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Kin's celebrates 25 years

Contests, guessing games and food samples were on the menu at Kin's Farm Market locations last Saturday afternoon.

Contests, guessing games and food samples were on the menu at Kin's Farm Market locations last Saturday afternoon.

All 28 shops across the Lower Mainland opened up their storefronts for various activities to celebrate the market's 25th anniversary, which was on Sept. 11.

"It was the first time we've ever done anything like this, where all stores come out and celebrate one event," said marketing manager Lia Fletcher. "Tons of people showed up. It was a great day."

Approximately 22,400 people passed through the various markets to taste some fresh produce, guess how many lemons were in a jar, and put their name in to win a fruit basket.

"It is exhilarating to celebrate our anniversary surrounded by faithful customers and staff," wrote Kin's president and co-founder Kin Wah Leung in an email. "This is way beyond my expectations."

The event also promoted the market's Canadian Cancer Society fundraiser, which runs until Sept. 16. With every purchase, storegoers can donate $1 to the society. Volunteers from the organization were on hand to educate people on the importance of healthy eating and cancer prevention.

Passersby could pledge one thing they would do differently such as walking, wearing sunscreen, or getting a mammogram. These pledges will hang behind the cashiers at the markets until the fundraiser ends on Sunday.

Since its beginnings in 1987, the Kin brothers have focused fundraising efforts on health-related causes, while following their mandate to provide the freshest produce to the communities they serve, according to Fletcher. They've donated to Richmond Hospital, and Vancouver General Hospital in the past.

"But then we realized we could have a bigger impact if we focused on one organization," said Fletcher. "So we chose the Canadian Cancer Society, and have been fundraising for them since 2009."

The market has raised approximately $65,000 for the society in those three years.

Leung and his brother Kin Hun Leung came to Vancouver from China in 1981.

They began working at a Chinese restaurant by night, while honing their grasp on the English language at Vancouver Community College by day.

Two years later, they rented an eight-foot table at Granville Island Market for selling fruit and vegetables in the mornings - still continuing English classes in the afternoons and restaurant work at night. They would travel to cities across the Lower Mainland to pick the produce for their table.

As line-ups continued to grow, the brothers decided to open their first retail location in Richmond's Blundell Centre, four years after setting up shop on Granville Island.

Leung wrote one of the biggest obstacles was opening up the second store in Ladner, and taking the business from a single, familyrun store to "a company that can stand on its own even when you are not there."

Both the brothers attended Blundell's celebrations Saturday to meet customers and also see those familiar faces of people who have been buying from them since the beginning.

"We're a neighbourhood store," said Fletcher. "We create jobs. We have about 800 staff members, and we make sure we buy from local farmers."

The Kin brothers are now looking to take their fundraising efforts to the next level and set new targets in their 25th year.

"At the time, we were just trying to make a living," wrote Leung. "But now, my vision for the future is to have a store in every community across Canada. We will get there by taking one step at a time."

The market has 28 locations across the Lower Mainland and one store in Ontario.

"It's an inspiring story to anyone about building something from nothing," said Fletcher.