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.