When Shim took over the Busy Bee King Mart at 677 King St. W. in October 1994, the King and Bathurst neighborhood was a mix of commercial and residential properties, with an older, largely Portuguese population, says Shim.
But as business and property taxes skyrocketed, and the companies that once had their headquarters in the area decamped for the suburbs, the office buildings were converted into lofts and condos that attracted a new wave of younger, affluent tenants.
Seemingly overnight, Shim’s customers went from shopping for budget pet food, two for $1 bread and KitKat bars, to buying expensive organic chocolate carrying a $7 price tag. “It’s changing every day, and if you don’t evolve and accommodate the needs of consumers, you’ll perish in a second,” says Shim of the need to stay abreast of changing consumer tastes.
Shim, who has served as chief operating officer of the Ontario Korean Businessmen’s Association since 2019, hadn’t planned on a career in retail. He was working in IT after graduating from the University of Waterloo when he was asked to help manage a convenience store for a sick relative.
“I think I did quite well and ended up taking over the business,” he says. At one point, Shim operated as many as five 24-hour stores in Toronto’s downtown but has since scaled back to the single location: He’s in his late fifties and wants to make more time to travel.
Today, Busy Bee’s customers are typically young couples or single people living in one of the countless condo buildings that dot the neighborhood, popping in for everyday grocery staples or staggering in after a raucous night at the nearby clubs. “If you’re a single dweller living downtown, and you need something at 1 a.m., you come to my store and you’ll find either exactly that item or something close,” says Shim.
- Convenience Store News, June 2021, p16 - p 18
OWNER, KENNY SHIM
BY CHRIS POWELL PHOTOS BY JAIME HOGGE