Many were shocked to hear that the owner of Richmond’s first British store passed away on the weekend.
Mary Carter, 87, had owned Mary’s British Home store which was based in Richmond and Steveston for more than 35 years before it moved to Langley in 2017.
Carter’s store carried the quintessential British sweets and pies and was known as the pioneer of imported British goods and delicacies in Richmond.
Sadly, Carter passed away on Saturday, July 30 due to cancer and old age, according to Bernie Blake, a friend of Carter’s.
“People loved Mary. She loved music and was very social and had quite a magnetic personality. She had this very quirky British sense of humour and spoke her mind, a very admirable lady too,” aid Blake, who worked with Carter at the store in Steveston and in Langley.
“She was an active and real community person. She always knew what was going on, and she certainly was somebody that made a huge difference in everyone’s lives.
“Mary was definitely one of those people when you meet her, you always wanted to go back and have another chat. You could talk to her forever.”
Carter moved from Birmingham, England to the U.S. in 1962, where she spent 10 years with one of her sisters. They then moved to Surrey to meet up with their older sister and mother.
In 1979, Carter set up the first Mary’s British Home at Richmond Square, a strip mall on No. 3 Road before Richmond Centre was built. When the area was under re-development, the store moved to a backstreet in Steveston before it took over a more permanent spot on the southwest corner of No. 1 Road and Moncton Street.
Another 10 years went by and Carter’s store was shuffled to a spot on Chatham Street due to re-development once again.
But it didn’t seem to matter where Carter and her store were, customers would travel the distance to visit.
Blake told the Richmond News people from Kelowna and Edmonton would make a trip to the store when they were in the city just to “say hi and catch up with Mary.”
“People would come and pay Mary a visit just to reminisce about the past and even introduce their family members to her,” said Blake.
Lenny Entwistle, owner of Steveston’s Best of British, described Carter as a “funny lady and one of the hardest workers” she has ever known.
Carter, she added, would always commute an hour from Langley with a “car full of stuff” to Steveston just to open shop.
“She was quite the character and was well-loved in the village and she will be sadly missed, that is for sure,” said Entwistle.
The late British store owner often served homemade scones with British tea, a tradition both Blake and Entwistle shared with Carter in the past.
“Back in the days, she served a cup of tea with scones and clotted cream, and the tea pot had, like, a knitted tea cover on too,” said Entwistle.
“I learned a lot from Mary and our store wouldn’t be where we are today without her, her teachings and previous staff.”
A public memorial will be held later this month with final details to be finalized this Saturday.