Local corner store up for sale as owner bids farewell to San Carlos

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Jackson Sneeringer

The Devonshire Little Store has stood tall since 1935, and has since been a community favorite. “That was the first place that my mom let me go,” said former resident Kim McGarvey. “I think it was probably 11 with some neighborhood friends and we would go down there and buy candy, it was just the greatest experience.”

The beloved owner of a local landmark corner store is selling the store and moving back to his home country in June after being a part of the community for three decades.

The Devonshire Little Store was established in San Carlos in 1935. Built two years before World War II, it has seen four owners, with a fifth soon to come. Despite its cozy, rustic appearance, the store has a dark history. 

Former owner Shu Ming Tang was murdered in the store in 1993, which was suspected to be a robbery gone wrong by the San Mateo County police. It was a cold case for nearly three decades and even gained national attention when it appeared on the television series “America’s Most Wanted.” It was only recently solved with the arrest of suspect Rayna Hoffman-Ramos in March 2022, according to the San Mateo County Police Department press release.

“It was just traumatic that something like that happened,” said former San Carlos resident Kim McGarvey. “Growing up, nothing happened in San Carlos. And I can just remember thinking, ‘How could something like that happen in our neighborhood?'”

Enter Chung Sun.

Sun, his wife, and two kids immigrated to California from Taiwan in 1993 shortly after Tang’s death. He offered to buy the Devonshire Little Store from Tang’s wife, and he and his family have run the store and lived in the home above it for the past 30 years. 

The store doubles as a home and a business for Sun, but he also put in an offer for it because he wanted his kids to get a good education, and he was pleased by what the San Carlos school districts had to offer. Though their education is one of the reasons why he bought the store, it is also partly why he is planning on leaving.

“I did it for my kids’ education, so they finish high school and go to college so they can get a job. That was my first priority, and it is done already,” Sun said. 

I appreciate San Carlos residents so much. People treat me right. They don’t treat me only as the owner to customers; they treat me like family.”

— Chung Sun

At this point in his life, Sun feels more obligated to return to Taiwan than to stay in San Carlos. However, he has built up a strong relationship with his customers, and he appreciates the community for the kindness they have shown him and the store.

“I enjoy this,” Sun said. “I appreciate San Carlos residents so much. People treat me right. They don’t treat me only as the owner to customers; they treat me like family.”

Sun enjoys conversing with customers and hearing their stories. Working 11 to 12 hours almost every day for 30 years has allowed him to interact with his customers to the point where he doesn’t see it as a business interaction anymore.

“They have everything. Whenever I’m missing something or need something, I just walk over, and the guy is so nice,” said Carlmont sophomore Grace Zheng. “He also takes care of my cat when I’m traveling.”

The news of his departure was upsetting for some of his frequent customers, who recall him always being there when they needed a quick snack or someone to talk to.

“I’m sad they’re going. I’m happy they can perhaps have a good retirement, but they certainly filled my day,” said Donna Marie Baldwin, a store customer for over 40 years. “When I would go, I’d always feel special. I’d always feel remembered, which was really, really special. And they just made me feel welcomed and appreciated.”

This certificate, issued in 1985 by the San Mateo County Historical Association, recognized the Devonshire Little Store for its 50 years of participation in community life and prosperity in San Carlos. (Jackson Sneeringer)

These connections are important to Sun, and he wants to continue to take care of his customers by selling the store to someone that will keep it open to the San Carlos community. While he doesn’t care if the next owner modifies the business, he wants it to stay a place that provides for his customers.

“I want to keep this business good for this neighborhood, this community. I want to find a guy to keep the legacy of this store for another 10 years because this store has been open since 1935,” Sun said. 

Customers like McGarvey, Zheng, and Baldwin hope that the next owners keep it as the quaint little neighborhood corner store that they have grown up with. 

“I would be lovely if someone as precious as him could do it again,” Baldwin said. “But you know, it’s just how things change and how times change, and the only thing we can be certain of is change.”