This OFW Has A Sari-Sari Store That Started From Her Living Room And Now Is In A Building

Ruby Lubigan is a Pinay in Canada with a popular sari-sari store business.

IMAGE Ruby Lubigan

It took hard work and determination for this Pinay in Canada to make her dream of having her own business while working abroad.

In 2011, Ruby Lubigan left the Philippines to become an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Canada. She previously worked in a fish plant in the western part of Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.). Now, she's a Canadian citizen who owns her own grocery store called "Sari Sari Retail Store," which is located in her house in Bloomfield.

Photo by Ruby Lubigan
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She says, "Everything that happened to me is a surprise." 

She looked back on how difficult her past living situation in the Philippines was. She says, "We can't be able to have food three times a day. There was a time we always ate once a day only."

Seeing the potential market

When Ruby arrived in Canada, she observed that there were many foreign workers in the western P.E.I. Most of them come from Asian countries like Thailand and the Philippines.

She had plans to put up her own grocery store for Thais and fellow Filipinos, which came into fruition back in 2018.

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Ruby says, "I decided to open my business so they can cook whatever they want, anytime they want." She adds, "It's really important for us to make our own culture food. We miss our home."

And why is her grocery called Sari Sari? She says, "There's a little bit of everything in my store. I have some Japanese [food], I have some Thai food, Chinese [food], and Filipino [food]."

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When Ruby started Sari Sari, she sold her goods inside the confinements of her living room, inside her house.

Photo by Ruby Lubigan

Not a lot of people knew about her store, which is why when there were events in the communities in the West Prince area, she went to these events and spread the word about her sari-sari store.

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She was handling Sari Sari while she was working as a full-time cleaner at Westisle Composite High School.

Ruby says, "It's hard to manage your time for that. But I keep pushing myself that I've started this business, and I know my hard work is going to be paid off someday."

Planning out the expansion

Ruby's small grocery store became successful. Last April, it was awarded the "Emerging Business Growth" award by the West Prince Chamber of Commerce.

Photo by Ruby Lubigan
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Because her food items no longer fit in her living room, she transferred her grocery business to a building that she put up in her backyard.

"The store is now the place to go for immigrants in the area to buy ingredients they need to cook food from their cultures."

"Many come to the store to buy ingredients for adobo, which is often considered the national dish of the Philippines." Other bestselling items that her customers look for are ingredients to cook pancit bihon and sinigang.

"Most of us, we can't go home right away, and then, especially [because of the] pandemic. But if we cook something, it feels like we're right at home."

Ruby also loves to cook. She plans on expanding her sari-sari store by putting up a take-out counter in her garage. She plans on offering all-day breakfast other OFWs love, like sinangag that's partnered with all sorts of ulam.

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"Something they can eat many times a day. My all-day breakfast is going to be fried rice."

This story originally appeared on Pep.ph.

* Minor edits have been made by the Yummy.ph editors.

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