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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.