Skip to main content

Winnipeg family loses convenience store and home in massive fire

Eben Convenience Store was located in the Kirkwood Block building.
Eben Convenience
Before the fire, the building was home to retail, offices and a former nightclub, as well as the Lee family's home in the unit next door to the store. (Photo: Winnipeg Heritage)

The owners of a convenience store in Winnipeg as picking up the piece after a devastating fire that destroyed both their business and their home.

"That store was everything to our family, and I think it's a pretty devastating loss," Paul Lee, whose parents owned Eben Convenience Store, told CBC News.

The 110-year-old Kirkwood Block building housed the store, family’s living quarters, some retail/office space and a former nightlight on the second floor. It was engulfed by a fire that closed Portage Avenue for two days, as firefighters worked to subdue the fire. The building has since been partially demolished.

The area is a destination for many new Canadians—Young Ae Lee and Min Soon Lee opened their store in 1998, shortly after arriving in Winnipeg from South Korea.

"Some of my very first memories ever in Canada were in that store," Lee told CBC. "For as long as I can remember, that store has been a part of the community, but it's also a part of my family's immigrant story."

He and his brother Kevin started a GoFundMe page for their parents' recovery and the page gained the attention of several high-profile Canadians, including Kim’s Convenience stars Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Andrew Phung.

"While the source of the fire has yet to be determined, my mother and father have lost everything," Lee wrote in his appeal, adding that the loss of personal items, such as family photo albums is devastating. "Their business, income and livelihood, as well as their home and all belongings in the unit they lived in adjacent to the store. They left the building with just the clothes on their back.'

Nobody was injured in the blaze and firefighters are investigating the cause.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds