Jean Ngouabe emigrated from Cameroon to Canada with his family in the early 2000’s and attended secondary school in Mississauga. After graduating high school, Jean began considering his options. Wanting to continue his studies in French, he shortlisted both Ottawa and Sudbury as his next potential destinations.
After doing research, Jean learned that Sudbury is the francophone capital of the North and that the cost of living was lower. The vibrancy of the local community and the ability to grow, study and live in French was ideal for Jean.
Jean ultimately chose Sudbury and enrolled in the Nursing program at Laurentian University where his wife, who was still in Cameroon, was able to join him thanks to a family reunification program.
After university, Jean found himself driving to Toronto or Montreal regularly in search of African food and specialty supplies that weren’t available in Sudbury. Jean quickly realized there was an unfilled need in the community for these types of products and began dreaming of opening his own store.
A few years later, he and his wife took the plunge and opened the Sudbury Tropical Market which offers a wide variety of exotic foods and specialty items newly available to Sudburians, as well as a hair salon.
The store has become a family affair. His daughter, Sienna, has begun working the cash register and stocking shelves over the summer. She’s also started assisting her mother in the hair salon on the other end of the store. Working as a team with his family, and receiving the support from the community has been motivating and humbling for Jean.
“When you do something for the community and you have the support of your family and also, the support of the community that at heart wants you to grow […] it gives you a lot of energy to continue doing more.”
— jean ngouabe
The Sudbury Tropical Market continues to play an important role in the community, as not only a supplier of exotic goods but also as a cultural hub where people from all walks of life intersect.