The Bobcaygeon Local
January 30, 2012
By Lisa Dever
When Pierre Elliot Trudeau was lying in state Shaukat Mohamed travelled all the way from Bobcaygeon to Ottawa with his young children to pay their respects. After standing in line for six hours his children began to ask “Why are we here?”
“You will understand one day,” he said.
After standing by Trudeau’s coffin for but a few moments, Mohamed stepped away, but he did not leave the building. He stayed to watch the other mourners. When a reporter approached him and asked him why he was there he responded, “Look at the ten families in front of me and the ten families behind me. They are from all over the world”.
The reporter askedwhat Canada meant to him and he replied, “Heaven on earth”.
Born and raised in Uganda, Skaukat Mohamed was a university student studying civil engineering when Idi Amin seized control of the country. Within months his parents and nine siblings had scattered all over the world. Shaukat was the last to leave Uganda. He headed for England, where he continued his engineering studies until his funds ran out.
By that time his sisters and a brother had settled in Vancouver and Shaukat’s application for landed immigrant status had been approved. He made the trip to British Columbia. He worked to obtain his Canadian credentials in engineering, but eventually switched his focus to land surveying and obtained a degree.
After working as a land surveyor for 8 years, Mohamed married and moved to Florida, where he and his bride Habiba ran a motel for a year and a half. After that, he ran a hotel in Alabama for a couple of years.
With a young, school age family, Shaukat and Habiba decided to return to Ontario and wanted the small town lifestyle. Having been married in Bobcaygeon and having friends in town, they decided that Bobcaygeon was the ideal place to raise a family. Their friends Kam and Shiraz Jetha, owners of the local pharmacy, were already well established; it would be good to live near the lake with friends close by.
Shaukat owned a Pick ‘N Save in Fenelon Falls for 14 years, one in Beaverton for 12 years and one in Madoc for 10 years. In March of 1991 he opened the Bobcaygeon Pick ‘N Save. While he certainly serves the tourist market, Shaukat says it is the locals who keep him in business. “It’s busy two months out of the year. I stay open year round so people don’t have to leave town to shop.”
You might be hard pressed to name an item he doesn’t carry at his store. It’s an interesting mix of old style mercantile and modern day convenience store. From house wares and panty hose to the area’s largest supply of wool, the racks are filled with the everyday items everyone needs.
“We are not a chain store,” he says, explaining why sometimes even when he tries very hard, he cannot special order items for customers.
One day a couple of years ago a lady came into the store asking for a clear shower curtain liner. Although he carried six different colours, he didn’t have a clear liner. She asked if he could order her one and he promised he would do his best. Being an independent, he has to place minimum orders with his suppliers. He found a clear shower curtain liner from a supplier in Toronto and ordered $1000 worth of merchandise.
A few days later the order arrived without the clear curtain. Shaukat then turned to a supplier in Montreal and placed a minimum order of $2500. Finally, success, and he was able to sell his customer her shower curtain. It cost him close to $3000 in other stock and he made a profit of $1.99, but he was happy to get his customer what she wanted. “It was a very expensive shower curtain,” he laughs.
Shaukat, an educated world traveller, has worked hard every day since he arrived in Canada. A successful businessman, he has employed many people over the years, and served his community with kindness and generosity. Although he does not like to speak of it, his generosity is well known in the community. For years he has supported events like Midnight Madness and Canada Day.
Shaukat also volunteers with great passion and commitment, with Focus Humanitarian Assistance, an affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network. In the past three years, he has raised more than $30,000 by collecting monies and climbing mountains. The organization works with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture, among many others, to provide disaster planning, preparedness and relief.
Results of the organization’s efforts can be seen the world over, from disaster resilience in mountain communities to reducing risk to communities from natural hazards in Japan, the goal is to make the world safer and more resilient.
When Shaukat retires, he will devote his time to raising funds and awareness for the charity. In the meantime, his commitment to Canada is clear. When speaking of his love for the country that took in his family and offered them an opportunity to begin again, his eyes well up and he holds his chest.
“In Canada, we have all the basics a human being requires. We don’t appreciate what we have. If you can’t make it in Canada, you can’t make it anywhere,” he says.