A history of food

One of the dominant stories of late 2013 and early 2014 has been the saga of changing grocery stores and the loss of Thrifty Foods. There have been many inquiries directed our way about this type of store in New Westminster’s history.
Remember that early stores providing foodstuffs were nothing like the large supermarkets of today. Some did supply “groceries” and others “provisions,” but shoppers usually sought out a shop that dealt exclusively with meats, fish, baked goods, vegetables, fruits and so on. In most cases, you did not pick out your own items – they were gathered for you, you paid and took your goods home.
Stores like Model Grocery, C.A. Welsh and George Adams, were well known and well patronized. In time, into the 1900s, a totally new shopping experience appeared in North America and eventually in the Lower Mainland. This was the self-serve establishment, and the store credited with starting it all was the curiously named Piggly Wiggly. Along with self-service, this chain introduced checkouts, shopping carts, refrigerated displays and a lot more.
New Westminster had a couple of Piggly Wiggly stores in the 1920s and 1930s. Then Safeway, another new group, took over the chain, and others, including David Spencer’s, arrived. Finally the one that brought the greatest influence and change appeared on the scene – Woodward’s Department Store, with its market-dominating Woodward’s Food Floor.
We should also note that Kidd Market on Columbia Street was the home of what would become a major player in the current changes, Save-On-Foods, with the start of the Overwaitea Food Group in 1915 … but back to Woodward’s.
For many people, Woodward’s was the place to shop for groceries, and it rapidly developed a very dedicated and extremely loyal clientele. The store, situated in the city block that now houses the Royal City Centre, had its food floor mid-block. When it finally closed in the early 1990s, it was a great loss and many people solemnly noted its departure. To this day in 2014, there are people for whom shopping uptown is still referred to occasionally as “going to Woodward’s.”
As grocery shopping moved from smaller more familiar locations to large, more impersonal shopping experiences, more and more names entered the trade. An incomplete list from the past 50 or so years would include, in addition to the previously mentioned stores, Shop Easy, Ray’s Market, SuperValu, Dominion Stores, IGA, Donald’s, Walmart and a myriad of smaller venues around the town.
Personally, we will miss Thrifty Foods, having frequented its stores on Vancouver Island since it first opened in 1977 and having appreciated, for a short time anyway, having one within walking distance of our home here in Sapperton.
Some folks still miss Woodward’s Food Floor, while one person said she missed SuperValu at the old Westminster Mall. There have been other nostalgic comments and memories – changes will do that.

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