Visionary Innovator

Bruce Sung

Bruce Sung was born in 1916 in Vancouver, BC. As a second-generation Chinese Canadian with extraordinary business acumen, relentless energy and the ability to develop beneficial partnerships, he built a thriving business   empire. Though he never lived in the Yukon permanently he spent more than three decades operating a diverse range of enterprises and capitalizing on opportunities in Northern Canada.

Family Foundations

Bruce’s father Lambert was a scholar and linguist in China during the tumultuous years of conflict and colonialism in the late 1800s. He immigrated to Canada in 1909 to start a new life in British Columbia. He married Elena Wong who was born in Victoria. Her family were importers of Asian foods.

Bruce’s parents resided in Vancouver. Lambert worked in the Chinese Consulate as a translator for the Chinese-Canadian community. Elena raised their children as a traditional wife and mother. Bruce was the eldest son of eight children. Together they worked hard to survive many tough times that included the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 1920s, the Depression years, hardships during WWII and overcoming widespread discrimination against Asians in BC.

Drive to Succeed

From an early age Bruce displayed vision, skills and drive to succeed in business. His first venture was catering for the US military in Prince Rupert, a point of embarkation for WWII troops in the Pacific. After that he operated Sung Pacific Holdings, building a supply chain to bring fresh vegetables from California to Vancouver. His gaze turned northward in the late 1940s when he established Columbia Caterers to supply food and operate mess halls for United Keno Hill Mines at Elsa and for Canadian Tungsten Mines near Watson Lake. He adopted a hands-on approach, often visiting the mess halls at the mines to ensure the delivery of quality foods.

Bruce relied on family and friends in the Vancouver Chinese community to staff key positions. Whitehorse was the hub of his Yukon operations and he added more businesses after it was named the territorial capital city in 1953. Bruce foresaw exceptional prospects in the boom years that followed, with rapid growth in tourism and mining. From the late 1940s through the 1970s he owned four businesses including Tourists’ Services, Northern Caterers, General Catering Services Ltd., and Dianne Hotels.

Engaging with Northern People

Initially Bruce worked with established Whitehorse partners, then bought them out to expand his control and profits. He selected Jim Smith as his local manager – spotting talent and a kindred spirit who would listen and learn from him to become another forward-thinking  leader. Their most dynamic venture was opening the first supermarket to bring afresh new look to groceries in the North. At the time Whitehorse was expanding rapidly with many newcomers from the South. Tourists’ Services operated for 10 years, then Bruce sold it to Kelly Douglas in 1967. Jim Smith left the business to become Commissioner of the  Yukon in 1966.

Final Years

As he prepared to retire, Bruce closed some businesses and passed others on to his children. He had a long and happy retirement, with comforts generated over a lifetime of hard work and visionary risk taking. He remained a prominent member of the Vancouver Chinese community, applying his formidable card sense to highly competitive games of gin rummy, cribbage, poker and Mah-jong. He spent four months each year at his home in Honolulu, Hawaii. Bruce died in 2005, leaving Vera, his wife of 64 years, and 4 children, Brian, Stuart, Robert, and Diane. He is remembered as a devoted family man, though often absent following his  entrepreneurial dreams.