A History of Leonard’s Cafe, Vancouver, B.C.

In September of 1895, George Clayton Leonard threatened to sue the Consolidated Railway and Light Company because a street car hit his dog.  While the Vancouver Daily World doesn’t say whether Leonard went through with his threat to sue for damages of what was considered one of the best sporting retrievers in the province, its somewhat fitting that the first mention of Leonard was in an article about his dog.[i]  George Clayton Leonard was a sportsman, dog lover, and restauranteur who founded Leonard’s Café and left collectors a legacy of four different hotelware patterns; a café which served Vancouver for over seven decades.


The four logo patterns that have been attributed to the cafe.

While Leonard’s Café didn’t open until 1902, G.C. Leonard was in the Vancouver restaurant business as early as 1894 when he was one of the proprietors of the Oyster Bay Restaurant on Carrall Street.  This is probably where his retriever ran away from when it was hit by the tram near the Market Hall on Westminster Avenue.[1]  Leonard cut his teeth in the restaurant industry at the Oyster Bay, and developed unique marketing strategies to bring patrons to his business.  In 1896, he kept a pair of live ducks in the restaurant window to attract patrons.  But after a while their plumage started to suffer, so Leonard set them free on Lulu Island with a silver plate attached to the leg of each with the following inscription: “March 4, 1896 – Three months after date or later return dead or alive to Oyster Bay Restaurant, Vancouver, B.C. Reward, $3”.[ii]  Surprisingly this unique marketing strategy worked, and the following November, M.J. Henry shot the female duck on Lulu Island.  Mr. Henry, a florist and nursery owner from Mount Pleasant, claimed his reward at the Oyster Bay: “Mr. Henry returned the duck to Mr. Leonard who immediately paid over the reward as promised.  Lulu Island ducks have the reputation of carrying round gold in in their crops, but this bird was a silverite evidently, for it brought Mr. Henry three of Uncle Sam’s ‘cartwheels.’”[iii]

Leonard’s threat of litigation over the death of his dog was by no means an idle one and he was no stranger to the inside of a courtroom – as either the plaintiff or defendant!  In 1897 he was brought up on charges of having a hen pheasant in his possession near Eburne and was forced to pay a $25 fine as well as court costs of $1.50.[iv]  He once pressed charges against an employee, James Hatton, who he caught stealing food when he noticed that the till receipts and inventory didn’t match.[v]  The Westminster Exhibition Association was sued for $100 that they paid to the Vancouver Baseball Club players for a game against the team from Everett, WA at the provincial fair.[vi]  Leonard put a garnishee claim against the team for a $300 catering bill for feeding them during the 1901 season.[vii]  In 1907 theft once again brought Leonard to the courtroom, but this time it was for the theft of his dog by a rancher in Pitt Meadows, Herbert Ford.  While Ford was found guilty, the judge let him off without any penalty.  Undaunted, Leonard then took out a writ of replevin[2] and had the dog seized by the sherriff.  A different magistrate judged in favour of Leonard, with all costs against Ford for a sum around $300.[viii]  Ford claimed that the dog had been chasing his cattle.[ix]

Dogs seem to have been very important in Leonard’s life and he was on the board of the Vancouver Kennel Club.  In their first local bench show, he donated two $2.50 prizes for dogs under twenty pounds[x].  He also showed two dogs: Grouse, an English Setter puppy[xi] and Tige, a Boston Terrier puppy.[xii]  In the first annual bench show in 1903,[xiii] he showed a Pointer puppy named Gipsy I and in 1904 a dog named Prince, of an unspecified breed made it into the “Local Briefs” section of the paper.   The reporter described him in glowing terms, praising him for being a first class messenger between Leonard’s Coffee Palace and his home on McInnes Street.  Apparently he could carry a dozen eggs without any breaking, and never got into the parcels no matter how tasty they may have smelled.[xiv]  Another pointer named Jerry was shown at the Vancouver Kennel Club in January[xv] and May[xvi] of 1906. Jerry was still part of the Leonard household in 1910 when an ad appeared in the Vancouver Daily World looking for Jerry and “any information which will lead to recovery of this dog will be gratefully received by G. Clayton Leonard.  Anyone found harboring same will be prosecuted.  Leonard’s Café, opposite new post office.”[xvii]   But once again, in 1908, Leonard and a dog made the local paper and became involved in an assault case.  An unnamed black Cocker Spaniel was found on the property of Henry McArthur, of South Vancouver.  Leonard and Sheriff Hall approached the property and Leonard recognized the sound of the Spaniel’s bark.  The sheriff was serving another writ of replevin to seize the dog and McArther and his wife both attacked them with sticks, with Sheriff Hall receiving a blow.  McArthur claimed that the sheriff didn’t identify himself as an officer of the court, and Hall and Leonard both said that they identified themselves during the melee.  While the jury did find that the Sheriff did identify himself, they concluded that the information wasn’t conveyed properly and McArthur was convicted of assault, rather than much more serious charge of assaulting a police peace officer.[xviii]  With his involvement with the kennel club and because he literally fought for them, Leonard’s passion for dogs understandably spilled over into his restaurant business and became his brand.


The Hastings street side of the Arcade, with the Commercial Hotel in the background.  Leonard’s Coffee Palace was in units five and seven from 1902-07, according to directories.  The Arcade was replaced by the Dominion Trust Building. Ca. 1900 (Vancouver Archives CVA 371-2103)


: A closeup of the Hastings Street entrance, showing a walkway open to the street with shops to either side. Ca. 1900 (Vancouver Archives CVA 371-2104)


A portion of a fire insurance map showing the general layout of the Arcade.  Leonard’s Coffee Palace was in #7.  The Flack block is across the street, next to the Commercial Hotel.

Leonard operated the Oyster Bay Restaurant from 1894 through 1903, and opened “Leonard’s Coffee Palace” at 7 Arcade and at 416 West Hastings in 1902.  The Arcade was a single story building at the corner of Hastings and Cambie, and across from the courthouse.  This ideal location was right at the heart of the city’s commercial core and was a popular landmark in its day.  The coffee palace eventually expanded into unit 5 as well, and shared space with a jeweler, real estate agent, and typewriter supply store.  Unfortunately the rapid development of the city claimed the Arcade, and it was torn down to build the Dominion Trust Building.  According to local directories, he operated a second location at 416 Granville Street, and a third location was apparently in New Westminster, though research has not turned up any additional information about this location at this time.  Three months after his dog Prince was in the news, the following appeared in the Mt. Pleasant Advocate: “Mr. G. Clayton Leonard has received from England very handsome china for use in his Coffee Palaces, the Arcade, Granville Street and New Westminster.  The decorations are a dog’s head, and the name “Leonard” in light pink.”[xix]  Given the time frame, its possible that the pink dog’s head on the earliest piece of restaurantware is a portrait of Prince, who was a regular sight at the restaurant.  It is also likely that the crockery was supplied by Frederick Buscombe & Co. Ltd, a local glassware merchant that was headquartered on the same block as the Arcade.  This has not yet been confirmed as only a single creamer was examined and it bore only a John Maddock & Sons mark and no distributor.


Creamer from Leonard’s Coffee Palace.

Progress continued to march on, and Leonard was forced to give up his Granville location only two years after his new crockery was ordered, as the wooden buildings would be razed to make room for the Bank of Commerce.  During the brief time his old space sat vacant it was used to store relief supplies that were gathered by Vancouver residents for the victims of the Great San Francisco Earthquake.

In 1906 he built and opened his location at 716 West Hastings Street, right beside the MacKinnon Block.  Its grand opening on April 5, 1906 was feted by the press, saying that “Its opening marks a new era locally in the business in which Mr. Leonard is engaged, and a visit to the place is well worth one’s while simply for the purposes of inspection.”  He engaged the design services of Mr. James Bloomfield[3] who decorated the restaurant as well as designed the furniture.  Entering the nearly one hundred foot dining room from the street, diners stepped across a tiled entry in which a mosaic of the famous Leonard badge of the head of a setter bearing a bird was inlaid.  The design was repeated on some of the light fixtures.  The dining room was decorated in a west coast theme featuring scenes of First Nations peoples in four large murals entitled The First Sockeye, The Clam Gatherers, The Homecoming, and The Lone Paddler.  Four large folding screens were decorated with scenes of birds and morning themes featuring paintings of English Bay, the Prospect Point lighthouse and other local scenes and landmarks.  The room was floored in Australian mahogany and black butt (other name?) and was patterned to line up with the architectural divisions in the walls.  Natural light was filtered in through stained glass windows.  A grand staircase at the back of the dining room lead up to a rooftop garden which would be open seasonally for dining and, at the time of its construction, afforded views of Burrard Inlet.[xx]


A year after building his grand restaurant at 716 West Hastings, the Arcade was demolished to make way for the Dominion Trust building, and in 1906 Leonard moved his business across the street to the Flack Block, and operated the café in the basement.  He eventually took over the entire basement of the building, and with a large scale renovation in 1912, expanded the restaurant to 350 seats.  It had all new oak furniture, paneling on the walls, and an up to date ventilation system installed.  A new entrance to the restaurant was also constructed facing Cambie Street.[xxi]  Leonard would own this location for another three years, and sold his restaurant business in 1915.


The Cambie Street side of the Flack block.  The café came to occupy the entire basement of the building. Ca. 1914 (Vancouver Archives CVA 166-1)

Leonard was also a family man, with a wife, Nellie, and two daughters George Beulah and Mina.  While Mrs. Leonard doesn’t feature nearly as prominently in the public record, she seems to have been a strong person, who would stand up for herself.  For example, in 1901, the Vancouver Daily World reported that she was the victim of an attempted purse snatching.  She also travelled independently to Maine with her daughters.  The girls attended boarding school in Toronto, and both married men from their mother’s home state of Maine.  They also were mentioned occasionally in the society column, with descriptions of parties as well as school accomplishments. After selling the restaurant business, Leonard became known as a land developer, and was mentioned as such in the newspaper in the appropriately titled “Personal and Hotel Gossip” column when he was visiting San Francisco in 1911 and stayed at the St. Francis Hotel.[xxii]    The marriage with Nellie broke down, and in March of 1912, he obtained a divorce from her in Reno, Nevada.  The reason for the divorce was “Desertion and extreme cruelty.  He testified that she deserted him in Toronto and that she also treated him in a cruel manner.  He also testified to giving his wife $10,000 and $300 per month alimony”[xxiii].  Ten days later, he married Jeannette Rice, a wealthy widow who had been a long time resident of the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco.  Four months before he died, he changed his will, leaving the bulk of his estate to her, and dividing his property between his siblings, mother, and his daughters.  On September 4, 1915, George Clayton Leonard died at his home in Los Angeles.


A photo of G. Clayton Leonard taken shortly before his death.  This was taken near his fishing lodge on the Stave River, near Whonnock, BC.

Article about a hunting and fishing trip taken by G.C. Leonard

His will listed $150,000 in assets in the form of properties in Vancouver, New Westminster, Calgary, and his home in Los Angeles where he lived with his new wife.  He also had stocks in a number of mining and oil companies.[xxiv]  Among his liabilities, was $25,000 for Nellie Leonard, who seems to have negotiated up from the $10,000 payment mentioned previously.  His will left all the property he owned in Calgary, including another Leonard Café, to his siblings and mother.  Half was to be kept, and half sold to buy stocks in the Royal Bank of Canada and pay annuities to them.  His properties in Vancouver were to be all sold and half the money would go to his new wife, and the other half to be put in trust in the form of shares in the Royal Bank, to be paid out to his now married daughters.  The rest of the personal property, stocks, and life insurance money would go to Jeannette, and to Nellie, nothing.  Nellie contested the will for fear that since probate had been granted in the state of California, rather than in British Columbia where the bulk of the estate was, that the payment of her allowance could be endangered.[xxv]  While Nellie wasn’t listed in the will, her payment was noted in the probate papers as being one of the liabilities, along with a mortgage still on the basement of the Flack Block.

While the Leonard Café would continue at his purpose built restaurant on West Hastings, the Flack Block location closed in 1915 and the space was occupied by the White Rose Café, with Dan Chong as proprietor.[xxvi]  Charles G. Dixon and Mrs. Charlotte Madill took over proprietorship of the Leonard Café, and ran it for eight years, from 1916 to 1925.  Redecorating took place in 1918, when $2500 was spent on overhauling the space, and a “special artist” was engaged to do mural work.[xxvii]  The firm of Dixon & Murray completed the work as well as constructed a Shaughnessy mansion for Charles Dixon.  Dixon and Madill took over the café during an era when the labour movement was developing in British Columbia, and a combination of inflation and economic hardship during World War One kept wages down.  The British Columbia Federationist, a publication of the BC Federation of Labour and the Vancouver Trades and Labour Council, reported that the Leonard Café, among others “still insist on paying their employees low wages and working them long hours.”[xxviii]  The café remained on their list of restaurants that didn’t use fair labour practices until at least the summer of 1919, with the BC Fed calling for the solidarity of all unions to not patronize these businesses.  The café was also the victim of a “dine and dash” protest by unemployed men, who ordered breakfast onto a single tab, and skipped out on the bill.  Ten men, all well dressed, ordered breakfast and after they were presented the bill for $4.45 and told the cashier to send it to the mayor, Charles Tisdall.  This brazen act took place while a police constable was right outside the front window.  Other establishments, such as Allen’s Café, Oaks Café, and the Good Eats Café were also affected.

The café became less prominent as other hotels and restaurants were constructed, and the dining scene in Vancouver evolved.  After Dixon and Madill owned the café, it passed into the hands of the Michas family who ran it for nearly twenty years, from 1925-44, when it was then sold to the Menzies family of Chilliwack.  The Menzies were the final owners, until the café burned down in 1961, taking the Arctic Club, located on the second floor, with it.  This was a $300,000 loss for the Menzies, which was fortunately covered by insurance.[xxix]

Leonard’s Café was shaped by its founder, G.C. Leonard, a man who wasn’t afraid to try new things and who died a wealthy man and left collectors a legacy of china to be found at antique shops, flea markets and thrift stores.  He was well known sportsman, with interests in hunting and baseball, and of course his love of dogs, which have been immortalized on his distinctive china.  The next time you find an oval plate or a creamer, and examine that logo, it may be Gipsy or Prince staring back at you.


The small oval platter and the creamer were made by John Maddock and Sons and the large platter and plate are from the Pacific Coast Importing Company.


These pieces were all made by Grindley and date from the 1930s.


[1] Westminster Avenue became Main Street in 1910.

[2] Replevin is a action or a writ issued to recover an item of personal property wrongfully taken. Replevin, sometimes known as “claim and delivery”, is an antiquated legal remedy in which a court requires a defendant to return specific goods to the plaintiff at the beginning of the action.

[3] See Jason Vanderhill’s Vancouver Is Awesome article at http://bit.ly/2hlaXM7 for more information about this artist.

[i] (Vancouver Daily World, 1895)

[ii] (To Be Set Free, 1896)

[iii] (Local Gossip, 1896)

[iv] (New Westminster, 1897)

[v] (Had People To Feed, 1898)

[vi] (Cash for Hash: Clayton Leonard Takes Proceedings for Baseballers’ Board Bill, 1901)

[vii] (Must Think It Over: Restauranteur Leonard and the Baseballers’ Unpaid Board Bill, 1901)

[viii] (Judge Henderson Gives Decision In Well Known Leonard-Ford Case, 1907)

[ix] (Local News Briefly Told, 1906)

[x] (Vancouver Kennel Club, 1904)

[xi] (Vancouver Kennel Club, 1904)

[xii] (Vancouver Kennel Club, 1904)

[xiii] (Vancouver Kennel Club, 1903)

[xiv] (Local Briefs, 1904)

[xv] (Kennel Club Men To Hold Banquet, 1906)

[xvi] (Sports, 1906)

[xvii] (Lost, 1910)

[xviii] (Didn’t Know He Was Officer, 1908)

[xix] (Local Items, 1904)

[xx] (The New Leonard’s Opens Its Doors – Popular Caterer’s Latest and Greatest Establishment, 1906)

[xxi] (Leonard’s Cafe Now Ready, 1912)

[xxii] (Personal and Hotel Gossip, 1911)

[xxiii] (Applicants Get Decrees, 1912)

[xxiv] (Leonard, 1915)

[xxv] (Leonard Will Again Before The Court, 1917)

[xxvi] (Old Haunt Closed, 1915)

[xxvii] (Fine Decorations are going in Popular Cafe, 1918)

[xxviii] (Hotel and Restaurant Employees, 1918)

[xxix] (Sustain $300,000 Fire Loss, 1961)


Works Cited

(1895, September 21). Vancouver Daily World, p. 8.

Applicants Get Decrees. (1912, March 1). Reno Gazette-Journal, p. 1.

Cash for Hash: Clayton Leonard Takes Proceedings for Baseballers’ Board Bill. (1901, October 14). Vancouver Daily World, p. 5.

Didn’t Know He Was Officer. (1908, October 17). Vancouver Daily World, p. 7.

Fine Decorations are going in Popular Cafe. (1918, December 11). British Columbia Record, p. 1.

Had People To Feed. (1898, October 25). Vancouver Daily World, p. 5.

Hotel and Restaurant Employees. (1918, July 19). British Columbia Federationist, p. 1.

Judge Henderson Gives Decision In Well Known Leonard-Ford Case. (1907, January 7). Vancouver Daily World, p. 15.

Kennel Club Men To Hold Banquet. (1906, May 11). Vancouver Daily World, p. 6.

Leonard Will Again Before The Court. (1917, March 21). Vancouver Daily World, p. 8.

Leonard, G. C. (1915, April 15). Last Will and Testament of George Clayton Leonard. Vancouver, British Columbia: BC Archives.

Leonard’s Cafe Now Ready. (1912, February 13). Vancouver Daily World, p. 20.

Local Briefs. (1904, May 16). Vancouver Daily World, p. 2.

Local Gossip. (1896, November 3). Vancouver Daily World, p. 8.

Local Items. (1904, February 6). Mt. Pleasant Advocate, p. 1.

Local News Briefly Told. (1906, October 23). The Daily News, p. 5.

Lost. (1910, September 6). Vancouver Daily Wolrd, p. 25.

Must Think It Over: Restauranteur Leonard and the Baseballers’ Unpaid Board Bill. (1901, October 19). Vancouver Daily World, p. 1.

New Westminster. (1897, October 8). Vancouver Daily World, p. 4.

Old Haunt Closed. (1915, June 1). Vancouver Daily World, p. 14.

Personal and Hotel Gossip. (1911, June 9). San Francisco Chronicle, p. 6.

Sports. (1906, May 11). Vancouver Daily World, p. 15.

Sustain $300,000 Fire Loss. (1961, December 19). Chilliwack Progress, p. 1.

The New Leonard’s Opens Its Doors – Popular Caterer’s Latest and Greatest Establishment. (1906, April 5). Vancouver Daily World, p. 14.

To Be Set Free. (1896, March 6). Vancouver Daily World, p. 3.

Vancouver Kennel Club. (1903). Catalogue of First Local Bench Show of Dogs. Vancouver: Evans & Hastings.

Vancouver Kennel Club. (1904). First Annual Bench Show Held March 31st, April 1st & 2nd, 1904. Vancouver: Vancouver Kennel Club.


Day Two: Icy Roads and Sidewalks, Fender Benders and Finds


View from my hotel room in the morning.

I got a decent price on the hotel, which was what inspired this trip in the first place, but its probably because the room hasn’t been updated in twenty years and I think that the thermostat is for decoration rather than function.  But the hotel is in a decent location away from the downtown crowds, so the streets are quieter at night, which is a bonus with the thin, single glazed windows.  So this morning I listed some items on ebay that I brought with me so I could get some “work” done this morning as well.  I did a mass listing for eight Tim Horton’s soup bowls (purchased, not stolen) and a pair of size 44 True Religion jeans.  I typically list Diesel and True Religion as “buy it now” for $39.99, but the final sales showed that I may be able to get more.  Since a got a bid within ten minutes, with a starting price of $39.99, it seems like the Lululemon resale rule applies to True Religion:  The bigger the size, the bigger the profit!


The fatter the ass, the fatter the profit!

After listing, I went to the $14 breakfast buffet which was included last time since I was staying in a suite but I didn’t think it was worth $14.  The food was lukewarm.  But it was off to my first stops of the day which I took the car out for.  I needed to meet someone that I sold a vintage suitcase to on Abbotsford Bidding Wars and we were both coincidentally in Victoria at the same time.  So in order to make the most of taking the car out on dangerous streets, I went to a couple of home consignment stores: Super Chance and Good Things Consignment. But nothing good was to be found at either.  I also went to a Salvation Army thrift store that was a little off the beaten track but I bought a “Hallmark Keepsake” Eastern Bluebird ornament that I think I can make a few bucks on.  It was in a shopping cart full of stuff and I wasn’t sure if it was stock that was going out on the floor or of the cart belonged to a very enthusiastic shopper.  I grabbed it quickly, inspected the product, and paid.  But it was off to meet my buyer at the Capital City Centre Hotel, which was a former Traveller’s Inn that was renovated and rebranded after that local chain went out of business.

The exchange went off without a hitch, but the entrance was on a hill that was covered in ice.  I was fine getting in, but I didn’t want to careen out of control and hit the cars parked on either side of the road.  As I was inching out, a butter yellow Chrysler PT Cruiser came barreling down the hill and I thought to myself, “I can see this turning out poorly,” and I was correct.  The back end slid out, and he glanced off the bumper of this 1980s Ford pickup.  The impact cracked and dislodged the Chrysler’s bumper.  I proceeded slowly down the hill, which was only 30 meters, and went around the Chrysler.  The driver had pulled off to the side at the corner and while it sustained damage, the Ford was none the worse for wear.  I enjoyed the whole episode immensely.


Six brass uniform buttons from the Kings Own Calgary Regiment and one from the First Hussars.  Total investment:$3.00

After I parked the car, I did my standard antique store route by walking up and down Fort Street.  My first stop was at a collectibles store simply called Curiosity Shop and I poked through a box of military buttons sitting on the counter, and they were all RCAF, except for the seven above.  I had good luck flipping a mug from a branch of the military for $50 that I paid $3 for, so I thought I would try these.  Time will tell if I do well or not.  That was my only purchase on the former “Antique Row”.  Many of the few remaining shops are closing because the area is undergoing redevelopment.  After my walk up and down Fort, I headed to Command Post of Militaria on Government Street and looked around there.  They have a stack of plates from the Sons of Empire, which was a social club/fraternal organization in Victoria, and they were for sale for $5.00 a plate.  I’ll go back tomorrow and try and make a deal.  I didn’t want to carry around a heavy stack of plates.  From there it was to Green Cuisine Vegetarian Restaurant, which does a really nice buffet.  There was no line, thank God, because these weak vegetarians take forever to shuffle through, likely due to a lack of meat in their diet.

From there, I rounded out my day stopping at the downtown Salvation Army thrift store and on to the Value Village.  That location is easily the busiest I’ve ever been in, and for a time of year that is generally slow for that business, the place was hopping.  The jewellery section is always well organized and they had some jade cufflinks that I’m still considering.  I started at the jewellery and then zigzagged through the housewares and spotted a familiar sight.


Five plates from Canadian Railway News!  The one at the bottom was individually priced at $1.99.  I’m starting to get an accumulation of these, and I hope to trade them to another collector.

There were no other jeans, though I picked up an interesting vintage puzzle that I will re-gift.  I spent probably and hour and a half browsing, and I will definitely go back in the days to come.

Day One: Let it Snow, Rain, and Freezing Rain from Abbotsford to Victoria

Today was the start of my three night trip to Victoria, and I planned my journey to make the most efficient use of my time and resources.  First off, I got up early and did some ebay shipping stuff.  I had sold two items in the past day, and since I would miss one of my normal shipping days I prevailed upon my brother-in-law to bring them across the border to Sumas to mail them for me.  I got them both prepped mostly the night before, but I had to print off a shipping label for one in the morning.  I headed off to Aldergrove to leave them in his garage.  Of course this was the first day in a long time that we actually got snow, and it was lightly falling as I made my way to Aldergrove.  I gave myself ample time, so after I left the parcels I quietly entered the house to visit the cat, LB.


Who can resist such fluffy cuteness?!?!

From there, it was on to the freeway and to the ferry, a journey that included stop and go traffic, rain, snow, flurries, and heavy snow.  I took the Tsawwassen – Duke Point ferry to Nanaimo to visit some of the thrift stores and antique shops up there.  The sailing was fine and in the middle of the Strait of Georgia we found snow flurries and the captain made an announcement that a gray whale was flopping around out there.  So I got to do some whale watching, just like I did on the “Friendship Cruise”.  From there, it was off the ferry and out to Coombs to an antique shop that has yielded some good finds in the past, called “High Class” Junque.


Nanaimo through the fog and flurries.


Harbour traffic.


“High Class” Junque store, site of my first finds.

I poked around in that store for quite a while, and I bought two pieces that I intend to flip on ebay.  Sadly, there was nothing here for my collection.  But the sky was getting brighter, so I spent some time next door at the Coombs Country Market and bought a couple of things to give away for Christmas.  The S.O.S. thrift store in nearby Parksville usually has some treasures but it and the local Salvation Army were both busts, so I headed back to Nanaimo through some very thick snow.


My finds from “High Class” Junque: A Long Bell bowl made by Buffalo China and a pinecone pattern fruit nappy made by Tepco.  Since they are both American made, there is no place for them in my collection.

I stopped at a few thrift stores in Nanaimo, and there was nothing but crap.  I couldn’t find anything there for my collection or to flip.  I was tempted by some wine glasses at one store, but I wanted to save my money.  The last store I stopped at had a stack of Medalta soup plates that I ended up picking up.  They are plain, but sturdy like the Alberta clay they were made from.  My next destination was the Nanaimo Value Village, where I have had some luck in the past with some vintage crafting stuff.  By now, it was 3:15 pm and it was starting to get darker out.  I didn’t linger too long in the store but I did find a pair of Diesel jeans that I can make some money on, and on on the bottom shelf, I spied with my little eye…


A Canadian Railway News fruit nappy.  The company has evolved from operating lunch counters and selling newspapers and is now operating such restaurants as Harvey’s, Milestones, Montana’s, New York Fries, and others. 

After this, I headed to Chemainus to visit one of the antique malls, but it to was a disappointment.  I bought a Steitz butter pat that I already had in my collection because it was only $10 and I didn’t want to leave empty handed.  By then, I was tired from the early morning and hungry, so I stopped at a grocery store in Duncan for a wrap, filled up the tank, and drove through more ugly weather to Victoria, and parked in front of my hotel, the Harbour Towers.  At this point, my brain was only working at 30% capacity.  When I walked in, some random guy asked me if I was the driver.  Since I had just parked in a passenger drop off zone in front of the hotel, I said that I was a driver.  Turns out, he thought I was a cab driver and I had to inform him that I was simply a guest at the hotel, checking in.  I hope Day 2 is more exciting.

Vancouver and the Value Village Circuit

Vancouver is an interesting quandry when it comes to collecting for me.  Do I want to make a trip into town on the off chance that I might find something?  It usually a fruitless search but the occasional find plants a seed of doubt in my mind.  I try to rationalize such trips by tacking it on to something else:  A visit to an art exhibit at UBC, picking up a Sunday afternoon shift at one of our western library branches, or in this case, doing a partial Value Village circuit.  My intentions are to always get to the antique shows at the Croatian Cultural Centre as it opens but true to form, I got there half an hour later than I intended (due to a combination of stopping at the bank, grabbing a coffee, and the distractions of cute cat videos on the internet)

I found adequate parking, entered and muscled my way through the first room of antique vendors.  The show organizers cram as many tables as humanly possible into the venue, leaving little room for the shoppers to maneuver.  Its like a game of Pac Man, avoiding people and looking for a clear path between the tables, and trying to get down every aisle.  I was surprised that I actually found two treasures.


A dinner plate from the St. Francis Hotel, which was located in downtown Vancouver across the street from the current Waterfront Skytrain Station and Seabus Terminal (formerly the CPR station.  The envelope is from Buscombe & Co, the company that imported the plate from England.  Follow the above link for more information about the hotel!

I purchased both items from fellow members of the Fraser Valley Antiques and Collectibles Club, and I was very glad to get them.  If this was the only find of the day, I would have been satisfied.  Although I didn’t need anything else to justify the trip, there were multiple Value Villages beckoning.  The first one I went to is south of the Croatian Cultural Centre on Victoria Drive, and is often more trouble than its worth.  I had to go around the block twice to find parking, and there were no collectible treasures to be found.  But anything for the collection would be gravy on top, because I was really searching for things that I could resell on ebay.  To fund my collection, home repairs, and holidays, I buy and flip thrift store stuff.  Its mainly designer jeans from Diesel, but I also will do True Religion and 7 For All Mankind.  I found a couple pairs of jeans, spotted some Lego in a display case that was missing all the mini figures, and saw some interesting folk.  When I was checking out the Lego, there were two women at the checkout taking their sweet time.  But they were wearing furry costumes, but without the heads.  There was no good opportunity to take a picture, but though it was odd, I support their personal expression.

After leaving the store on Victoria Drive, I headed back to Grandview Highway and to the Transcanada to go to the Value Village on United Boulevard in Coquitlam.  I had way better luck with the parking situation there, and was able to enter the store promptly.  I started my circuit of the store at the jewellery cases, and seeing no cufflinks, I started zig zagging through the housewares.  I searched the dishes down the aisle from bottom to the top, and when I reached the very end on the top of the shelf, I saw the telltale sign of a stack of hotelware:  Thicker rounded edges.  Since they were on the top shelf, I couldn’t see if they were a stock pattern which I have seen a lot of at this location.  I reached up, pulled them down, and the shock at what I found was matched only by the sticker price:  Six Western Canada Steamship Company side plates for $12.99!


Western Canada Steamship Company plates in the basket that barely rolled.

I would have paid more for a single plate, and was over the moon.  I like to use this pattern when I have people over for dinner, and I have quite a few place settings.  Dishes from WCSSCo were much more common a few years ago, but the supply has dried up.  When I first started collecting, I found a cereal bowl at the Maple Ridge Value Village which got me interested in the pattern, and I later picked up a box full of the dishes at an antique show.  I’m very lucky to have found these.  Of course I hoped to find more and scoured the shelves to no avail.  I tracked down a rolling shopping basket that still had partial functioning of the wheels (also a Value Village rarity, where the basket wheels are more lint than wheel).  The rest of the store was a bust, so it was on to the next stores.

I ended up visiting three more: Two more in Coquitlam (North Road and Lougheed Hwy) and Maple Ridge.  I bought an assortment of jeans, a book, and a Scene It Marvel boardgame that will end up on ebay before the Christmas rush is over.  Maple Ridge had the added bonus of running into a colleague from the Pitt Meadows Library whon I don’t often see anymore since I am full time in Clearbrook.  All in all, it was one of the most successful and exciting trips that I’ve been on to the thrift stores.  As I write this, I’m on the ferry to Nanaimo where I will hopefully find more treasures before I head down the Island for a three night stay in Victoria.


This shows the pricing difference between stores.  $9.99 for a modern Vancouver Club cup and saucer.  This was spotted at the Value Village on North Road where an older fellow was also seen walking around wearing a Mexican poncho.


Vancouver Island: Day Two

Well I’m back in the line for the ferry at the end of a long day waiting to head back to the mainland. It’s been a long hot trip and today I stopped and probably a dozen different stores in search of treasure. But of course it all started out at the campground and after I packed everything up had a shower and checked out I headed into Nanaimo and went to the first thrift store I could find. And wouldn’t you know I actually found something completely new! 

This is a mug from BC Ferries that was used on their very short-lived Pacificat Fleet, high speed ferries that barely saw service before they were mothballed and sold off

What a fortuitous start to the day!  The next thrift store was a bit of a dud but after that I found something that looked a little bit… familiar.  Another BC Ferries mug.

An action shot of the mug as I found it.

Once again I barely got into the car before I spotted another thrift shop and found a plane creamer in the stock pattern. The finds restarting it a little bit more interesting, and a little bit older. The mugs from the BC Ferries date back to the late nineties or early 2000. The creamers made by John Maddock & Sons and the pattern is called Rosebud.

Is it starting to get repetitive!  Because at the next thrift store I found yet another BC Ferries mug, and some other stock pattern hotelware restaurant pieces. I found a stock pattern gravy boat three side plates in a pattern that was used by Canadian Railway News, and two small plates with Evergreen border.

After all this time getting in and out of thrift stores it was time it’s a real antique shops. The first two antique malls didn’t have anything but the third one I found some neat pieces.  A few were plain, but there was an oval bowl from the Tzouhalem Hotel and a tiny butter pat/ice cream shell.  Even though it is from Toronto, I didn’t want to leave it behind.  It had been in the shop for a few years (it also had a dead fly in it) and the price dropped low enough for me.

But now it was late afternoon and the whole reason for my trip to this island was approaching. It was the antique show in Duncan BC and I made arrangements to trade a mug from the Union Steamship Company for a hotel butter pat.  Before making the trade-off I did a quick Buzz around the show to see if I could find any other Treasures but I didn’t find a thing. I did have a nice time talking with vendors and meeting other collectors that have the same interest and giving my contact information.  I’m always looking to buy or trade but I also enjoy seeing other collections of hotelware so I could learn what is potentially out there to be found. I ended up buying a plain restaurant Ware mug to add to my collection as well.

The crowds! Who knows how many were bought before i got inside!

The Coldstream Hotel was near Vernon, BC

Vancouver Island: Day One

After my marathon trip to the Interior, I had half a day at home to run errands before an upcoming cruise the following Saturday.  Every year there is an antique show in Duncan, BC on Vancouver Island that I like to attend and visit some of the local antique malls and thrift shops to find more hotelware pieces.  I woke up at 5:30 AM and was on the road to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal to catch the 7:45 AM sailing to Nanaimo, a two hour journey.  While driving through Langley, I saw the digital ferry information display showing how full the sailings were.  I saw forty minutes away, and the ferry was already 80% full!  I booked it the rest of the way, and ended up just barely squeaking on to the ferry.  The sailing was uneventful, and I found myself at the Nanaimo Value Village at about 10:30 AM.


My bug encrusted car.


No hotelware at this Value Village, but I found a rather nice midcentury modern landscape painting and a pair of cufflinks.  You can’t see it in the picture but the price on the painting was $14.99.

After Nanaimo, I headed north to Parksville to a church thrift store that I’ve had really good luck at before, and found a single bowl.  This was a fortuitous find, since a red version of the same bowl brought be such good luck on the last trip!  I stopped at two other stores in Parksville before heading to Coombs, and the antique stores there.  The power of the bowl held true, and I found four pieces, and two more pairs of cufflinks!


Thrift store action shot!


Alligator head fiercely guarding a Hotel Manitoba plate.  The hotel building still stands in Gastown.

In addition to the Hotel Manitoba plate, I also picked up a creamer in a stock pattern that was used on Union Steamship Company vessels as well as two side plates from the Western Canada Steamship Company (WCSC).  WCSC operated out of Vancouver, and used surplus ships that were purchased from the Canadian government after the Second World War.


Here is one of the WCSC plates.  The store owner didn’t know what line they were from, and I said that for a discount I would reveal all!  I was just joking, but she gave me $2 off each, along with small discounts on the other dishes.

After visiting another store that sold some vintage stuff and soap (I bought three bars), I headed to Qualicum Beach, where I struck out at both the thrift and antique stores.  I’m writing this in the Parksville McDonald’s and using their terrible Wifi before I head to my campsite at Brannan Lake!  Tomorrow I will go south of Nanaimo, and visit Ladysmith, Chemainus, and end in Duncan at the antique show!


My campsite at Brannen Lake in Nanaimo.


No tent for me!  This is why I wanted a station wagon.

Summer Holiday Hunting

I finally have two weeks of summer holiday!  I vow to never wait so long during the summer to take time off again.  I was burnt out from work, and ready for some R&R, so I went to my parents’ cottage at the Shuswap for a couple of nights to relax, read, and enjoy the beach.  But after a day of that, I got bored so I decided to drive to Vernon, and visit some antique stores and thrift shops in between and see if I could find anything to add to my collection.  This is something that I do every year, and it usually turns out fruitless, but I don’t want to give up!  After all, luck was on my side because I already found a plain piece of restaurant ware at the Value Village in Chilliwack, where I stopped on my way to Anglemont, BC.

$4.99 is way more that I would like to pay for a plain piece of restaurantware, especially one that was coated in nicotine, but I was riding high from finding some jeans to resell on Ebay. But this was from the day before. The first find of my treasure hunt was a pink, floral restaurant platter that I found at a church thrift store in Salmon Arm for $0.25. It was practically free!

The other thrift stores in Salmon Arm yielded nothing, so I went non-stop down to Vernon to the Value Village there. I really lucked out because I found four more bowls. They’re plain but a great usable size.

At this point, I was getting pretty tired, and I took the extra scenic route back to the cabin, over the Chase-Falkland road. It has a portion of which that is still packed dirt and gravel, but the condition of the road was fine. I ended up going to bed early, and set my alarm for 5:30 AM to get an early start to head back home the next day.

Well I ended up waking at 4:00 AM, and finally gave up getting back to sleep and got up at 4:30, and was on the road shortly after five. By the time I got to Kamloops I was super tired, so I stopped at Tim Horton’s for breakfast and a coffee to keep me alert. The coffee didn’t help when I drove past Merritt without looking at my gas gauge and realized that an eighth of a tank wouldn’t get me to Hope, about 90 km distant, so I turned around at the Coldstream exit and went back to Merritt to fill my tank. By the time I got back to Chilliwack, it was well past ten, and that meant that thrift stores were open again! I visited about six of them, plus the Value Village once again, and I the only thing I found was an ironstone platter.

I ended up getting back to my apartment around 12:30, and right away jumped back in to the car with two parcels that I needed to mail at the US Post Office in Sumas. After the post office, I visited a friend, ran some errands in town and just before I headed home, I stopped at the Value Village about 300 meters away from home, and found the find of the trip!


This platter is from the Terminal City Club, which still operates in downtown Vancouver!