deep roots in orchard country

January 17, 2020

The reorganization of the Collections Room at the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives, has produced an exciting find for archivist Barbara Bell. While digging through paper artifacts, she pulled out an unassuming Nabob catalogue (yes, the coffee maker—at the time though, Nabob was a grocery generalist specializing in an assortment of teas, spices, desserts, peanut butters and jams) with a bright cover wishing readers a “Merry Christmas.”

This edition of the catalogue was published in December of 1944, and most of the articles that pop up between advertisements for green beans, matches, and of course, coffee, have a military vein.



Maple Leaf Grocery, Vernon, BC

However, it was a story in the middle of the catalogue that caught Barb’s eye. This Vancouver-based publication dedicated five pages to one of Vernon’s very own former businesses: the Maple Leaf Grocery.

“In the pleasant Okanagan City of Vernon which is really the capital of the apple orchard country there abouts” reads the article, “there are many fine businesses that have set their roots deeply, like the sturdy old trees themselves, to become inseparable factors in the continuous progress of all that rolling sun-drenched land.”

The Maple Leaf Grocery was one such business. The owner S.P. Christensen had been in business since 1924, when he opened his first grocery on Tronson Street, before moving to a location on 30th Avenue a few years later.

The Nabob reporter states that the day he visited the business was a typical work day “in this decidedly well-arranged store.” Staff members carefully weighed fruit, while shoppers happily turned in sugar coupons. Mr. Christensen took orders from his desk, as receptionist Doreen Johnson answered the phone.

The store was tidy and well-organized, the staff efficient and welcoming, and the customers content. The reporter finished by saying his only disappointment was that he was not able to find any canned pineapple, “but who has seen that delectable and much-desired item in recent days?” The grocery closed in February of 1970, after serving the community for forty-five years. 

This photo of the Maple Leaf Grocery was taken the year the article was written, in 1944. As the Nabob article rightly suggests, “no picture can portray friendship, the spirit of service, a close and intimate knowledge of business, and an agreeable measure of energy well applied” for which this little local grocery was known.

Gwyn Evans

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