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P00397 – Port Haney street scene with large Pacific Berry Growers' store at right.
P01062 – The same scene in the 1930’s.
Pacific Berry Growers
By 1919, Japanese and other berry growers were producing such crops that some form of coordinated collecting and distribution system was needed. Eugene M Gilland and Charles E Edgett, fruit brokers from Vancouver, started up the Pacific Berry Growers cooperative with Mr. Gilland as manager, owning half the stocks. The built a berry processing plant in Port Haney, adjacent to the CPR tracks, where berries could be loaded into refrigerated cars bound for points east.
By 1920, changing market conditions caused an expansion into jam production for the excess berries. They also expanded their storefront operation to sell that jam as well as other groceries and drygoods.
The Pacific Berry Growers advertised their products in 1923 as follows: “Our stock of groceries is always fresh! Tea and coffee is good buying at present, as both these markets are advancing. We have tempting qualities at good values, tea is 50 cents per lb., coffee is 45 cents per lb., a 5 lb. tin of baking powder for $1.65, and tomatoes for 20 cents.”
But groceries were not all that the Pacific Berry Growers carried. In 1922, some of the items that you could buy from the organization included Leckie Boots for men, women or children, with the ladies black patent, one strap boots at only $5.50 a pair. In order to walk through the muddy roads in the fall or spring, you could also purchase Bone Dry Rain-Proof Pants.
A March 1923 Gazette article tells readers that the association has its own jam-making plant to handle surplus products, so they do not go to waste. Also, the organization, mostly comprised of Japanese growers, “paid the growers higher returns than any organization in British Columbia and not only that, but a reasonable return on capital invested had also been paid.” At the time of the article, the association was in the process of erecting a $10,000 canning plant in Port Haney.
By May 1923, the organization completed a large east-end addition to their building, but continued to expand with “nearly a dozen workmen rushing a big extension on the north side,” according to the Gazette.
The Pacific Berry Growers announced on January 22, 1925 that they would be “adding a new department, that of tinsmithing, plumbing and general hardware, which will easily prove of great convince to Haney. They have secured the services of a first class tinner.”
By 1925, with increasing prejudice against the Japanese farmers who were accused of “stealing” jobs from non-Japanese, they felt that they could do better on their own, and 30 members came together to form the Maple Ridge Co-operative, with Mr. Yagama as the manager. The new co-op was located across from the C.P.R train station on the Fraser Riverbank.
A few years later, in November of 1928, Mr. J. J. Mitchell purchased the Pacific Berry Growers Ltd. Mr. Mitchell was previously managing grocery and general stores in Brandon, Manitoba and towns in Saskatchewan for many years. The Gazette noted that Mr. Mitchell will “proceed to stock and conduct a general store becoming the needs of the town. His affable, obliging manner and close acquaintance with the needs of the citizens, Mr. Mitchell will surely make himself an acquisition to Haney and environs.”
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