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Phantom signs: Baker’s Grocery

Updated: Mar 19, 2023

Go for a walk on Beatty Avenue in Nelson, down by the waterfront next to the RCMP station, and you will come across this curious building.

From 1948 to 1952, Colin Baker ran a confectionery at the corner of Baker and Railway streets. In 1953 or 1954, he moved the store to its present location, next to his house along the waterfront. It was listed in the 1954 directory as Baker’s Grocery & Confectionery, 1026 Beatty Ave., but it only lasted a year or two. No doubt its remote location did it no favors. Amazingly, though, the sign survived. The building is now used as a workshop by the Coletti family.

Colin and Ted Baker were twin brothers who married twin sisters, Jean and Agnes Gibson. Jean was a Nelson Daily News reporter while Agnes was a teacher and librarian. Their father, John, was postmaster, while their maternal grandfather, E.E. Phair was proprietor of the Phair Hotel, later renamed the Strathcona. According to George Coletti, Ted worked for Kelly Douglas wholesale while Colin worked for Star Grocery in the 1930s. Their father, Frank, worked in the grocery business as well.

When I spoke to her around 2008, Agnes recalled of Baker’s Grocery: “It didn’t run very long. It wasn’t successful at all.”

Afterward, Colin went back to work for Star Grocery and was later a toll collector on the orange bridge. He met a sad end in July 1966, when he drowned in Kootenay Lake, age 51. His obituary in the Nelson Daily News reported that his body was recovered on the shore near his home:

Footprints indicated he had been walking along the shore when he had stumbled over some old rails on the beach. It is believed he struck his head and fell with his face in the water. ... Mr. Baker was well known in musical circles during his younger days, participating in the Kootenay Music Festivals in the tenor classes. In 1938 he tied with Donald Beattie in the tenor open competition. He had also been a member of the choir of the Church of the Redeemer. He served in the Royal Canadian Airforce during World War II. He operated his own grocery store for a time at the corner of Baker and Railway streets in the 1940s.

George Coletti, who now lives on the property, said Colin was a “wonderful fellow, who sang in Mrs. Ferguson’s choir, and had a great sense of humour.” As for why he moved the store to Beatty Ave. of all places, Coletti suggested it was just because Colin already owned the property.

For a while, the Colettis thought about tearing the old store down, but it made such a nice little party house that they decided not to. For a while, the building had another sign, left over from filming of Roxanne. It was originally placed on Colettis’ Baker Street antique shop, which for the movie was turned into a fur store called All Things Dead.

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