THE SUNALTA BLOCK
Thousands of people pass the Sunalta Block everyday on their commute to work, not giving it a second glance. And although recently it has been filled with office equipment and hubcaps, it was once a bustling social centre, filled with neighbours chatting at the meat counter, political speculations over a beard trim, and children gleefully clutching bags of penny candy. Today it bears little resemblance to the structure it once was.
Built in 1910, on the corner of 14th St. S.W. and 12th Ave. S.W. (comprised of the addresses 1502, 1504, 1504a and 1506), this impressive building was right on the streetcar line. Sunalta was a brand new subdivision and commercial businesses were moving. The second floor of the building always was, and still is apartments. The street level has been occupied by a variety of businesses, typically grocers, meat markets and beauty salons. Many of the businesses owners lived nearby.
In 1914 Bernard J. Callaghan was a grocer at 1502 (the corner unit of the building), while living at 1631 – 14th Ave. S.W. Ernest Rubie, living at 1529 – 10th Ave. S.W., and Clarence A. Richardson, living at 1533 – 10th Ave. S.W. operated Richardson and Rubie Groceries in the Block at 1506. During the 1910’s, a Jewish grocer named Hyman Cohen operated his grocery store at 1502 while living at 1510. While the Block saw a high turnover of businesses in its early years, two businesses and two proprietors established themselves and remained for several decades.
During the late 1910’s, Ernest Samuel Tinney had a career as a manager at P. Burns and Co. (Burns Meats). By the early twenties he started his own meat market in the Sunalta Block. His wife Stella Rose was a tailoress, and they made their home at 1221 - 12th Ave. By the early thirties, Shoprite, a retail grocery chain had taken over 1502 and 1504. The Shoprite in the Sunalta Block was one of seven in town and contained a meat counter, which was managed by Mr. Tinney. Shoprite remained at this location until the seventies, although Mr. Tinney retired in the late fifties. He is still remembered by many of Sunalta’s long time residents.
Another business that established itself was the Sunalta Barber and Beauty Shop at 1506. It opened in the early thirties and remained well into the sixties. One of its long term proprietors was E. Alex Smyth, who trimmed and shaved many Sunalta men from the early forties until the early sixties. He made his home nearby at 1322 – 16th Ave. S.W.