photo by Marshall Smith

“I’ve never stopped working since coming to the U.S. in 1982,” said Gail (Hai Fang) Qi, founder and longtime owner of Far East Gifts. “I decided I just needed to take a break and to rest.” Qi sold the shop to new owner Yafen Yan, who will continue to operate the longtime business in the Fort.

After 20 years in business in Idyllwild, Qi said she will miss her many loyal customers and the happiness she experienced getting to know so many people in Idyllwild. “But I’m also a very private person,” said Qi. “I was very good with customers, but afterwards I wanted to be quiet.”

Born in Shanghai, China, Qi first joined family members in West Palm Beach, Florida, in 1982. “I came here [Idyllwild] to be independent,” she remembered. “I worked for a family as a governess, to get my green card. They had a second house in Idyllwild. That’s how I came to Idyllwild. “I’m a city girl,” said Qi, “and Idyllwild was a big change. But I felt very secure here.”

Later she worked as a server at the Hidden Village Chinese Restaurant, a job she held for five years. She opened Far East Gifts in 1994, for three years in Oakwood Village then, beginning in 1997, in The Fort. Initially, she made trips back to Shanghai as a buyer for her shop. But that changed when the economy became less robust. Then she stocked her store by attending gift shows and conventions.

Qi has a daughter and grandson who live in Diamond Bar. When she retired from Far East Gifts, her daughter urged her to move to Diamond Bar. “I’m not moving anywhere,” said Qi smiling.

When asked what might be next for her, she paused. “First a rest, for a year.” she said. “Then maybe something else with food. Friends have asked me to give cooking classes, maybe cater some private parties, maybe a Chinese take-out place. We’ll see.”

Qi remembered when she was first interviewed by the Town Crier, just after she started business. “That was very special to me,” she said.

“I just want to thank everybody for everything. I am so very grateful.”