When John Yun and his parents made the decision to leave Vancouver for the South Cariboo earlier this year, they didn’t expect to be surrounded by wildfires within the first few weeks of their arrival.
As the new owners of the Lone Butte General Store, Yun said the family experienced “a huge panic” when a lightning-caused fire ignited June 30, not far down Highway 24 from where they were.
“In the city, that doesn’t really happen. You’re never worried about your surroundings in that way,” Yun, 23, said. “If the fire burns down the place, what are we going to do? We would have nothing left.”
To the relief of the Yuns, the local volunteer fire department was able to get that blaze contained, but in the meantime, several others in the region have started and spread. Their store has now been on evacuation alert for just over a week.
“We’re worried but we’re handling a bit better now,” Yun said.
The family decided to buy the convenience store and gas station in Lone Butte – an area they had no prior connection to – as an opportunity to get ahead, following many years as a single-income family in Vancouver.
Yun said the transfer of ownership was seamless and the former owners “were very kind and treated us very nicely.”
It didn’t take long, Yun said, to realize that running a business in a small community was a big change from the city.
“Everyone is definitely kinder here, and more personable,” he said. “In the city, there are so many faces, so many names. With everyone being kind and friendly here, you tend to act kinder in return. It’s more of a family than in the city.”
The Yuns have some plans for improvements at the store over the coming months, including looking at upgrading their beer selection and bringing in more wine and hard alcohol to sell. Down the road, they’d like to have more fresh produce and possibly a selection of frozen, homemade meals.
Also on the list is to upgrade the gas pumps to “pay at the pump.”
“It’s a lot of work for the staff and a lot of work for people outside, the way it is now,” Yun said. “We’re just trying to make it more accommodating and more convenient, especially for the locals so they don’t feel like they always have to go into 100 Mile.”
When things settle down at the store, Yun said he’d like to try fishing and quadding – he said a few locals have already offered to take him out on ATV trails.
One aspect of Cariboo life he isn’t overly excited about, however, is the long and cold winters.
“I”m not ready at all,” he laughed. “But we’ll see how it goes. It’s all part of the experience.”
A bonus to winter weather, he noted, is that there would be no more mosquitoes.
“The mosquitoes have been killing us. I had to start wearing long pants, I have so many bites.”