Monterey, California: Historic Cannery Row and John Steinbeck Walking Tour
Wing Chong Market / Wing Chong Building
Have a seat on the stone bench in front of the Wing Chong Building and the Cannery Row Shell Company.
Won Yee emigrated from China to San Francisco in 1900 and moved with his family to Monterey in 1918. That same year, Yee and several partners formed the Wing Chong Co. and operated a general store out of the first floor of this location while Yee lived with his family upstairs. The store offered just about anything one needed.
There was a secret passageway that ran between Wing Chong’s and La Ida’s. It was used often during the 1920’s and 30’s as an escape route during police raids.
In 1924, Yee became aware of the growing demand for dried squid in China so he bought squid from Monterey fishermen and dried it outside of town due to a law banning the smelly activity within city limits. The drying area became known as Tarpy Flats and is where the Monterey Airport and the great Tarpy’s Roadhouse Restaurant is today. Quite the entrepreneur, Yee also invented a machine that cleaned the squid and, by 1932, he was shipping ten thousand tons of dried squid to Hong Kong!
John Steinbeck fictionalized Won Yee and his store changing both Yee’s name and the name of his store. Steinbeck did however place the fictional store in its historic location right next to La Ida’s.
If it's open, go inside Kristonio’s which is just to the right of the bench you are sitting on.
Inside you will find an old ice box. It is located just to the right of the cash register area. It is original to Wing Chong’s store and where Ed Rickett’s would find his favorite beer, Burgermeister stocked.
When you're done, exit Kristonio’s and turn right on Cannery Row and continue walking straight.