Eight Downtown Surrey businesses boasting hundreds of combined years of operation have been saluted for their “outstanding commitment” to the area.
They are landmark restaurants Bozzini’s and Fresgo Inn, 7 Days Seafood & Grocery, Whalley Optical Centre, Sprite Multimedia Systems, Ben’s Appliances, Bert’s Automotive and Roath’s Pawn Shop.
Acrylic trophies were given to longtime business operators at the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association’s annual general meeting Thursday (Feb. 23) at Civic Hotel.
In the BIA’s 548-hectare area, there are nearly 825 businesses and 604 commercial properties.
“We welcome new businesses every month,” said Randal Dhaliwal, event emcee, “but when a business lasts 40, 50 or even 60 years, that is really special and something that should be celebrated.
“We know that there are other long-serving businesses in our community, and we plan to continue recognizing other businesses every year.”
Bert’s Automotive has been on the north end of Surrey’s downtown for 43 years, while the two restaurants have dished out food for several decades — Bill Thind’s Bozzini’s on 104 Avenue and Walter Wolff’s Fresgo Inn on King George Boulevard.
A few blocks north on the boulevard, Ahmed and Amina Bhamjee run 7 Days Seafood & Grocery, one of the oldest Halal meat markets in Surrey.
Near Bozzini’s is Ben’s Appliances, back in business after a devastating fire in 2022. It’s among B.C.’s longest-running single family-owned appliance stores, now operated by Matt Notting, grandson of the founder.
Dhaliwal described SpriteSprite Multimedia Systems’ Mike Nielsen as “one of the most dedicated community members in Downtown Surrey.” In 1983 he opened the doors of Sprite Computers in a strip mall behind the long-gone Stardust Roller Rink.
“When I was 23,” Nielsen recalled, “I was looking for a good location in the Lower Mainland, and Surrey was the place to be. The growth was phenomenal and there was very little competition in the early days. Those reasons were a big attraction for me to come out here. It’s still attractive, and it’s still a growing city and our build-out is really helping us with new clients all the time.”
Lutz Sprecher’s father opened Whalley Optical in 1978.
“Our little location offers us awesome rent, a good landlord — we’re just really lucky to have to pay so little rent, and that’s one of the reasons I’m still keeping it going there,” said Sprecher, an optician and musician. “Two of us can run the store and make a profit because the overhead is low, so that allows us to keep the quality high, and our customers can clearly see how good they can look.”
The family-run Roath’s Pawn Shop, on King George, north of 108 Avenue, is “unlike other pawn shops in Surrey,” Dhaliwal said.
Ken Roath said his parents started the business in 1967. “I came in ‘74, my father passed away in ‘80 and I’ve been doing it ever since. I love it, I do.”
Still, there are challenges in that corner of the city.
“These last few months have been challenging with the new drop-in centre at the end of our block,” Roath said. “I mean, it’s just not fair what the government did to us, actually. It’s a challenge every day now.
“We’ll continue there,” he added. “My son’s third-generation and he’s doing it now, and I’m hardly ever there, actually, and according to him, his son is interested too, so maybe a fourth generation one day.”
Meantime, new directors were named to the Downtown Surrey BIA board, including Randal Dhaliwal (FASKEN), Chris Gardner (ICBA), Sonny Janda (Janda Group), Kathrin Matadeen (TD) and Perminder Tung (King George Holdings & LK Law).
New members elected to the board are Lutz Sprecher (Whalley Optical), Kristin Bishop (Civic Hotel), Kirk Fisher (Lark Group), Maury Dubuque (Blackwood Partners/Central City, Sonia Parmar (David Pel & Company) and Stephen Dooley (SFU).
BIA directors with a one-year term remaining are Melanie Adamczewski (Urban Systems), Mike Nielson (Sprite Multimedia Systems), Brad Howard (PCI), Nissar Dalal (Prospera Credit Union), Soleman Hashmi (Hashmi Law), Michael Johanson (Avalon Surrey Funeral Home), Harp Khela (Allure Ventures), Shirley Samujh-Dayal (Coast Mountain Bus) and Austin Zhang (Westland Living).
The BIA released a “Looking Forward” report and also an annual report. Both can be found online at downtownsurrey.ca.