Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Ovaltine Cafe - History gets a second Chance

In a little cafe. . . just this side of the border 
in Vancouver

Ovaltine Cafe, Vancouver, Canada, *Vancouver Neon image

At 251 E. Hastings Street, Vancouver, sits The Ovaltine Cafe, a retro picturesque local place that survived the fifties, the sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties and rolled into the 21st century. It's in the downtown eastside, very close to Chinatown and the last news I heard is that it's getting a new lease on life, with a mother-daughter management team. To these new owners, simplicity and good food are the order of the day. This cafe is also a showcase for the possibilities of neon signage.

My mother-in-law, shown in the image below, worked in this cafe back in the forties when this part of town was thriving and a good restaurant like this one was a centre for the police from the nearby precinct. MIL rode her bike to work and knew many of the local constables.

Ovaltine Cafe, Vancouver, BC, retro image prop DG Hudson, c.1940s

Anytime a heritage building is revived, the locals dread gentrification and the lovers of retro want it, along with a few modern conveniences. Gentrification will happen in some pockets of the city, but not at the Ovaltine. Keeping what's good about it and a little sprucing up is all that's on the menu of the new and improved Ovaltine Cafe. It was good enough for a few movie sets. . .

The Ovaltine has starred in countless TV shows and a few blockbuster movies. It's a four level Edwardian Italian Renaissance Revival style, popular 102 years ago when it was built. This cafe has a quaint Rockwellian coffee counter, varnished wood panelling, worn cloisters and smoky mirrors, but this address has been home to other restaurants, a tailor's shop, government offices, apartments and even a postal substation in its lifetime.

One of my favorite movies, I, Robot, has a scene with Detective Spooner (Will Smith) and his boss are having coffee and discussing the robot problem or rather Spooner's take on the robot problem.  It has also been in Fringe, X-Files and Da Vinci's Inquest.


Do you like the neon that used to be used on all signs several decades ago? Do you like visiting old establishments that have been revived? What do you think of gentrification? (gentrification is the reboot with improvements and some modernization of old establishments that have began to decay due to changing demographics in an area)

Please leave a comment to let me know you stopped by and thanks for visiting. I apologize for my absence lately, and will try to improve posting frequency.  







*Image of Ovaltine Cafe: Vancouver Neon image - highlighting the neon used at this establishment.