Vincent Lai, who in 1978 bought Nicey’s Food Mart that became a staple in the Black and West Indian community in the Greater Toronto Area, is dead.
He was 65.
The eldest of three children born in Guangdong in South China, Lai’s mother took him to Jamaica at age four. After graduating from Cornwall College in Montego Bay, he worked at the family’s haberdashery business in Kingston which was gutted by fire.
Unable to re-open the store because they didn’t have insurance, Lai used some inventory that was stored in their residence to start his own business. He was also employed at General Blending, managing the retail outlet selling dragon stout before moving to Canada.
Lai spent two years as a car rental agent with Budget Rent-A-Car before teaming up with his wife Lorain to purchase Nicey’s, which was up for sale after being operational for six years. They kept the name and expanded the business and product brand to meet the demands of the growing Jamaican and Caribbean population, which craved for the food products and other commodities they were accustomed to in their birth countries.
With its head office and main store in Scarborough and a Brampton location, Nicey’s diversified over the years to provide take-out food and money transfer services.
“Quite often, we come to Canada as immigrants to get our experience,” said long-time customer, Dr. Sheldon Taylor. “Vincent came from an entrepreneurial family and brought certain skills with him to this country, enlarged those skills and did all the things he could do by virtue of his knowledge and ability.”
In addition to his wife of 38 years, Lai is survived by their children Richard, Melissa and Camille.
A public visitation takes place on February 26 from 2-4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. at Highland Funeral Home, 3280 Sheppard Ave. E. The funeral service will be held the following day at St. Patrick’s Parish Markham, 5633 Highway #7. It starts at 10 a.m.