is a pic of the 'horseshoe' counters at the back. This
photograph was taken at closing time, March 2010. The
busiest time was around 10am
grab a stool at the diner
By Judith Lane
March 20, 2008
Although I’ve shopped at Save-On-Meats for years—the
service, meat selection, and prices
are unbeatable—it took a sandwich board out front offering
a one-pound, two-patty burger for a sweet $3.99 to lure me to
the lunch counter in back where 33 orange stools ring a triple-horseshoe
yellow Arborite counter. The burger—hand-formed, juicy patties
contained in a thin white bun that somehow holds together—comes
with a mound of fries. Menu selections run from the usual bacon
and eggs to liver and onions, chow mein, and buffalo burgers ($4
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
and Mrs Chan
ran Chans Food Market inside Save-On Meats. I especially liked
the dried fruit and bags of pistachios and cashews.
Date: March 2010
dims the lights after 52 years
By John Mackie, March 13, 2009
After almost 52 years in business, Save-on-Meats is set to close
Owner Al DesLauriers had hoped to sell the business, a local icon
because of its dazzling neon sign. But a deal to keep the meat
market open fell through two weeks ago, and the 78-year-old DesLauriers
is closing down so he can retire.
The sign will remain up for the time being, and the Save-on-Meats
coffee shop and produce department will remain open. DesLauriers
is still hoping to find someone to take over the meat department,
but is also trying to sell the four-storey building at 43 West
Hastings for $3 million.
The store was one of the only businesses to survive the long,
troubled slide of Hastings street downtown from a shopping mecca
to a commercial no-man’s land.
“The storeowners along here got scared, like Sweet Sixteen,
places like that,” says DesLauriers.
“They closed up and went to the malls. I didn’t have
that fear. I thought I’d just do a good job, and I’d
have the business. And I did.”
The business suffered, of course. When it opened on Aug. 29, 1957
the meat department had 75 employees; when it closed it had 18.
But DesLauriers says the business was always viable.
“I’ve always made ends meet, let’s put it like
that,” he says with a laugh.
“I was able to pay everybody and buy the building and did
what I said I would do.”
The store was founded by Sunny Wosk, of the Wosk department store
family. The name came from a company in eastern Canada that had
let the trademark lapse, and the sign was the genius of Jimmy
Wallace of Wallace Neon.
The revolving part of the sign dates to the 1940s, when it was
used by the previous tenant, Jones Tent and Awning.
It’s a great example of over-the-top ’50s neon signage.
The revolving bit is three stories high and reads “$ave-on”
on one side, “Meat$” on the flip. On either end are
flying pigs holding money bags that read “$.” Just
in case you miss the name, there are three other neon signs that
read “Save-on-Meats” on the building canopy, along
with flashing arrows ushering customers in over the two doorways.
Customer Vern Berdam says it’s a good example of what Hastings
Street was like in its prime.
“Hastings Street used to be fun,” says Berdam, 71.
“Back in the ’60s there was always something going
on, right from Cambie all the way down to Gore. Back in those
days it was safer for a woman to walk the street down here than
it was on Granville Street.
“This was a great fun area, a lot of diversity in the shops
and the stores. A great ethnic group of people.”
DesLauriers fell in love with Hastings street when he was a kid.
“A friend of mine’s father owned a meat market in
New Westminster and we used to go to help to clean up,”
“His dad would give us some money, we’d jump on the
trolley car and come down here to the corner of Hastings and Carrall,
and go up and down the street looking at what movie we were going
to go to. Because it was all movies in here.
“I said to my friend Ronnie, ‘One day I’m going
to buy this building right here [at 43 West Hastings] and I’m
going to put a meat market in.”
He did indeed go into the meat trade and, when Wosk approached
him to run Save-on-Meats, leapt at the chance.
“We made a deal that if I would run the meat department
as if I owned it, he would sell it to me,” he says.
“And that’s how that went. It was done on a handshake,
25 years later.”
He credits his Christian beliefs for helping to make it through
the tough times.
“Even at the very very lowest times when it looked like
you couldn’t even walk out the door without being ... injured
or something from some of the people here, it still felt good
to do business,” he says.
“It was like an oasis in the dessert, people have told me.
I didn’t have any security at any of my doors, I feel once
you do that you had a barrier between you and your customer, so
I don’t do that. We weathered it out.”
He did field a couple of offers for the building, which dates
to the early 1900s. But the buyers wanted to tear it down and
build condos, and he backed away.
“I made it very clear [to the real estate agent] how I wanted
it sold, that the person you bring to me wants to run it and continue
what I’ve got,” he relates.
“[But the potential buyers] said ‘We don’t want
to buy it that way ... we just want the assets, to tear the building
down, get rid of the sign right now, get the coffee shop out of
“I had two buyers like that who had cash and were ready
to give it to me. But what good is money if everything you’ve
done is just gone?”
DesLauriers wants to sell the building along with the business.
But he’s not going to sell it unless he gets an assurance
his meat market will survive.
“I’ll give the business away for free, if somebody
would just buy the building and keep it going,” he states.