Friday, July 8, 2011

Sweet Anticipation

I was second in line at the opening of the store created in 1910 - but I’m not that old. I had been watching and waiting for the big day, and at a mere 475 steps away from where I work (give or take a few steps to allow for the odd, excited stumble), how could I not be there for opening day. Every day I would pass by, quivering in anticipation for the doors to open.

And yes, I actually DID count the steps.

The English Sweet Shop, 101 years old, is as part of the essence of Victoria, BC as is the Empress Hotel. At 736 Douglas Street, just outside the Victoria Conference Center to which the historical hotel is attached, the sugary store has opened - finally.

I say finally because, as I said before, I was watching and waiting - patiently. But not stalking. Oh no, not stalking.

Wendy Beach, owner, had hoped to open on July 1st, which would have been perfect timing to kick off Canada Day, but a series of technical glitches delayed the opening to July 4th. Fine by me – I can say I was second in line 20 minutes after it opened. How cool is that?

First opened in 1910 on Cormorant Street, the confectioner’s delight then moved to Yates Street in the 30’s, moved a few more times up and down the street, then finally found a long-standing home at 738 Yates where it had been since 1946.

Until now.

Construction in the area of the old site had Wendy making the difficult decision to leave the historic storefront – oh, if those could talk, to be sure. But she has a following of folks who crave sweets and groceries from England-afar; treats they can’t get anywhere else. I know they’ll find her.

‘English’ candy lovers, both in-person and those who order online, likely have a running tab at the dentist, I am sure. With 360 canisters (yes, I counted them) of bulk sweets lining the shelves behind the counter, how could they not?

Bon bons, liquorices, mints and Swiss Petite Fruit – very jelly bean-like – wait to be collected and weighed, while candies twisted in foil sparkle in the new lighting.

Packaged delights from overseas like Cadbury’s Flake and Double Decker bar, not to mention Nestlé’s Toffee Crisp bar, line more shelves.

Visitors, ex-pats and new fans of such sacchariferous delectables would agree – they are worth coming downtown for.

An antique postal box greets you at the front door, and a telephone booth converted to a shelving unit holds groceries like jams, jellies, mustards and spreads, and something called….mushroom ketchup. ‘This rich cooking sauce was the secret of success of many Victorian cooks with steak and kidney pies and puddings, roast meats, sauces and soups since the 1800’s.’ So says the Geo Watkins label on the bottle, straight from Aylesford, Kent, England.

And this ‘ketchup’ doesn’t look anything like the typical tomato-based thick ketchup we North Americans drown our French Fries, in.

Huh, go figure - you learn something new every day.

But I’ll just stick to sugar today, thanks.

And of course, these days no ‘English’ store would be complete without Wills and Kate memorabilia. Mugs adorned with their faces sit beside ‘football’ scarves from Manchester United.

The new storefront, combined with the few ‘old world’ antiques and nostalgic sweets and groceries, was in sharp contrast to the modern Smart Car just outside.

As I watched the daily growth of the new store - from the guy applying the decals, to the movers wheeling in carts full of delights waiting for me to sample - I counted down the days, waiting and wondering in sweet anticipation.

And I knew that I, too, better double-check my dental plan. Not just for me, but also my kids for who I bought ‘English’ lollies. We’re gonna need it.

Visit The English Sweet Shop at 736 Douglas Street, Victora, BC Canada


  1. I'd need hours just to check out all the different sweets. Never mind condiments like mushroom ketchup. Sounds like a place you could get some Christmas shopping done early!

  2. Perfect for Christmas Shopping, you are right, Ryshia. What a neat, neat store. They'll be getting a portion of paycheque, for sure! Thank you for reading! Happy summer writing! Lisa