Butcher & Grocer
Born in Odivelas.
Based in Toronto.
About 90 per cent of my staff is Portuguese. Our clientele is Portuguese and we need [our staff] to speak Portuguese… [The clients] are able to ask for whatever product without any problem and everyone understands them – Rui Gomes.
Rui Gomes is one of multiple Portuguese butchers, grocers, and grilled meats merchant serving the Lusophone communities in Toronto since he first opened his business in 1991. He is also one the tens of thousands of Portuguese who started as an undocumented immigrant in Canada and was later able to successfully establish himself.
Born in Odivelas, in Lisbon’s metropolitan area, Rui Gomes started working at his father’s butcher shop after dropping out of school at age 14. After doing his mandatory military duty, where he met other recruits whose parents were emigrants, he decided to apply for a visa to the United States, but was denied. He then decided to try Canada, where he arrived with a tourism visa in 1984 for two weeks, after which he returned to Portugal. Three years later, Rui immigrated to Toronto with his wife, undocumented. He quickly found a job as a meat cutter at an Italian butcher shop on College Street. After six months, he started working in construction, an industry that employed a great number of status and non-status Portuguese immigrants.
In the early 1990s, during an economic downturn, Rui return to his previous occupation and found employment in different Portuguese butcher shops in Kensington Market and Little Portugal. Around 1991, he bought the Italian butcher where he was originally employed and started his own business. Since them, Rui has opened two more butcher shops, two churrasqueiras (take-out grill houses), a roasted piglet take out restaurant, and one grocery store that sells products imported from Portugal and Brazil. The vast majority of his staff and clientele are Portuguese speaking.
Hora dos Portugueses