By Neil Armstrong
It took creativity, innovativeness and spray paint for Vincent Lai, owner of Nicey’s Food Mart, to convert ‘no parking’ yellow ‘x’ symbol in front of his store in Scarborough into a drawing of the Jamaican flag.
“The asphalt is black, the yellow line is there for the ‘x’ and the borders are there for the green. I just primed the black with beige and then spray painted it with green and it come out just beautiful,” Lai informed.
He says people have shown great respect for the flag even though it’s painted on the ground. “I think it has drawn such an interest that it’s amazing. Whether local, foreigner or visitor, when they come they pull out their camera or phone and start taking pictures.”
Lai is excited about doing this as Jamaica celebrates 50th anniversary of Independence and so far, according to him, at least 300 people have taken photos of it.
He though said, that he was having problems in cordoning off the patch.
He had put a border of four stands with caution tape around it so that people wouldn’t walk or drive on it but they kept shifting the border every day. But he has since replaced the stands with a black, green and gold steel drum to ensure that no cars can park on it.
“I keep an eye on it. If somebody walks on it and trample on it, then me go out deh go fight dem. But I don’t have enough border to say don’t walk on it. It’s still a part of the plaza and although I control the plaza, I still can’t stop them from walking but if they trample on it, I warn them, ‘just don’t trample on mi flag, don’t show disrespect’,” said Lai jovially.
Lai, describes himself as “a pure loyalist, a Jamaican nationalist” was born in Guangdong, China and migrated to Jamaica in 1953 at the age of 4 with his parents, Austin and Edith Lai. Lai attended Grange Hill Elementary and later Cornwall College where as a student he would travel with the church choir islandwide, especially to high schools, and sing in a competition for the national anthem.
“That was great, up to this day I can still hold the lines of the anthem. I remember when the Union Jack was lowered and the Jamaican flag went up,” said Lai about his memory of Independence Day in 1962. In 1974 he migrated to Canada and married Lorain, two years later.
Their union produced three children, Richard, Melissa and Camille. Before buying Nicey’s in 1978, he worked at Budget Rent-a-Car washing cars and has since expanded to four other locations in the Greater Toronto Area and one franchised location.
Vincent and Lorain and their business, Nicey’s, have supported many community events over the years. They have sponsored Caribana floats, Fr. Richard Ho Lung and Friends concerts, and soccer tournaments, among other things. Lai has been commended for his work with the presentation of plaques from the mayor of Scarborough and was named the Cornwall College Old Boys’ Outstanding Old Boy, 1998.