McQ’s, the MacEwan Student Centre convenience store, will soon be under new management.
In February of this year, the current owner, Chung Cho, received a letter informing him his lease would not be renewed. Cho has run a convenience store on campus since 1985 and moved into the present location in 1988.
"I worked here for 15 years," said Cho. "I never got any complaints, any notice. It was a big surprise, I feel very bad."
When the store changed locations, the Cho family was given an empty space.
"I set up the wiring, the floor, the shelves; I made the investment," he said. "Working very hard, I built up the business."
The University of Calgary Students’ Union decided not to renew Cho’s lease in order to take over management themselves.
"Lots of student unions and student associations run their own convenience stores, and it’s a good source of revenue for those organizations," said SU President Toby White. "We saw the opportunity, with the lease up, for us to take over ownership of the convenience store. It benefits us in that we can run it ourselves and the money that’s made from the convenience store can go towards the Students’ Union."
The SU plans to use the money for programs such as Volunteer Services and government lobbying.
"It looks like there’s going to be both a provincial and a federal election this year, so we’re going to be required to spend a little more lobbying this year, as those campaigns come up," said White. "Something like this can obviously help us out quite a bit."
The Chos originally tried to negotiate with SU management but ultimately decided not to fight the SU’s decision.
"The SU will take over because it is very important," said Cho. "I make money, but… I don’t know. I’m not fighting. I tell them my feelings."
He is not sure what the family will do now.
"I don’t know what I will do, I don’t have any other business," he said. "I am a little older now."
White admits the decision not to renew the family’s lease was difficult.
"Their lease was up, so it wasn’t like we were dissatisfied with the service they were providing," he said. "It’s just basically, we saw the opportunity for students to [benefit] from that business instead of an outside group."
Student reactions to the changeover were mixed.
"As long as it’s there so that I can get a drink I don’t care who runs it," said Luke Obodzinski, a second-year calculus student.
Al Rosales, a recent Psychology graduate, disagreed.
"The SU seems to be taking everything over," he said. "It’s just not fair, if a family puts 15 years of hard work into a business, to pull the plug on them."
In the past 10 years, Cho contributed two scholarships for university students and stressed that he often gave back to the university community in other manners.
"My two sons are university students," said Mrs. Cho. "One is just coming this year. He spent his whole life at the university."
The family is upset to be leaving.
"I am leaving very soon," said Cho. "I am very sad, but I want to thank my customers. I want to thank university staff and students for 15 years of my business."