During Dragon Fest, I headed over to the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience. Although I had initially gone to see the art exhibitions, I also discovered that the museum includes the storefront of the former Yick Fung Co. grocery, preserved as it was when it closed in 2008. The store was run by James “Uncle Jimmy” Mar (1914-2012), who donated the building that now houses the third incarnation of the Wing Luke Museum.
When my parents came to visit me in Japan, we travelled in Kyoto, where I stopped to grab some items from the Meidi-ya in Sanjô. I offered to meet up with my parents at the hotel, but my mom was really curious about what an import store was like. “Like home, I guess?” I replied.
There is something romantic about going to an import store when you’re looking for something special–or something ordinary. There is the thrill of the hunt; the elation of finding the perfect item from “back home” (whether a country or a parent).
Food is a powerful talisman for heritage–there is a reason why NPR has a segment devoted to recreating “lost” recipes–but also for creating a sense of comfort and normalcy in one’s everyday life. This storefront where time has stopped is a crucial part of the social history of Seattle, and I’m grateful the Wing Luke and Jimmy Mar decided to collaborate to preserve it.
The Wing Luke Museum offers daily tours that include Yick Fung Co. See here for details.