When Save-on-Meats first opened its doors on August 29, 1957, it joined a thriving business street, with neighbours such as the Pierre Paris boot company, the White Lunch, Woodward’s and Wosks appliance store. Entrepreneur Sonny Wosk founded the business, hiring a young Al DesLauriers to run the meat department with a promise to sell the operation to him one day. When Wosk was ready to sell in 1980, DesLauriers took ownership, operarating the landmark diner and butcher shop until he retired in 2009. In 1960, the well-loved lunch counter, home to the legendary cheeseburger, opened with 33 orange stools set in a triple-horseshoe counter topped in bright yellow laminate at the back of the store. In later years, a grocery joined the coffee shop inside the store. “The reasonably priced fast food made Save-on-Meats a neighbourhood gathering spot and multifunctional retail outlet,” writes Katherine Burnett. “The diner/café was not fancy, but served hot coffee and filling meals.” At its height, Save-on-Meats had 75 staff in the meat department. It was one of the few businesses to survive the economic and commercial decline of Hastings Street.
History of the Building
The four-storey building at 43 West Hastings dates back to 1891. Prior to hosting the butcher shop, it was home to Jones Tent and Awning – a Vancouver company which sold tents, camping gear, outdoor clothing and awnings.
The Flying Pig Neon Sign
The iconic” flying” pigs neon sign was created by Wallace Neon’s art director Frank Dunlap who managed to reuse the 1940s-era revolving portion of the former Jones Tent and Awning sign and add the pigs. The sign was just one of hundreds that lit up Hastings Street – then Vancouver’s main shopping and entertainment district. Today it is one of the few original survivors of Vancouver’s anti-neon campaigns from the 1970s.
A New Era
After sitting empty for nearly two years, Save-on-Meats was re-opened in 2011 by restaurant entrepreneur Mark Brand, who co-owned nearby restaurants Boneta, The Diamond and Sea Monstr Sushi. The revitalized Save-on-Meats includes a take-out window, a cafe and a butcher shop on the main floor. The upper floors contain a bakery, a linen and cleaning business staffed by neighbourhood locals, and a rooftop garden to supply produce for the diner. Brand introduced a number of social enterprise programs, including a partnership with Vancouver Community College to host skills training and a small business incubator, and a token program that distributed 80,000 tokens to community members, organizations and residents, which could be redeemed for a free meal. The revitalized restaurant has been featured in three reality TV shows: The Big Decision, Gastown Gamble (which aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network) and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
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