Fully stocked shelves and freshly delivered pallets line the sunlit floor at Yumbrosia Fine Foods, as 45-year-old Saravanan Periyasamy, better known as Sammy, prepares to re-open the Oak Bay grocer and deli Monday (Aug. 15).
His second daughter Kaniska, 14, helps organize the products and answers the same phone late owner Ihsan Askar did until his sudden death in December 2021. Periyasamy’s wife Mythili, 43, usually shows up around 3 p.m. after getting off work at Aberdeen Hospital.
Hailing from Namakkal in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, largely a food-producing community, Periyasamy ran a bakery and confectionery from his home from age 18. He eventually settled in Esquimalt with his family after first immigrating to Whitehorse to work in the pizza business, then shifting to Calgary for four or five years.
“Then I came for a visit into Victoria – I loved that place,” he said. “Then I decided, in the future of my kids, they also wanted to stay. They don’t want to go anywhere else.”
Two and a half years ago, the family purchased La Fiesta Cafe at Douglas and Broughton streets, which shut down for three months during the pandemic and eventually closed.
After selling the Mexican food cafe, Periyasamy set his sights on Yumbrosia.
“I got into the store (and) saw a lot of unique foods, so I loved it. That’s why I don’t want to change anything. No (new) name or phone number. I just try to follow (Askar).”
Periyasamy and his family got rid of any expired products and donated fresher items to the Mustard Seed Food Bank. “He could’ve gone to buy the cheap foods or whatever it is, but he went with something unique,” he said, noting the business carries almost 60 varieties of pasta alone.
Periyasamy plans to add some southern Indian snacks to the selection, but plans to keep the focus on Askar’s variety of European, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern products.
He’s looking to hire more staff once he gets a sense of how busy the store is – prospective employees dropped off resumes as soon as he started rearranging the place. As well, the family hopes to eventually move in to the residence above the store.
Though Kaniska joked that getting the business ready has proven to be a lot of work, her father reasoned that it’ll be awesome to have it open to the community once again.
“Everyone knows in this neighbourhood that there’s a corner store here,” he said, adding, “it’s a pretty good business – awesome neighbours.”
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