Boomtown Butcher Shops
Business was booming in BC from the 1890s up to the Great War. Two butcher shops opened in 1908-1909 in the Lower Mainland: James Inglis Reid Meats in Vancouver, and P. Burns and Co. Butcher Shop in Port Moody. Each one played out a different story of success.
The history of Reid’s Meats has been well-documented by M. Anne Wyness, granddaughter of the founder, James Inglis Reid, in her recently published book, The Larder of the Wise (1). She presents a portrait of a well-run iconic family business that stayed small.
James Reid immigrated to Vancouver from Glasgow, Scotland, in 1906 and gained a couple of years of work experience. In 1908, he established James Inglis Reid Meats under the slogan, “We ha’e meat that ye can eat”, catering to Scottish and British tastes. Specialized cured bacon and hams were featured, and eventually the company employed many of Reid’s relatives. The secret curing recipe was known only by Reid himself, Willie Reid who was the chief curer, and eventually Gordon Wyness, who took over the business in the 1940s. Reid’s Meats maintained its traditional outlet and value for money until it was bought out by owners of the Pacific Centre Mall in a massive downtown Vancouver makeover in 1986. The store had occupied 559 Granville Street between Dunsmuir and Pender for almost 75 years.
The image shows Reid’s Meats in its full glory, and the white concrete that replaced it.
In The Larder of the Wise, Anne Wyness emphasizes the strong beliefs and values in customer service and quality meats held by her grandfather and father. Ducking under the store awnings, and stepping over the marble threshold, must have transported Glaswegians to the shops in their home towns. In the end, location and tradition did the store in; the special curing barrels needed to be replaced and no coopers could be found, and the fully operational smokehouse was surrounded by upscale shops.
P. Burns and Co. Butcher Shop at 2419 Clarke Street, Port Moody was built as part of the Port Moody boomtown in 1908. It was built by Patrick Burns (3) who established a meat-packing empire in Canada. Port Moody is about twenty kilometers further down Burrard Inlet from Vancouver, established in 1859.
Patrick Burns was the son of Irish Catholic immigrants and made his fortune by creating a mobile abattoir that followed the extension of the CPR across Canada in 1887. During the Klondike Gold Rush, he delivered beef to the miners in Dawson “on hoof”, driving cattle over the Chilkat Pass and slaughtering them at the mouth of Pelly River, then shipping the meat down to Dawson on rafts (3). The small butcher shop at Port Moody was only an example of several retail outlets created by Burns as part of an enormous business. Burns and Co. also founded Palm Dairy and the Consolidated Fruit Company.
In 1912 Pat Burns founded the Calgary Stampede along with three others. He became a Canadian Senator, and was well-known for his community mindedness. He was less lucky in his personal life, marrying Eileen Ellis, the daughter of a Penticton rancher, who was considerably younger than him, and unhappy in the luxurious Calgary mansion built just for her. She died in 1923 at the age of 50. Their son and only child had taken little interest in the meat-packing industry and died at the age of 36 in 1936 six months before Burns himself.
Over one hundred years later, James Inglis Reid Meats and P. Burns and Co. Butcher Shop retain some parts of the personalities who established them. Reid’s Meats despite not having a physical presence in Vancouver for over 30 years, is a legend to many Vancouverites. Burns Butcher Shop is still standing and in almost perfect condition according to the Heritage Planning Files of Port Moody.
(1) For a full book review of The Larder of the Wise, please see #949 Haggis and Scotch pies – The Ormsby Review.
(2) See Canada’s Historic Places: https://www.hstoricplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id+2583
P. burns and Co. Butcher Shop is an excellent example of a false-front commercial building. For further information, see https://www.portmoody.ca/en/arts-culture-and-heritage/port-moody_s-history.aspx