Al Des Lauriers, the 77-year-old man who has owned Save-on-Meats at 43 West Hastings since 1957, has told the Georgia Straight that he plans to close his business next year. Today, Des Lauriers still works six days a week, 12 hours a day, which he claims makes him “semi-retired”.
His announcement follows the September 2008 closure of Vancouver’s last Jackson’s Meats store at 2717 Granville. The Jackson family was in the butcher business for 150 years.
Des Lauriers said he’s closing Save-on-Meats for three reasons. First, he would like to retire. Second, he doesn’t think anyone would be interested in buying the business, just the building. And third, the fresh-grocery business has changed. “It’s been 52 years so it’s about time we packed it up,” he said. “It [food] is changing. The people are different shoppers now than even 10 years ago. Most people want things ready to eat. Hot. Nobody wants to cook. I think pretty soon they’ll be building suites and apartments with no stoves in them. They’re not going to need them.”
Des Lauriers took a short break to chuckle. heh heh.
“There’s really no story. What do you do? You just close it,” he continued. “There’s really nothing much to say about this place, although I knew I was going to buy this place and put a meat market in when I was only 12. It was long before it was a meat market. My best friend, his father had a meat market in New Westminster and we used to clean the store and help with chores. And his father would give us a few coins and we’d jump on the old trolley bus that used to travel down to the corner of Carrall and Hastings, and there was a lot of theatres along here at that time. There were a lot of vaudevilles and all that. People like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, people of that stature at that time. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them; they were like teenagers at that time. And walking along the street here, we’d go walking up and down Hastings looking for a movie to go to. And I saw this sign turning and I saw the building [which was then called Jones Tent and Awning]. And I said to my friend Ronnie, ”˜One day, I’m going to buy that building and I’m going to put a meat store in it just like your dad’s’.”
When Des Lauriers was 25, he did.
“When we first had the shop, we were ahead of ourselves. We put in a bakery, but it didn’t work because everyone was baking their own buns and bread and things at home. So we put in the coffee shop in about 1960 [now rumoured to have the best cheeseburgers in Vancouver and frequented by the VPD]. We’ve had many, many people find their wives and husbands here and they had children and their children came back and worked here. And their children are looking on working here. We had 75 people in the meat department. We had 25 meat cutters and 50 clerks. So a lot of people went through here. At one time, we had a chain that was called Rob Roy Meats. We had 10 stores. There’s a lot of stuff to talk about. But we’re closing. What’s there to talk about?”
The store’s neon sign featuring two plump, pink pigs and a twirling “Save-On” logo is already part of a photo documentary project.
“I’d like to donate it [the sign] to someone,” he said.