Longest Operating Nanaimo Businesses

Palace HotelOn Thursday evening Christine Meutzner of the Nanaimo Community Archives gave a talk to the 2008 Heritage Summit at the Port Theatre on Nanaimo's longest operating businesses. According to Christine, the city's oldest continuously operating business is the Nanaimo Daily News, Vancouver Island's second-oldest newspaper, founded in 1874 as the Nanaimo Free Press.

In the late 19th century Nanaimo had a large population of single workers and transients, and the city's hotels boomed. Fortunately, many of the original hotel buildings have survived, including the Occidental Hotel (1886), 432 Fitzwilliam St., the Quarterway Hotel (1879), 1431 Bowen Road, the Globe Hotel (1887), 25 Front St., the Palace Hotel (1889), Skinner St., the Jolly Miner Inn (1889), 540 Haliburton St., the Dorchester Hotel (1889), 70 Church St., the Queen's Hotel (1891), 34 Victoria Cres., and The Cambie Hotel (1916), 63 Victoria Crescent. The Dorchester was formerly the Windsor Hotel and has been heavily modified over the years. Only the Dorchester and the Cambie continue to rent rooms, although virtually all still operate as bars.

Serving drinks may be Nanaimo's most reliable business, but the city's restaurants are more shortlived. The oldest existing restaurant is Bond's Fish and Chips, founded by Warner Bond in 1945 at a Nicol St. location. Today it's at 1708 Bowen Road and still run by the same family.

Other longstanding business include Central Drugs (1892), Madill Equipment (1912), McGavin's Bakery (1922), Wheatcroft Construction (1928), Nanaimo Shipyards (1930s), Gallazin Locksmiths (1941), Island Radiators (1945), O.R. Wenner (1945), Zorkin Insurance (1949), Nanaimo Travel (1953), Archie Johnstone Plumbing and Heating (1954), and Around the World Travel Service (1959).

Of course, many of Nanaimo's banks have been around for over a century but there have been many changes of name and location. The Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce dates back to 1889, the second oldest in British Columbia. The oldest mall is the Terminal Park Shopping Centre dating from 1957, still home to Save on Foods (formerly Overwaitea).

It may surprise you that the Hudson's Bay Company hasn't been mentioned above. After all, they built The Bastion in 1853, and The Bay is currently the largest store in the Woodgrove Centre. Well, from 1862 until the 1920s, the HBC wasn't represented in Nanaimo. Of the 5,400 businesses currently operating in Nanaimo, construction is the largest sector, followed by retail, science and technology, and real estate.

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