1830, 17 Street, S.W. (demolished)
By Frederick Hunter
Almost from its very inception, Bankview has been host to numerous small business enterprises, including food services, mostly concentrated along its perimeters on both 14 Street and 17 Avenue. Very few, however, have ever been located internally within the Community itself, and of these only two have been primarily grocery and confectionery, as opposed to variety, outlets. This historic general store was the second, and is now the only survivor of the two*, although it may have undergone major structural renovation during a period of vacancy in the early 1920s.
The business was first opened here about 1911 by Albert Herbert DeMara, who lived in the flat above. DeMara stayed about four or five years and the place has been known since his departure by many names during its long career of service to local residents. Its most notable proprietors have included Edward T. “Eddie” Waddell (who called it “Waddell’s Grocery”), James Grant, Herbert J. Wiggins, Mrs. Bessie Worsnop, Edward and Eileen McIntyre (as “McIntyre’s Grocery”), Derek and Bernadette Leigh, Bill and Tilly Reder (“B and T Grocery”), and Yen and Yuen Seto (“Seto’s”).
It became the Bankview Food Store when Liu Lirong took over in the late 1980s, which title it has retained ever since, (although known still more familiarly and popularly to neighbourhood children as the “Big Blue Store” or the “7-Up Store”, the latter moniker stemming from a sign it has customarily sported). In 1995 it was much refurbished and restored by new owners Brendan and Gwen O’Toole, recent arrivals from Ireland, who quickly settled into the Community, making their home, like so many of their predecessors, on the premises.
From DeMara to the O’Tooles, many of these successive owners and operators occupied the space above, and later the attachment at the rear, as living quarters. Those who did not usually rented out the apartment (or in later years, apartments) to one or more tenants whilst living elsewhere. Over its nine-decade-plus history, more than a dozen other persons have therefore resided here as well, although the upper floor has also at times remained vacant.
Steeped in folklore, the shop across the years has become a recognizable fixture, a symbol, and landmark which has even been immortalized from time to time in paintings by artists attracted to its unique ambiance. The high “Boomtown Front” style of façade, declining progressively lower in height as it recedes further back, is typical of this type of establishment from the era in question and was designed to promote the illusion of a taller, more spacious structure.
This excerpt was taken from Frederick Hunter’s A Stroll Through Bankview.