Well-known Sacramento resident, retired dentist Dr. Herbert Yee may have recently turned 87 years old, but his age has certainly not hindered his motivation to contribute to the community.
HERBERT YEE stands in front of the soon-to-be-opened Sunflower Farmers Market on Del Rio Road, just south of the Sacramento Zoo. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong
His latest contribution is bringing a unique, 30,000-square-foot grocery store to local shoppers at his South Land Park shopping center, just south of the Sacramento Zoo.
Market coming this spring
While spending a moment at the shopping center last week, Herbert enthusiastically shared details about the soon-to-be-opened Sunflower Farmers Market.
“We have been working since June 1 on the new market,” Herbert said. “They signed the lease on June 1, we hired a contractor, named Headwater, and the owners (of Headwater) are (former Sacramento vice mayor) Doug Pope and Norm Marshall. Sunflower is a market from (Boulder) Colorado. They’re based there and they have big warehouses in Phoenix, Ariz. and they’re in New Mexico and they’re now in California. They’re also in Las Vegas, Nev., where they have two stores. Right now they have about 33 stores and three more developing. They opened their first (local) one six months ago in Roseville Square and then about a month ago, they opened one in Modesto, and a third one in this area, then they have one in Fremont and one planned in Mountain View and San Jose, so they’re moving.”
Altogether, this nearly 10-year-old grocery store chain operates markets in eight states, including all of the aforementioned states, as well as in Utah, Texas and Oklahoma.
Sunflower, which is scheduled to open in Herbert’s shopping center in May, is the response to a failed attempt to complete a deal that would have brought a Trader Joe’s specialty grocery store to the same site last year.
Herbert speaks very highly about Sunflower, which is dedicated to providing its customers with natural and organic products at reasonable prices.
“I am very impressed with Sunflower,” Herbert said. “They promise that they will buy locally. They have five air conditioners upstairs. Four of them are 12 and a half tons, one is seven tons. And I said, ‘Why do you need so much air conditioning?’ They said, ‘We want to keep the vegetables fresh.’”
Sunflower’s departments include meat and seafood, bakery and deli, natural living, dairy/frozen, beer and wine and floral items. The chain purchases almost all of its products by the pallet or truckload in order to save money. Sunflower then passes part of its savings on to customers.
Furthermore, the store does not charge its vendors for shelf space and it has no membership cards or complicated discount schemes.
HUMANITARIAN. Herbert Yee provided the finances for the Kee Siu School in his hometown in China. / Photo courtesy, Herbert Yee
In its efforts to provide its customers with low prices, the store is dedicated to its motto, “Better than supermarket quality at better than supermarket prices” and its slogan, “Serious food, silly prices.”
Sunflower Farmers Market will fill the southern end of the South Land Park shopping center on Del Rio Road. The shopping center also includes La Bou Bakery and Café, Parkside Pharmacy and Macau Café.
In addition to bringing a new market to South Land Park, Herbert, who is a 1942 graduate of Sacramento High School and a World War II veteran, has kept active with many other properties and activities during his life.
Dentist to Calif. governors
Many locals remember Herbert for his success in dentistry, as he spent 54 years in this profession, including his time as the official dentist for the staff of two governors – Pat Brown and Ronald Reagan.
Herbert’s many titles that he has held read like credits at the end of a feature film.
SO ALL MAY LEARN. This cultural center and library, which was funded by Herbert Yee, opened in China in 2007. / Photo courtesy, Herbert Yee
Among the many special positions that he has held are president of the California State Board of Dental Examiners, regent of the University of Pacific, president of the UOP Dental School Alumni Association, president of the International College of Dentists, president of the American Cancer Society for Sacramento County, counselor of the American Dental Association’s Council on Dental Education, district governor of Lion’s Club District 4 C5, president of the Sacramento Chinese Benevolent Association, president of the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Association and president of the Yee Fong Toy family association.
He has served on the California State Railroad Museum Foundation board for about the past 30 years.
A presidential commendation
In 1984, Herbert was named president of the U.S. section of the International College of Dentists at the annual convention in Atlanta.
In acknowledging Herbert’s naming to this position, President Ronald Reagan sent a letter to Herbert that included the following words: “This honor reflects your commitment to your profession and to the organization paying tribute to you. By your service as a dentist and as a member of your community, you have made outstanding contributions. In every area where you work, whether as a member of your profession or as a concerned citizen, your dedication is greatly respected.”
WWII VETERAN. Herbert Yee served in the U.S. Army from January 1944 to October 1945. / Photo courtesy, Herbert Yee
Active gentleman of the community
Herbert, who also owns the buildings occupying Pizza Hut, Kamon Sushi restaurant and bar and A & A Company video, cellular phones, music, etc. at the southwest corner of 16th and V streets, the Asian Food Center at 1301 Broadway and Bud’s Buffet at 1016 10th Street. He is a longtime member of the Sutter Club, American Legion Post 692, Lion’s Club District 4 C5, the Sacramento Pioneer Association and the Del Paso Country Club.
He has also contributed to his native land through his funding of the construction of China’s Kee Siu School, which opened on Sept. 28, 1981, and a cultural center and library named after himself and his father, Henry Yee. The cultural center and library opened in China in 2007.
Descendant of Sacramento pioneers
Although Herbert did not arrive in the United States at Angel Island as an immigrant from Sing Tonga, Kee Siu, Toi Shan, China until he was 6 years old on May 1, 1931, his family history in Sacramento dates back to the 19th century.
Herbert’s great-grandfather, an herbalist, named Dr. Wah Hing (born Yee Fung Cheung), arrived in California during the Gold Rush, and while practicing in Sacramento, he had his most famous patient, Jane Stanford, the wife of Gov. Leland Stanford.
FAMILY MAN. Herbert and Inez Yee have been married for 66 years. The couple is shown prior to their marriage in this photograph, which was taken in about 1944. / Photo courtesy, Herbert Yee
Herbert explained the story behind his grandfather’s work with Jane Stanford.
“As the story goes – you’re talking legend, because this was so long ago – in about 1862, (Jane Stanford) was suffering from sort of like pneumonia and the American doctor said that he could no longer do any more and that was it,” Herbert said. “The Chinese chef said, ‘Well, since you finally gave up, why don’t you try our Chinese doctor?’ So, the governor said, ‘Well, go and fetch him.’ So, (the chef) got on the horse and buggy, went down to Chinatown and they located him playing mah-jongg or gambling something at Wah Hing grocery store. So, (Dr. Wah Hing) told his helper – a young man – to go fetch a certain item of medicine and they brewed it and then brought it to the governor’s mansion. (The doctor) then gave the brew to Mrs. Stanford and told the staff that in one hour, if her fever breaks and she can breathe, then she would be fine. Interestingly, this story was related to me back in 1950 by an old man who was 100 years old. He said, ‘You know, you’re great-grandpa saved the governor’s wife.’ So, the legend has been traveling all of these years.”
Today, Herbert resides in South Land Park with his wife, Inez, whom he married in 1945. The couple has four sons, four daughters-in-law, nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.