In a previous post today, I reported on the farewell party the community held for the closing of the Santa Barbara Market at 1320 Commercial. As part of the celebration, I gave a short speech on the history of the building. Several people asked me to write it down, so here is an extended version.
In 1926, businessman Clarence Webber opened the Old Mill Gas station at 1350 Commercial. He ran it until 1945 when he sold the business. With the money he received, Webber purchased three large lots which today are 1320, 1338, 1340 Commercial. Once wartime restrictions on building materials were lifted, Webber built two new buildings on his lots — 1344 Commercial which housed a hardware store on the ground floor, with doctors’ offices upstairs, and 1320 Commercial.
1320 Commercial was designed to have offices upstairs while the rear of the ground floor housed Webber’s new business — 1200 food lockers, which local residents used in the days when home fridges and freezers were far less common than today. He also built a small produce store to front on Commercial Drive. While the food lockers were a big hit, the grocery store became even more popular. It featured the first ice cream bar on the Drive and also was the first store outside the downtown core to feature muzak for the customers.
The popular market stayed in business (as Artic Food Markets, then Arctic IGA, and finally, Kaufman Meats) until the early 1960s.
In 1965, a major fire destroyed the interior of the building, which was then occupied by Thomas Furniture & Appliances, but it was restored and eventually became the home of Italian Furniture by Marano, with apartment suites upstairs. Italian Furniture stayed in the building until August 1972 when they and the suites were badly damaged in another fire.
Later in the 1970s, the building was used by the Vancouver Community College as a space for skills development, and then was occupied by Italian Sporting Goods until 1979. The offices at this time housed the Marco Polo Italian newspaper, and Radio Italia CJJC. It then fell vacant until 1981 when Paco Celador opened Santa Barbara Market, which flourished until this very day.