“Thanks to Slave Lake and surrounding area for 35 and-a-half years,” says Andy Assaf. “That should be the headline.”
Assaf was speaking to The Leader last week in the space that for the last dozen of those 35 years housed his menswear store, Maga’s Head to Toe. He was there wrapping up a few things before turning out the lights and moving to Edmonton, where his family already lives.
“I’m going to miss Slave Lake,” says Assaf. “It’s very hard to leave.”
Assaf and his brother Mo bought Joe’s Men’s Wear from Joe and Faye Mouallem in 1982, in its downtown location. Mo was in and out of the business for a while, before Andy took it over altogether.
“We met a lot of people,” he says. “We raised a good family.”
‘We’ being his wife Amira, and their four children – Lamia, Ali, Yasser and Mohammed. They all live in Edmonton now, and the family has grown to include nine grandchildren.
“I’ve been going back and forth for six years,” he says.
Assaf had no immediate plans for retirement, but fate intervened last month in the form smoke damage from a malfunctioning microwave oven.
“The insurance company said, ‘Andy, we’re buying you out.’”
And that’s what they did, hauling off his entire stock.
Originally from Lebanon, Assaf came to Canada as a young man, first working in mining towns in northern B.C. and Yukon. He also spent time in Whitehorse, before relocating to Edmonton, and then Slave Lake, where he put down roots.
“I’m happy in one way,” he said last week. “But I’m really going to miss my business and my community. People are going to miss me, too. I was gone for three days and I had so many notes: ‘Andy, we need some suits! Where are we going to go?’”
The Assaf family, with Andy on the right, Amira standing on the left, sons Ali, Yasser and Mohammed and daughter Lamia.