Community hub: Reopening of the S-A-F-E Ltd. April

Community hub: Reopening of the S-A-F-E Ltd. April

Meet me At the S-A-F-E On Saturday

When Heritage BC proclaimed Main Street: at the Heart of the Community as this year’s theme…

When Heritage BC proclaimed Main Street: at the Heart of the Community as this year’s theme for Heritage Week, this curator was slightly perplexed. What street in our downtown core was the historic heart of our community? Front Street (Lakeshore), Alexander, or Hudson?

The term main street sounded vaguely American, like Reeses Pieces versus Smarties, but the task of interpreting the theme was a familiar one. That’s what museum people do – interpret history. With a little research I came to the conclusion that the term Heritage BC was using applied to Front Street, the first commercial street in the community. There were several historic buildings and businesses on Front Street that made downtown Salmon Arm a vital place. One business was S-A-F-E Ltd. It was located on the northwest corner at the north end of Shuswap Avenue. It was a unique cooperative that had its roots in the Salmon Arm Farmers’ Exchange.

The Exchange, as it was known by locals, was established in 1907. It was a shipping organization created to get Salmon Arm fruit cheaply to market in a timely way – no buyers wanted rotten fruit! After securing a lease on CPR ground, the Exchange built a packing house west of the CPR station and concentrated on selling fruit to Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba markets and eventually to Europe.

The Exchange got into trouble when it expanded into the retail market, buying goods in bulk and selling them back to community members. Local retail merchants objected, seeing the Exchange as competition with an unfair advantage. Salmon Arm merchants could not compete on the added cost of shipping.

The Exchange shipped in bulk. So local merchants organized and petitioned the CPR to control the activities of its leaseholder. In 1913 CPR representatives nailed a notice to the door of the packing house, effectively serving the Exchange with a demand to vacate the premises within 30 days and cancelling the lease. The Exchange was in violation by operating a retail business.

What to do? A temporary location was found for the stock at the Finn Hall. The board of the Exchange decided to finance a separate operation and open a retail co-operative on the south side of Front Street and S-A-F-E Ltd. was born. Robert Turner, Frank Black, James Evans, W.J. Andrew and G.G. Barber were appointed the directors. The Exchange purchased the R.K. Scales store and entered into a lease agreement with S-A-F-E as a separate entity for $900 a year.

By 1916 the business had grown so much that additions were made to the original building. It was extensively remodelled and additions built on. There were three departments: dry goods, groceries, and hardware. The business boomed. The building was enlarged a second and third time in 1921 and 1936, respectively.

E.A. Weir, associate editor of the Grain Growers’ Guide, visited the S-A-F-E and reviewed the operation. He called the store convenient. “It has by long odds the largest, best furnished and most comfortable restroom for its customers that I have ever seen [in Western Canada].”

Manager G.G. Barber was smart. He knew that women who came into Salmon Arm from the country needed a place to tidy up. There was a restroom with easy chairs and a sofa, and a separate room with baby cots so that patrons could shop unencumbered by infants. He advertised that S-A-F-E was a progressive enterprise and those women – not just men – shareholders had a voice. They all had the right to vote, something women didn’t have nationally until 1918.

The co-operative was more than a business that did well, with profits paid back to members. It developed into a story about lifestyle, choices, and community.

The advertising slogan, “Meet me at the S-A-F-E on Saturday,” spoke volumes.

The S-A-F-E Ltd. store was a vital part of the heart of downtown. When the building was engulfed by fire in 1956 it took a year to rebuild and by that time buyer’s loyalties had changed. Unfortunately, the S-A-F-E was forced to liquidate its assets in 1959 after serving the community for 45 years.

To see displays courtesy of the Salmon Arm Museum at R.J. Haney Heritage Village, and others, visit the Mall at Piccadilly between Feb. 16 and 21.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Larch Place is the first building to be built in the BC Housing, Canadian Mental Health Association housing project at the corner of Third Street SW and Fifth Avenue SW. This view is from the Shuswap Street side where it sits behind the Graystone East building. (File photo)
Opening of doors at new housing development in Salmon Arm welcomed

BC Housing announces opening of 32 rental units, with 35 more expected in summer 2021

Calls for potential overdoses in B.C. spiked in 2020, especially in the Okanagan - Shuswap. Pictured above is a BCEHS re-enactment of paramedics attending an overdose. (BCHES photo)
UBCO program increases drug checking availability in Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon

January 2021 data shows of 95 opioid samples tested across Interior Health, 93 contained fentanyl

Youth from Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton and the Kootenays were able to dig into two evenings of online learning and connection through United Way Southern Interior B.C.’s <CODE>anagan program. (Submitted)<code> </code>
CODEanagan gives youth a chance to learn about technology

The youth, aged 12 to 21, built their own WordPress sites and developed blogging ideas

A rainbow shining on Kelowna General Hospital on May 12, 2020 International Nurses Day. (Steve Wensley - Prime Light Media)
New COVID cases trending down in Interior Health

24 new cases reported Thursday, Feb. 25, death at Kelowna General Hospital

A concept drawing released by the District of Sicamous shows plans for the replacement of the recently demolished Beach Park washroom facilities. (District of Sicamous image)
Province gets behind new washroom, concession for Sicamous Beach Park

New facility will be sloped, covered with grass, for public seating

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller, before she knew she would change literature. Photo Wikipedia
And Then There Were None

What book knocked your booties off when you were young?

A webinar on dealing with dementia will be held Wednesday, March 10, 2021 (Submitted)
Webinar on dementia scheduled for March 10

Okanagan residents invited to event on legal issues surrounding dementia

The BC SPCA is offering many chances for school-aged kids to learn about animal welfare and other animal topics. Pictured here is Keith, a three-month-old kitten seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
From pets to wildlife, BC SPCA offers animal education programs geared to youth

BC SPCA offering virtual spring break camps, workshops and school presentations

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
B.C. musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s close connection to director led to rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah

Most Read