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The little stores of Nelson

Updated: Apr 17

By Ted Burns


When I think of the Nelson of the 1950s, one of the first things I think about are the neighbourhood stores. I also think about the early days of rock and roll — Bill Haley, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly — the sock hops at L.V. Rogers where I was a first time student transferring over from St. Joseph’s when they closed the high school, the beginnings of skiing and how few people lived across the lake then before the bridge and Johnstone Road were built. Most people just lived there in the summer and went over to town by rowboat.

We lived at 1002 Kootenay Street then and my pals were Tom Ramsay, Gary Kilpatrick, the Goldsbury brothers, Dick Gelinas, Harry Cox, Muggsy Holmes and Clare Palmer. The neighbor hood was pretty well gutted by highway construction in the 1970s but our little house remains.

So does Tremain’s Store at Hall Mines and Kootenay (aka Cross Roads Store, 1103 Hall Mines, T. Davison, prop. in 1955 and later Andrew Tremain, prop.) where many of the kids went to stock up on Kik Cola and McIntosh Toffee.

1103 Hall Mines Road was once the Cross Roads Store.

Another local store was Herron’s Grocery on Stanley between Latimer and Mill (aka the Maple Leaf Grocery, Joe Herron prop. until 1950, followed by Hugh Horswill – still standing). That was the best place for popsicles and was adjacent to both Central and St. Joseph’s schools.

Even more fortunately located for sugar hounds was the very popular Sugar Bowl which definitely had a large supply of candy — bins of jaw breakers and penny candy (902 Josephine, H.E. Mannings proprietor in 1955 – demolished). Then there was the Uphill Store which was more of a legitimate grocery store in those days.

Sugar Bowl calendar, 1957. (Courtesy Ed Mannings)

Some of the other stores had more basic supplies as well. Scott’s Grocery (823 Nelson Ave., George Scott, prop. in 1955 – demolished) was a more or less full service store and also featured a popular hamburger stand called the Totem Burger which was a very well attended hangout for teens with cars.

One of my favourite stores was the Green Door which was across from Queen Elizabeth Park which had just opened as had Little League baseball in Nelson. It was proximal to the high school and had a jukebox with tunes like, yes, the Green door.

Johnstone’s was another Fairview store popular with high school kids and there were often crowds of cola guzzlers on hand. It was also called Vi’s (921 Davies, prop. Mrs. V.E. Graves in 1955 – still standing, now a duplex, seen below).

921 Davies, the former Vi’s Grocery

Down in Lower Fairview was the Ringrose Store which I don’t believe I ever visited. (Avenue Service Station, 802 Nelson Ave., James Ringrose, prop. – demolished 1957)

Nelson Daily News clipping about Avenue Service Station, date unknown, but ca. 1930s. Courtesy Joe Ringrose

Back along Front Street was Bennie’s Grocery, another store that I seldom visited but was popular (1117 Front, B.F. Schneider prop. in 1953 – still standing, seen below).

1117 Front, the former Bennie’s Grocery

I also include Jorgenson’s as a neighborhood store for North Shore residents. It was a very good store and had a good selection of meat. When the meat cars came in from Calgary, Pop Jorgenson was right on the spot at the truck terminus to get his meat in the cooler before the day warmed up. He also had a small marina near the store where Al Jorgenson sold Hewes Craft boats and the North Shore boys kept their beer in a boathouse well. Jorgy’s was at the ferry landing.

Further up the hill there was a store at Brad’s Motel and heading out the lake there was the Willow Point Store where Howie and Lowly Jefferies held sway and many people will fondly remember the Question Mark at Six Mile.

Now there are big warehouse stores and the mall but in those days, the little stores were where most people shopped. Safeway and the Overwaitea were on Baker Street but even they were relatively small stores in those times and it was easier to just walk a few blocks to your friendly Mom and Pop store than to hike down to Baker Street.

The 500 block of Baker Street in Nelson, 1950s, showing Safeway on the left before it moved to a new standalone store in Fairview. (Greg Nesteroff collection)

UPDATE: I found a terrific two-page spread in the Kootenay Graphic News of Oct. 5, 1962 showcasing some of the corner stores mentioned above, plus others.

Ronmark’s store was demolished to make way for the Granite Manor apartments, built in 1970. Not sure where Jorgeson’s was. As for the others …

The Corner Store became Burrell’s Grocery at 1224 Stanley (above), the last corner store in Nelson, which closed in 2020. The site is now being redeveloped, although the plan is to keep the building. Possibly it may yet reopen for commercial use.

The Cedar Street Grocery (above) is still standing as a private home. It has had two different street numbers: 1124 Cedar and 823 Observatory.

On top of that, the Hilltop Grocery operated at 1502 Stanley St. (above) and is now a private home.

Rosemont Market, formerly Star Grocery (above) at 1516 Crease, closed in 2019, but against all odds, reopened in 2021 by the proprietors of Kootenay Tamil Kitchen.

The former Maple Leaf Grocery at 911 Stanley (above) is now an apartment building known as the Mustard Palace.

Other long-gone corner groceries of the 1950s include Lakeside Grocery at 920 Nelson Ave. (demolished), the Candy Box on Nelson Avenue (demolished), and Cottonwood Grocery at 24 Ymir Road.

Updated on June 17, 2020 to add more photos of former corner groceries and on Dec. 31, 2020 to add the Sugar Bowl calendar.

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