook your food in.

Our Cambie Store after a refresh

Our Cambie Store after a refresh

In preparation for franchising, we needed a larger facility where we could mass produce our dim sum products. This led us to our first production facility on River Road in Richmond, BC in 1988. You can see below the 2 woks we fried our spring rolls in and how our shu mai are handmade! Our process was still very hands on and products moved from one sheet tray on a rolling cart to another.

Michelle Lui putting together more Shu Mais

Michelle Lui putting together more Shu Mai

Our production kitchen at River Road.

Our production kitchen at River Road.

Giant woks where all the frying takes place

Giant woks where all the frying takes place

President, Charles Lui working in the production kitchen for the first time.

President, Charles Lui working in the production kitchen for the first time.

Once we had our production facility ready, we decided to promote our bold new brand and participated in the local Food and Beverage Trade Show. You see, before the likes of Eat! Vancouver for consumers and Grocery and Specialty Food show for trades, there was the Viva show (trades) back in the late 80s early 90s. It was at the Viva show where Costco tasted our spring rolls for the first time and it was love at first bite. Costco wasn’t the only company that we caught the attention of at the show however, there were many other grocers at the show who discovered Fine Choice Foods and thus our brand was born!

Viva Food Show

Viva Food Show

Viva Food Show

Viva Food Show

Food show team

Food show team

The River Road production facility served us well for many years and in fact we eventually doubled the production area at that location. The franchising idea however never quite made it off the ground and eventually, the Cambie store was shut down in order to focus the efforts on production. Today, the location we are at on Fraserwood Way is our fourth location, and is a 50,000 ft2 state of the art facility that was designed and built for us.

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Hard to believe there were no buildings across the street yet

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Before the wall goes up

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And The walls going up

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Our building today

Our building today

Our products have also changed quite a bit over the years too – You’ll have to wait until the next post!

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