By Sue Tiffin
Published June 29 2017
After 18 years one month and 26 days Tom and Susan Lang have sold Kinmount Foodtown and settled into retirement just two weeks before Tom’s 65th birthday.
The Langs have been a mainstay in Kinmount’s downtown area after they purchased the grocery store in 1999.
“I wanted to have a rest” said Tom. “When you open your own business you’re basically on the job seven days a week. I had done that for over 18 years and wanted to enjoy life a bit and let someone else take up the challenge.”
The Langs purchased the store from the Scott family who had been running it for decades.
“It’s been there quite awhile and I hope it’s going to be there for awhile yet” said Tom.
After the purchase Tom and Susan put a new roof on the building installed new floors and updated equipment including cash registers over the years.
“You have to keep with the times and keep progressing and if you don’t you’re going to get left by the wayside” said Tom.
Tom has lived the history of grocery store evolution having been in the grocery business since he was 16 years old. Growing up in Scarborough he worked downtown part-time for Dominion Stores Ltd.
“We saw a lot of changes” he said. “We used to price things by hand with rubber stamps and of course in the mid ‘70s when the UPC codes came in that eliminated a lot of pricing. By the ‘80s we didn’t have to price anything anymore.”
He and Susan moved from Peterborough to the Kinmount area where Lang’s mother’s family was from. He became a familiar face at Dollo’s IGA and Easton’s Valumart in Minden at Mr. Grocer in Lindsay and Strang’s Valumart in Bobcaygeon. When the Kinmount store came up for sale Tom said “Susan and I put all our stuff together and ended up buying it.”
“Every day in the grocery business is a new experience” he said. “You have to be able to rely on your past efforts and past experiences to help mould you going forward. Getting to work with and meet so many great people – and having people remember you – just makes it so rewarding.”
Tom and Susan made the store their family business with their children helping when they could.
“I got to work with both my children” said Tom. “They grew up as we owned the store. They worked their way through school and every summer they would come back to work for us.”
He said being able to support students was a highlight of the couple’s career in Kinmount. Tom was named Citizen of the Year by the local Lion’s Club in 2001 in part for his efforts in organizing Kinmount Minor Sports and for building a ball diamond at St. Patrick Church. He and Susan also ensured they supported students by offering employment at the store to teens – some who they had known all their lives.
“Being able to hire students see them grow up progress and move on to their careers – I’ve seen kids born and then 15 years later they came to work with us. That to me is one of the ultimate success stories for Kinmount Foodtown” he said. “We really enjoyed that part of it.”
Now the couple have settled down to enjoy their house and to keep busy training two puppies they’ve just adopted.
“I’m going to catch up on housework that has been piling up here for 18 years as you can imagine” said Tom. “We just want to be able to enjoy life.”
Retirement hasn’t stopped Tom from visiting the store – both to shop at and to help where needed while the new owners Ben Park and Gina Choi get settled.
The store changed hands on May 26.
“I’m very confident in the new owners that they’re going to carry on the tradition with the Kinmount grocery store” he said. “I hope people come out and support them – I think they’ll do a great job.”
Park and Choi are managing the store on behalf of Ben’s uncle and new store owner Joon Park who owns Joon’s Wholesale in North York.
The couple who moved here from Sarnia are not strangers to retail but have been working 16 hour days every day to familiarize themselves with the grocery store and prepare for the busy tourism season.
“This is our first time with a grocery store so we have to learn many things” said Ben.
They are working to add more convenience products to the shop including candy chocolate bars lottery tickets and large refrigeration coolers for grab-and-go drinks.
At the end of long days the couple said they quietly retreat to the bed and breakfast in town where they are staying until the apartment space above the store is available at the end of the month.
Park and Choi haven’t had much time to explore the area but said they are happy to be there – except for one unexpected surprise.
“I’ve never seen so many mosquitoes” said Ben showing off welts on his arm.
Tom has been visiting the store to help answer questions where needed and ensure Park and Choi are welcomed to the neighbourhood.
“They’re great new people running it” he said. “They’re very suited to the small town. They’re hard workers and conscientious. It was very important to Susan and I that we found the right people.”
The relationship with Lang was essential to Joon Park too as Ben said Lang’s personality and work ethic really drew Joon to the store.
Carrying on the Lang’s legacy Ben and Gina hope to hire a few students to help and are accepting applications from interested teens.
Kinmount Independent Grocer colloquially known as Foodtown is located at 4072 County Road 121 in Kinmount.