Village Garage: “An Oiler for Dad, Candy for the Kids”
As this ad slogan for the Sharmans’ April 1, 1966 opening day of the Village Garage suggests, the corner of First Street and Memorial Avenue in Qualicum Beach is the site of a building that reminds most of us of our childhood visits to the gas station with dad.
The current building, “Village Garage,” was built in 1951 by Dick Dougan and it has changed little since that date.
The first building on the corner was built in 1915 by Herbert Ponsford.
It was a log structure with a portico supported by stone and wood pillars and it housed a notary and real estate office. After that structure burned down, Ponsford built a garage on the same site in 1927 and later sold it to William Bartlett, who ran a hardware, grocery and feed store on the premises, “Qualicum Hardware”, while also selling gas from twin visible pumps (you could see the gas through glass) to village motorists.
For a short time the Bartletts lived in rooms behind the hardware store. Bartlett also rented the garage repair bays in the front of the building to Chester Good for his insurance office and later to the first Canadian Bank of Commerce. The double barn style doors of the original garage were changed to office style doors and the space behind Chester’s office was rented out as warehouse space.
The garage portico that covered the gas pumps was also remodelled during this period.
Dick Dougan bought the Ponsford garage and hardware store from the Bartlett family in 1951, tore the building down and built the garage that remains today.
Photos of the various buildings display a variety of name signs over the years, including “P D Wood and Coal and Motor Oil”, “Home Gas”, “Premier Gasoline”, “Marvelube”, “Hardware, Groceries and Feed”.
The garage business became a British-American gas station but after Verona and Gerry Sharman purchased the garage from Dougan in 1966, British -American merged with Gulf Resources Canada in 1969, making it a Gulf gas station.
By the time the Sharmans sold the business to their longtime mechanic (since 1978) Dave Rye in 1990, the station was a Petro Canada station, as Gulf sold its marketing assets to Petro Canada in 1985.
A hallmark of the Village Garage is tradition.
The station remains one of the few in the area that provides full service to all gas customers, and it displays its history, including the “1951” carefully maintained on a cement retaining wall, and a photograph of the original Ponsford building and a painting of the 50s era garage are displayed on the wall.
The only site upgrades since 1951 are the gas pumps, some re-painting and a new roof. All the owners have been independent operators, running the garage as family businesses that included spouses. Both Verona and Darla managed the books for the garage businesses co-owned with their husbands.
Darla Tate continues to run the business today after Dave’s death in 2005. Darla remembers the tremendous help the staff gave her as she learned how to run the business by herself.
The garage is the oldest continuous gas station service in Qualicum Beach. Village Garage is an icon of Qualicum Beach, as a business that sustained families for generations, and a place full of memories and stories.
– Submitted by Nanci Langford