We visited the history of the development of the Desrosiers block in the previous post, but we didn’t look at who occupied it. It started life around 1900 as the home of M Magloire Desrosier’s stove business, which he passed on to his business partner Harry Slater in 1905. In 1908 there were two businesses – McLaren & Urquhart liquors, and Gustave Collasin, barber who was replaced a year later by a watchmaker, Earnest Lee. Upstairs that year was the Tien Tain restaurant, as it was until around 1913. In 1911 it was all change again downstairs – Schmehl & Wright sold liquors – presumably taking over McLaren & Urquhart’s business. They hired architect P J Donohoe to carry out $900 of repairs when they moved into the building bin 1911. (We came across Mr. Schmel’s earlier enterprise up the street in an earlier post). The business was still here in 1914, although they added cigars for sale as well as liquor. The restaurant upstairs was vacant that year, but a year later it reopened as the Sun Tien Tain. By 1917 the store was the Crown Liquor store, run by George Saunders, and the restaurant was once again closed.
In 1918 it finally settled down to a longer run of occupation – Old Country Fish and Chips moved in, with the Chop Suey Restaurant taking over the upper floor. Herbert Love was running the restaurant downstairs, and he lived at 334 Carrall. By 1922, the year before our image was taken John S Johnston had taken over – perhaps that’s him, looking unhappy at having his picture taken. There was no restaurant upstairs – that was listed as Overseas Mechanics, which turns out to be the Overseas Mechanics Club, with David Kirkwood as secretary (despite a 1921 prosecution for selling liquor – one of a number of clubs prosecuted in the final year of prohibition). Mr Johnston ran the restaurant until 1930 when it was taken over by the Trans Canada Fish and Chips Co Ltd, although it was still called the Old Country.
In 1934 it became the Rex Café run by G Megalos and A Nickas, and the upper floor was in use again in 1937 as Wand’s Photo Studio. By 1950 the café was still there – but it had become the New Rex Café, run by Dan George. In 1953 it became the Minerva Café, where John Mirras described himself as president and manager. He didn’t last long, as in 1954 this became the Paris Café, managed by Wong Chun Foo, and photographed by Fred Herzog in 1959. Some of the items on the 1923 menu are still available in 1959, although the prices had risen a bit; fried ham, bacon or sausage with two eggs were 50c – in 1923 they were only 30c.
Today the building has seen better days. The cornice is in a terminal state and a fire has damaged the building although the convenience store on the main floor is still open behind permanent shutters. You can’t get ham and eggs any more.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-3455