Sometimes we encounter a story in the city that is so profound it’s actually difficult to write about. As the years go by the issues become more complex and tangled as people pass on, bylaws change and society continues to evolve. Today’s story is one such story. Today’s story features a city landmark that almost everyone who has lived here for more than 20 years is aware of but many have long forgotten about as it now sits in a state of decay. Please join us as we look at Ian’s Coffee Shop and Turner’s News, two connected businesses that were here in our city since 1937. The future for them is highly uncertain.
This story is a sister story to one we previously posted. “Higgledy-Piggledy House” is a post that features a house just behind this establishment that is in very poor condition. The house and this facility featured here today are owned by the same family as far as our research shows. We understand through communication and feedback with some local folks that there is an ongoing dispute between the family and the city in regards to what to do with these buildings.
And what a shame that is. As everyone takes their individual positions on the subject, these buildings continue to deteriorate and decay. We’ve said it before; time waits for no one, not even city council.
Why would an old coffee shop and confectionery store matter, you ask? At first glance, this building doesn’t appear to have much in terms of architectural appeal to it. It’s just a square building with very few details. That is, until you start to uncover the hidden story behind it, and start to really take a close look at some of the details.
Ian Turner was a much larger-than-life character in our city. In the 1920’s and 1930’s the Richmond area was fast becoming one of the city’s key municipalities that featured lovely homes, the city’s main hospital and many other amenities. As far as we can tell the Turner family set up the coffee shop and store at that time to service a growing community that was very active in the immediate area around the Royal Jubilee Hospital. And from there Ian Turner became a key figure in our city with almost everyone having met him at some point. All who met him enjoyed his outgoing and gregarious nature. He was a friendly and warm man who worked hard over the years with a focus more on the community than becoming rich and famous.
As a result of this, to this day many of us remember him fondly.
If you were visiting a family member across the road at the hospital, you’d come here for a break, a meal and a friendly smile. If you lived nearby, you’d come here every morning for the renowned home-made breakfasts Ian made. I personally have put away more than one of Ian’s burgers, and even as I sit here sharing this story with everyone I recall them.
If you look past the wear, decay and graffiti in this picture, subtle details begin to really emerge. The tiles that trim the lower portion of the building facade here truly appear to be authentic tiles from the 30’s, 40’s or 50’s. And that’s just the very first layer of nostalgia that we peel away for a closer look.
As I was researching for background information to use in this story, it became readily apparent that for some reason all online records of the store and Ian Turner are slowly disappearing. Very little official information can be found online, just a few anecdotal stories and personal experiences of those who Ian’s presence touched remain. I don’t know if this is because of lack of interest, or if someone is removing the information to lower the conspicuity of the building and its current state right in the heart of our city.
As we came across this sign I found myself becoming sentimental. Is this all that remains of the legacy of a man who tirelessly provided food, comfort and a kind word to the citizens of our city? Many people who came here came because of a loved one being tended to across the street at the hospital. No matter what the circumstances were, no matter how little hope was left for some, Ian always shared a smile and a kind word.
This picture tells a story of decades rolling past. The Interac sign posted on the door speaks to modern conveniences, yet the Business Hours sign is a true throwback to the 70’s and 80’s. If you look past the rust and grime that has accumulated on it, you begin to see the authentic curtains that still adorn the windows, albeit in a deteriorating state. These curtains simply have to be from decades now long past as I remember similar ones in my house growing up in the 60’s.
This is one of my favorite pictures from the shoot. This is clearly an art-deco design and all the subtle weathering and wear has really added a lot of character. The only possible way this scene could be any better is if the sign was completely refurbished as it sits lit above the door welcoming customers to a thriving store. Sadly, all that was heard as we stood in this spot was silence, save for the odd car that passed by as the occupants went about their busy lives without any understanding of the significance of the building they just passed.
Around back there was even a pickup window, a reminder of times when things were simpler. Of times when drive-in restaurants and theaters were cornerstones of the communities we lived in.
We really have no clue as to what is going to become of Ian’s Diner and Turner’s News. The building has been left in this state for about 10 years now. The only information I was able to find about how it got here was that in the early 2000’s Ian had some form of an accident or injury at work and that’s when the doors were closed for the last time.
There are still some of us who recall the Coffee Shop and Ian Turner as is evidenced by a Facebook Fan Page for the building. Posts are few and far between, and the last update goes back over a year. The real gem here, though, is if you visit the photos section of the page. There you will find a handful of absolutely incredible photographs that take us all back to the times when this was a busy place, a destination for everyone. Even though the memories are becoming harder to find, there are still many of us that wax nostalgic when we stop and think about what this place, and what Ian himself, have meant to us and the community over the years.
Thank you for taking the time to visit and share this story with us here today, we really do appreciate it. As always, we love to hear from all our visitors so we encourage you to leave us any comments that you may have.
Addendum: August 9, 2013
A wonderful friend and fan of our site shared a link to a music video by the “Cactus Pricks” called “Would You Still Dance” that features a few landmarks from the city of Victoria, including Ian’s Coffee Shop back in the day! I believe we even see Ian himself making an appearance in the video!