The Old Brick Ghost Of Fabled Ice Creams Past On Commercial Drive

Crystal-Dairy,-1946-(CVA-586-4178)

Long before it became one of the Grandview neighbourhood’s best spots to buy…well…just about anything you need, the eye-catching Wonderbucks building at 1803 Commercial Drive was home to the successful Crystal Dairy Ltd. The building itself dates back to 1927, and was constructed as the second location of the booming business that would later become part of the famous Palm Dairies company. Following the Palm takeover in 1952, the office and milk production operations moved to 3333 Main Street. The Commercial Drive location subsequently became the company’s ice cream shop, serving up scoops for locals until the early 1960s when it relocated to the main offices at 1060 Cambie Street. Some Vancouverites will likely remember seeing the Crystal Dairy horse-drawn carts and trucks across town, or perhaps Palm Dairy’s bright neon sign (one of which is now on display at the Museum of Vancouver).

Over the years the building has subsequently been home to the Italian Melodi Dance Hall, a music shop, and a couple of grocery stores. Wonderbucks took over the location in 1998, and has been a fixture of the community ever since. The Crystal Dairy interior originally featured a large tile service bar and seating along the front windows, though over the years drywall installation and other remodeling efforts have obscured any remnants of its initial commercial purpose. The exterior, however, remains very similar to its 1927 design and showcases many original accents, including the tile detailing across the entrance, large front windows and fenestration along the north side, and dentils along the flat cornice. The large Crystal Dairies signage has been lost to time, and while the ornate (iron?) awning has since been refitted with a more modern design, its unique shape still offers a neat glimpse into what it would have looked like for customers of generations past as they enjoyed their sweet summer treats.

Palm Dairy signage images courtesy of the Museum of Vancouver.

  • Street Corner
  • 1803 Commercial Drive, 1946 (CVA 586-4177)
  • Horizontal Tile Detail
  • Commercial and 2nd Avenue
  • Crystal Dairy, 1946 (CVA 586-4178)
  • Verticle Tiles
  • Palm Dairy Float, 196- (CVA 180-5071)
  • Museum of Vancouver H996.22.8.01
  • Crystal Dairy Fleet (CVA 99-4425)
  • Wonderbucks Tile Detail
  • Crystal Dairy Parade Float, 1939 (CVA 99-2983)
  • Tile Detail
  • Dentil Detail
  • Fenestration Detail
  • Museum of Vancouver H996.22.9

OTHER THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

There are 2 comments

  1. I remember the amazing ice cream cones at the Palm Dairy on Main St. I couldn’t bike past there without stopping for a cone. If I am remembering correctly it was where Main St. bent to the east going south. Is 3333 Main that about 21st? Is it 12 you take from the street address to get the Avenue? I can’t believe how I keep forgetting things I’ve always known! Not too much fun getting old.

  2. Lots of fun getting old. Take 15 from the address Catherine. I remember the Palm Dairy Commercial Drive seats. Very tall for this little boy.
    The banana splits were the best! I was raised at Commercial & 2nd and Grandma Chestnut lived there till about 1959.
    She moved in with us on 13th Avenue next to Robson Park.
    Does anyone have pictures or stories of Robson Park? I’ve got one pic from 1918, or so.
    I’ll share !

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