Ian’s Coffee Stop

Posted: 15th October 2013 by ToadHollowPhoto in Photography
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Never underestimate the power of a community.  Most people would see at first glance a quickly deteriorating art-deco building in the heart of a city.  This is simply the veneer, the real story lies a little deeper.  The real story is about Ian Turner, a man who would enthusiastically greet and interact with pretty much everyone, friend and stranger alike.  He cooked with the same passion and it showed.  To this day, I consider my cheeseburger experience there to be one of the best I’ve ever had, and from what I can tell I am far from being alone in this sentiment.

Ian's Coffee Stop / Turner's News - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ian’s Coffee Stop / Turner’s News – Victoria, BC, Canada –

Somehow through a chain of seemingly random events, we ended up on TV doing an interview for CTV News Vancouver Island.  It all started when we joined up with the Facebook group “Ian’s Jubilee Coffee Shop Fanclub” where we’ve been interacting with a great group of folks with a deep connection to this place.  Ian Turner touched so many people in so many different ways, it’s really great to be able to share memories and such.  One woman even shared that she had her first date with her husband here.

But recently something changed.  At some point the building was suddenly roped off and signs erected, and everyone began to speculate as to why.  There was a real fear that the final days for the landmark were here, and it was to be demolished soon.

This turned out to not be the case, but the truth is just as startling.

Ian's Coffee Stop / Turner's News - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ian’s Coffee Stop / Turner’s News – Victoria, BC, Canada –

With this news came a sense of urgency to return very soon to capture some new photographs of the building in it’s current state, to document the progression of the site as nature continues it’s relentless march towards decay.  Mrs. Toad and I wasted no time at all in heading back this past weekend to spend some time with the old building, ironic in the feeling that we were visiting a patient in the hospital.

From the front, we’ve all seen worse that’s for sure.  The doorway is well weathered, with peeling paint and great textures.  A photographers dream.

Ian's Coffee Stop / Turner's News - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ian’s Coffee Stop / Turner’s News – Victoria, BC, Canada –

It’s been well over 10 years now since the corner store has been open.  The iconic sign picture we captured last time contrasts against today’s photograph where we find no sign at all.  Only the stained outline of where it once sat, a beacon for those who came, each with their own reason.  Nurses from Royal Jubilee Hospital would come for a newspaper or a quick walk and a snack before heading back to the unit to carry on.  Local residents would come for a container of milk or candy and a pop.  Others would come because they were visiting someone at the hospital and they wanted a newspaper or magazine to help pass the time.  Everyone left their imprint behind and today it’s this very power that brings everyone together with the common goal of trying to save this storied place.

Ian's Coffee Stop / Turner's News - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ian’s Coffee Stop / Turner’s News – Victoria, BC, Canada –

Ian's Coffee Stop / Turner's News - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ian’s Coffee Stop / Turner’s News – Victoria, BC, Canada –


Ian's Coffee Stop / Turner's News - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ian’s Coffee Stop / Turner’s News – Victoria, BC, Canada –

And this is where the next sad chapter for the building comes to light.  Within the last couple of weeks we had a vicious windstorm here on the island, and it took down one of the back walls of the building with it.  These apartments above hold many stories, some of which are truly heartwarming.  During a time when single women had trouble renting apartments, the Turner family would do so with joy in their hearts.  I am sure many a nurse or nursing student was beyond thankful for the opportunity to have a little place to call home, especially considering the proximity to the hospital right across the street.  Today, what once was a great old bathroom with pink tiles and mirrored medicine cabinets is bare to the outside world.  A closer look reveals the deeper damage to the building.

Ian's Coffee Stop / Turner's News - Victoria, BC, Canada

Ian’s Coffee Stop / Turner’s News – Victoria, BC, Canada –

A metaphor for shattered dreams, a window that someone once peered out through in happier times now lies broken and prone on the ground below.  The power of nature is evident here, and with it we find a symbol of the state we find the building and it’s story in.

A recent inspection by the city has revealed a series of deficiencies that must be addressed.  Understanding the repairs are beyond the means and resources of the family to fix the building, although there is no lack of desire on their part.  And that can spell the end for the building if things continue the way they are currently.

We propose to have no real answers to these complex problems and issues, but we are heart-warmed to see the effect the recent events have had on the part of the community with deep ties to this place.  I believe it is through our interactions with everyone on the fan club page that we were found by CTV News enabling us to take part in the interview.  It’s something I really enjoyed doing, allowing me to be a part of creating a broader awareness for the situation with the hopes of playing a small role in helping this place find the miracle it so truly needs.

Before heading out for the day, we thought we’d visit our old friend, the house that sits right behind Ian’s Coffee Stop.  It is owned by the same family that owns the Turner building and we can clearly see it suffers from the same lack of maintenance.  We covered this story previously in our post “Higgledy-Piggledy House” where we took a look at the home.  Time has done similar damage here.

Higgledy-Piggledy House - Victoria, BC, Canada

Higgledy-Piggledy House – Victoria, BC, Canada –

Higgledy-Piggledy House - Victoria, BC, Canada

Higgledy-Piggledy House – Victoria, BC, Canada –

Higgledy-Piggledy House - Victoria, BC, Canada

Higgledy-Piggledy House – Victoria, BC, Canada –

This back porch has a killer first step.  One has to ponder exactly how graffiti artists can get up to perches like this to adorn the building in their personal art-form.  These things never cease to make me stop and think.  The architecture of the home is full of character, it’s easy to see a family living here when it was in good shape, enjoying a comfortable life in a lovely home.  Today we find signs everywhere of people trying to gain access to the house for all sorts of reasons, some of them undoubtedly successfully so.

One of the key driving forces for Mrs. Toad and I here at The Hollow is to try to bring awareness to issues like these, many of which seem to have little public interest in terms of trying to save them.  When we first discovered Ian’s Coffee Stop and the Turner building in such poor condition, we shared the story with everyone in our post “A City Landmark Lies Forlorn“.  Since then, we’d found so many other people who share our feelings for this place and have heard great stories from all the memories.  We can only hope that if enough people get involved, perhaps another chapter in the story could be written.  If not, we may have just seen the end.

Be part of the story, anyone who grew up here or is from around here has their own stories and memories of Ian’s Coffee Stop.  Please feel free to leave your stories in the comments section as we would love to hear them.

Ian’s Coffee Stop Gallery – see all 15 new HDR images
Higgledy-Piggledy House Gallery – see all 10  new HDR images

  1. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    I am so glad to see that your efforts to document and hopefully save some of the historic places on your island have it the small screen Toad. It was nice to put a face to the name and your interview exuded the same passion that we have seen through your posts and images. Great to “meet” you Toad. Keep it up!

  2. avatar Lois Bryan says:

    beautiful images and a beautiful story … what a joy to find others who feel the way I do when they see the iconic structures from their own lives going gently and inevitably down the long road to ruin. I wish you much success in your efforts to help in the restoration of this lovely art-deco structure and all the memories it holds.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you so much Lois, your support and encouragement here means an awful lot to us and the entire community, I am sure. We really appreciate you taking the time to pop by and leave us your wonderful comments today.

  3. Great post and a super supplement to the TV appearance Toad.

  4. avatar Perry Bailey says:

    A fine set of images. Reminds me of a neighborhood lunch counter we frequented growing up. Great milkshakes and burgers on buttered grilled buns. Not much better than that. Hopefully a developer will see the potential and restore it.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      I see that you and I are on the same page with this issue, Perry, thank you for taking the time to visit and comment my friend!

  5. These are great photos. I actually feel sad whenever I drive by this location. On good days, I drive by to recall what it used to be. On bad days, I avoid the intersection because it reminds me that Victoria lets things fall apart without reason (Janion, Northern Junk, the list goes on).
    I cannot believe that a city government that can impose BIA levies to hand off to non-government organizations; use traffic crippling to block traffic flow; and impose Heritage designations on properties cannot act to address this building. It’s going to take some drastic steps and the original form of the building may be done for, but the essence of the building should be able to be rehabilitated and overhauled.
    I really would like to know why they stand mute when they can push for action: force the owner to maintain the structure; push the owner to sell the property to a trust for the sake of rehabilitation; or step in, make repairs, and possess the property.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Terrific comments here, Shawn, thank you for taking the time to visit and leave these for everyone to read. The Janion building and Northern Junk are two of my favorite buildings in the city, I am glad to see you mention those in this equation. I really do worry sometimes that due to this lack of impetus to save our heritage, one day our children will ask where it all went. I can only hope that grassroots groups can come together and try to facilitate change. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave these thoughtful and heartfelt comments here today, we really appreciate it.

  6. A think a small order of gratitude is in order here. You may not have been able to save the building on your own but through your wonderful photographs and stories you highlight the plight of such buildings as these two to more peoples’ attention which, hopefully, will eventually lead to their saving. Keep up the good work, Toad!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      That just means so much to us here, Mark, thank you for those wonderful thoughts my friend.

  7. avatar Aaron Hall says:

    I used to go to the cafe with my parents as a kid, will never forget their vanilla chocolate swirl soft ice cream. It was the only place in the city where you could get it at that time.

    The store being connected through the hallway was always so interesting to me.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      I love hearing memories like this, thank you for taking the time to share these here Aaron. We really appreciate your support today.

  8. avatar john king says:

    I first went to Ian’s in 1957 when i was at Victoria College, went often. Then not for a few years but when I did go back, he hadn’t forgotten me. He said Duncan, how are you? Not my real name but he remembered I was from Duncan, so that name stuck over the next many years that I went there. The best cheeseburger, the best grilled ham and cheese (slabs of real ham and real cheddar), the best omelette, good coffee, milkshakes and, of course, the doughnut machine. Great food, great guy.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      What a quintessential Ian Turner story, John, thanks for sharing that!! I see you fondly remember his cheeseburgers the same as I do. I am very picky when it comes to putting a “great cheeseburger” label on a particular burger, it’s got to be incredible to qualify for that. I can honestly say that Ian’s qualified. Restaurants like this that remain in our memories, our DNA if you will, are few and far between these days I find. Wonderful comments, my friend, thank you so much for taking the time to leave these for everyone to enjoy.

  9. avatar LensScaper says:

    Let’s hope and pray that getting this story ‘out there’ will result in some positive action before the weather has the final say. Well done, Toad for all your efforts and as others have said it’s good to put a face to the name.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      I can’t begin to thank you for all your kindness, Andy! Coming from you, that means the world to us here at The Hollow!

  10. avatar Melissa says:

    When I saw the link to your photos, I was hoping that a good news story was coming for this building – one of my favourites – and I am sorry to hear that it is crumbling. Thank you for documenting and sharing this story. My fingers are crossed that someone comes forward to give this building some TLC. There is so much potential for this building and this corner of the city.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Fabulous comments here, Melissa, thank you for your kind visit and for taking the time to leave us all your thoughts. We just couldn’t agree with you more on this issue, that’s for sure. Let’s cross our collective fingers and hope something magical happens soon here.

  11. avatar Dave Trace says:

    Memories of ginger beer in stone bottles when I was a kid in the ’50’s!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Wow, Dave, what a great memory! I’ve actually photographed a few of those bottles over at the Metchosin Pioneer Museum a couple years back now. Those bottles are awesome, just full of great character. Thank you so much for your visit today, and for taking the time to leave us your memory to enjoy.

  12. avatar Jamie Morrison says:

    I have found with the city of Victoria, that unless there is money to be made for the municipality or city or even the province, our government will usually ignore buildings, that we as citizens and former residents of Victoria, feel a strong yearning to have our childhood memories, our nostalgic and heritable buildings preserved for future Victorians to enjoy,Ians could be Such a place, if rebuilt with the same plans as the original, even though the heart(Ian) is gone, the memories and love for the man and his restaurant live on in all of us

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you so much Jamie, those are wonderful comments you’ve left here for us all to read. We really appreciate you taking the time to come visit us, and for leaving your thoughts here. We completely agree with you.

  13. avatar Edith Levy says:

    OMG I was so excited to see your interview on CTV and finally put a face to your name. That was just great. Excellent post and images Toad and I’m so glad that your efforts to document the interesting places in Victoria are being acknowledged locally and hopefully nationally.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      That means an awful lot to us here, Edith, thank you so very much my dear friend! Your support is very much appreciated!!

  14. What a great post! I love the shots of both structures, especially that house behind the shop

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you so much Mike, we really appreciate it when you pop by to see us here at The Hollow! We sure do appreciate your support my friend!

  15. avatar Tara Veysey says:

    So many stories I don’t even know where to start but what I do know is that something must be done. While I have been living outside of Victoria for the past 18 years, Ian’s is near and dear. It takes me back to a wonderful time in my 20’s when anything seemed possible. And I have to believe that something is possible with this wonderful space in 2013. We need to make some noise and make it happen. As I look at so many of these posts, it seems like the common theme is that we all felt like Ian’s was Victoria’s “Cheers”. Ian had his own special way of making you feel like you were “home”. I feel like we need to write the next chapter so that it doesn’t fade.

    I believe Margaret Mede said it best – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

    • Well said on all counts here, Tara, thank you so much for popping by to see us and for showing your support to the community. I am sure everyone who pops by to read this story will really appreciate your insights. I love how you termed it as “Victoria’s Cheers”, that really does resonate.

  16. avatar Leslie Ivens says:

    Grew up in the neighbourhood and was often at Ian’s. I remember at Halloween he would keep the Coffee Shop open late and give out ice cream cones to all the kids. We would all rush to get to Ian’s 🙂

    • We are enjoying all these stories from everyone so much, it seems that many of us have personal and deep feelings about Ian and what he and his shop meant to the community as a whole. We really love to see this incredible outpouring of support, thank you so much for taking the time to visit and leave these absolutely wonderful comments.

  17. avatar Shannon Asdal says:

    Thanks for the wonderful story. Everyone time I drive past the restaurant or house I’m sorry to see the state they’re in. My friends feel the same way. Great to get some background info. on them. I hope with all my heart they can be saved.

  18. avatar Christine says:

    I often wondered if we would see something open up in that building again. And as much as I would love too see new life for that building I don’t think it is the City’s responsibility to pay for it.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment today, Christine. I do agree with you on your thoughts here. Not sure where this is all going but we are totally praying for a miracle here on this story, that’s for sure.

    • I agree with Christine. But the City of Victoria could push for action by the property owner. How many times has this happened? Derelict building sit for decades and the city doesn’t do anything to force the property owner to step up: make repairs, sell it to someone who will or, at worst, tear it down.

      • Shawn, thanks so my for popping by today and leaving us your thoughts on this issue. You really have a great grasp as to the underlying complexities and issues that face a challenge like the one we are looking at here, and we really appreciate you taking the time to come by and leave these comments that I am sure will add a lot of depth for everyone who visits. Thank you, we really appreciate it.

  19. avatar Bill Smith says:

    Hey Ian. We miss you. Remember how you celebrated young Steve (Weiss’s) 16th birthday. You were so kind to him – especially on this special day. 🙂

    I had a company located close by in 89 -> (2013) called Harley Street Software. It is now CardioComm Solutions Inc. We all had lunch with chef and owner (and greasy food expert) Ian every day through the 90’s. I love this place and Ian’s daughter was always the waitress extraordinaire. I drove by a few weeks ago and saw her (? name) outside cleaning Graffiti off the wall. I wound my window down and shouted “hello”. She seemed to hear me but perhaps not. I suspect she cannot bear to tear this wonderful building and memories of Ian, down. So many ghosts have had a hamburger here every lunch time.

    • avatar Bill Smith says:

      For someone born in 1946 and coming to Canada in 1969, this was a vision of places and people in a long lost but much admired Canada. And Ian represented the very best of that generation. A hard working kind chef who loved his business, his daughter (the waitress) and his customers equally.

    • What a terrific, terrific story Bill! Thank you so much for your visit and for taking the time to leave these thoughts behind that I am quite sure everyone will enjoy!

  20. avatar Jacky says:

    wow..I’ve been gone from Victoria for nearly 15 years and dismayed at the state of Ian’s coffee shop. I used to work at the bank across the street…and remember opening up the night depository bank to retrieve business customers night deposit bags…we were faced with a delicious smell of donuts that Ian had placed in his bag along with his deposit. I also remember him entering the bank singing at the top of his voice….thanks for bringing back memories…Hope they can save his buildings….

  21. avatar Jennifer Somerville says:

    I have worked in the building beside Ian’s for four years now and always wondered about its story, past and present. Now there are bouquets of flowerse at the entrance – too far away from the barrier to read but obviously from someone with good memories. Thanks for the history.
    BTW, my float home is Toad Hall – we must swap stories about THAT!

  22. avatar Marion Bedingfield says:

    I used to eat at Ian’s and it was such a fun, energetic, homey experience that we always went back. I always look at the building thinking that of course it needs to be torn down but that it would be nice to rebuild it to its former self. I always dreamt if I had the money I would purchase it and make it an Arts Facility. A dance studio bellow with a little sandwich cafe in one corner facing the hospital, a music studio on the second level, and a roof top herb and vegetable garden green house style with an outside stairway access to the roof for patio seating. It would be so nice! It could be a little pocket campus off of campus if the right person could see this vision and donate the funds. I have the vision, I only wish I had the money to do it.
    Marion Bedingfield

    • What a wonderful vision, indeed, Marion, thank you so much for taking the time to share this here with everyone! I love your thoughts for this spot, it would be a wonderful and fitting way to continue the memories and tradition.

  23. avatar Brian Smith says:

    I used to play lacrosse at Fernwood Park in the late 1950s and would regularly stop by Ian’s while biking my way home near Willows Beach. I would often order an orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream cone, but I also used to love the cheeseburgers. Ian would always ask how the game went. Even after I stopped playing lacrosse, I would go out of my way to stop by Ian’s Coffee Shop whenever I could. What wonderful memories! It will be a shame to see this Jubilee area landmark disappear.

  24. avatar Justin says:

    Hello people, I have seen and stayed updated on this property for some time now as I do research into these kind of things for my own personal amusement. But lately Ive come to see that this isnt the only thread or article I have found on the property and they all share one thing in common. The restoration and or Rejuvenation of the properties. So I spent the last month or so looking hard into this and all the possibilities invovled. I understand the repair cost to be immense as they usually are in these conditions. I have gone to the location a couple times and have even talked to the city as well as local residents.
    The city directly stated that nothing could be done as it is currently listed as a derelict property and ownership really falls to the one family. “Turner” Now during this time period I have tried to contact many Turners so that I could find the owner with no luck.
    But I havnt given up. I have travelled our great country for three years. Built everything from roads in Toronto to cement basements with infloor heating in edmonton and then headed back to Ontario to build houses.
    Needless to say I would love to see this house rebuilt. My first time in Victoria I lived just down the street on adanac. I loved the community and allways found the walks to be more then amazing with the little walkways and hidden parks riddled threw the area.
    One thing is I can not do this alone and the aid of the community members will be needed.

    So if you know how to contact the turner family or wish to see this porperty restored and not torn down for a new building as I do please email me at j.dorey85@live.ca
    Thank You For Your Time.

    • We’re so happy to see so many folks with a heartfelt desire to do something! Terrific!! I am afraid I have no contact information to share, but I do hope one of our readers does. Thanks for taking the time to leave this detailed response, Justin, I am sure the entire group will be happy to see these.

  25. avatar Jake says:

    Just listened to a CBC broadcast about this.
    Never understood how this building remained abandoned in such a prime spot.

    • Thanks for popping by today, Jake, and for leaving your comments here we really appreciate it. It didn’t dawn on me how long the building was left unused until we started photographing it and researching the story behind the situation. We were really surprised to learn about all this ourselves. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t understand the lack of appetite to save places like this, to share our heritage and history with our kids and grandkids one day in the future.

  26. avatar Richard says:

    My friend and I use to deliver newspapers there and every morning Ian would come out and talk to us give us hot choc in the winter time and fresh doughnuts that’s probably over 35 years ago thanks Ian

  27. avatar Erica says:

    Thank you for the wonderful photos and story. My mother used to take me to Ian’s for a hamburger when I was a kid [she born in 1909 and I in 1947]. Before that, I remember puzzling over the word “confectionary” whenever we stopped by. In the late 60’s I was one of those student nurses who headed across the street from the “Nurse’s Res” when enough money was to be found to save us from a hospital meal. Every time I drive by the place, I am reminded of those times. My mother has been gone for over 40 years, but I can still see her sitting there…
    The lines of the building are wonderfully evocative, and although it has fallen in to such disrepair…wouldn’t it be terrific if somehow..it could be brought back…

    • What wonderful comments to share here with us and everyone who visits, Erica, a sincere and heartfelt thanks for taking the time to visit us. We really do agree with your sentiments and we hope that somehow the community can come together and save this place for us all to enjoy for years to come. Stay tuned, the story is still unfolding!

  28. I have made up a Facebook group to try to gather support and get those supporters coordinated and available for the rescue efforts.


    I do want to say that your photos put this location back into the forefront of a lot of people’s minds. You really got something going.

  29. avatar Allan says:

    I worker for Ian Turner in the late 60’s. He was ‘bar none’ the best boss I ever had. He hired me after a work experience stint through school. The only kid that took the time to get his cooking pots gleaming with an SOS pad I guess. He always made sure I was fed with his famous burger and fries and golden cup coffee. I spent many an hour in the basement cutting the fries with his machine. Having worked in the galley with him I saw first hand his interaction with the public. I can still here is voice today as he bellowed out funny things to people. Ian called an ace and ace and would tune in any individual with wayward manners. He always asked about my family and how they were doing. I must say one of my regrets in life was forgetting to ask Ian and his wife to my wedding. I just over looked it. Enough said. I totally respected Ian Turner and admired his work ethics. God Bless em’ and his historic Victoria landmark. Allan

    • What wonderful, wonderful, wonderful comments Allan! We just can’t thank you enough for taking the time to visit and for leaving these really terrific thoughts behind for everyone to enjoy. It’s really amazing how far and wide Ian made his presence known, and after all these years so many of us remember him with such reverence. Thanks for you kind visit!

  30. […] So, let me tell you a bit about this video.  It’s a music video created quite a few years ago by some good friends of mine here in Victoria, BC, Gord and Judy.  Gord, (a videographer, and one of the musicians and song-writers/composers in the band) re-released this to YouTube recently as a higher resolution version as there was renewed interest in this video because the diner in which it was filmed is part of a cool old building here in Victoria that was (and maybe still is) slated for demolition.  Here’s a bit about the diner, along with some brilliant photos by Toad Hollow Photography:  http://toadhollowphoto.com/2013/10/15/ians-coffee-stop/ […]

    • Thank you SO much for your gracious and kind comments, we really appreciate it! For all our fans of this page, check out the video on the link here, it’s just terrific! Thanks for popping by today!!