Feb. 14, 1945
Could you please send us a Ham and bacon C.O.D. to this address.
This letter and others like it was received by James Inglis Reid, Ltd. For seven successful decades, the shop supplied both local and international customers with quality meat and meat products.
James Inglis Reid was a Scotsman who immigrated to Vancouver in 1908. He began his career on the West Coast working for H.A. Edgett Company Ltd., one of the leading grocery firms of the day. By the next year, in 1909, he branched out on his own, first opening a store on Westminster Street (now Main Street) where he sold items such as cured ham, eggs and butter.
Reid later moved the business to Harris Street (now Georgia Street), and then made one final move in 1915 to 559 Granville Street, capitalizing on the shift of commercial activities to the area. Two years later after the final move, he hired an experienced butcher, fellow Scotsman Horatio Nelson Menzies. Between Reid’s business-sense and Menzies’ valuable meat processing knowledge the company began to flourish. The shop’s offerings expanded to include a variety of house-made Scottish specialties and fresh sausages.
In 1922 Reid purchased the shop’s building and embarked on a two-year renovation. The basement became the site for the smokehouse, curing operations, coolers, and supplies storage. The main floor remained as the retail space, but the floors and counters were outfitted in black and white marble and a cooler for fresh meat was added. The second floor was reserved for the business office, locker room, lunch room, and cheese maturing storage area, while the top floor became the baking area and kitchen for the production of goods, such as fresh sausages.
The company officially became James Inglis Reid, Ltd. on December 24, 1930, when it was incorporated.
Haggis was one of the products to purchase at James Inglis Reid, Ltd. It was added to the list of regular offerings after selling out within hours for Robbie Burns Day in 1920[i]. Records contained in the fonds indicate that up to 4-6 tonnes of haggis was produced and sold annually. Orders for haggis, like the other meat products, came from all over Canada and the US. A letter dated December 4, 1944, sent from the Secretary Treasurer of the Allenby Community League, Dorothy Wilby, asks “whether or not Haggis will be available this year, and if so what price it will be.”
Reid retired from the business in 1949, and Gordon Wyness, Reid’s son-in-law, took over the management and ran the business for another 40 years. The eventual closure of the business was heavily tied to its location, the same factor that helped contribute to its early success. The ever changing commercial patterns of Vancouver meant that by the 1980s the shop had become an anomaly in an area that now housed clothing stores and banks. The caveat for closure was the second phase expansion of the Pacific Centre Mall. The building was sold and the business wound down in December 1986.
The James Inglis Reid, Ltd. fonds was acquired by the Archives in five parts between 1991 and 2006. It includes daily order and sales records, expense records, sausage kitchen production records, staff time books, a few photographs, and an audio recording of Charles Menzies, son of Horatio Nelson Menzies, reminiscing about the company. These materials can be accessed in the Archives Reading Room.
Editor’s note: This post was adapted from an article written by Christoph Voss that originally appeared in Archives Newsletter Volume 1, Number 3: October 2006.
[i] Alsop, Kay. “Getting to the meat of the matter: smoking didn’t stunt their growth.” The Province, 26 Nov. 1970, p.43.