The Shop at Sich’s Corner

CVA Port P1793: F.V. Bodwell, J.W. Bodwell, C.J. Loewen and H.E. Connon in front of Sich’s Corner “Real Estate & Retail Tobacconists”, 1896.

Sich’s Corner was the name of an early Vancouver tobacconist’s shop located on the southwest corner of Cambie at Cordova. The person who named it and for whom it was named remained at the corner and, indeed, in Vancouver, for scarcely three years. And yet the shop’s name took on wider meaning, for several years becoming synonymous with “Cambie at Cordova”.

Thomas Thrale Sich, ca1890, VDW Souvenir Publication, 1891.

Thomas Thrale Sich (1858-1935; pronounced “sitch”) came to Vancouver from England in 1890. In England, he had been in the tea business for the better part of 10 years and, after that, worked in the hops trade for 4 years (whether he was farming or brewing them, isn’t clear). In 1890, he sailed for Canada, with his wife, Esther, and settled in Vancouver.

He opened his tobacco business at 301 Cambie. He kept in stock, among his cigars a nice variety of Cuban brands, including Havana, Upman, Partagas, Larranagas, La Intimidad, and La Corona. Among the loose tobaccos he sold were the W.D. & H.O. Wills brand and Sich’s Own Mixture (his own preparation). Imported cigarette brands included: Melachrino, Khedive (Egyptian brands), Papadupoula, and Turkish varieties. The Daily World concluded, in a profile of Sich’s Corner, that it was “one of the most prominent [stores] in the city and a very popular resort for all lovers of the weed…” (Vancouver Daily World, 1891 Souvenir Illustrated Publication, p. 18).

Sich had had enough of retail sales by late 1892, evidently, sold Sich’s Corner to other tobacconists and moved himself and Esther out to the Fraser valley. Thomas established himself as a farmer of hops somewhere between the towns of Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs. He remained on his farm until 1895, at which time he returned to England. There, he went into business with his brother, H.J. Sich. We know that he returned to the land of the Lotus on vacation with his brother in 1905 (Province, 2 Dec 1905) There is Census evidence that by the 1910s, Sich was acting as a shipping agent in England. Thomas Sich died in 1935.

“Sich’s Corner” became a landmark until the turn of the century for early Vancouver residents — not dissimilar to the Maple Tree of the early (Gastown) townsite and the later Trorey/Birk’s Clock.

Here are a few samples from the Daily World, offering hints as to ways in which Sich’s Corner was perceived and used by early residents:

  • Bulletin Board: This 1892 press ‘report’ suggests that the Corner had a small-town, community bulletin board, with the problems that typically come with community bulletins: If any responsible person has charge of the bulletin board at “Sich’s Corner” he ought to see that reliable news is posted there. For instance some dolt this morning credited the Conservatives with a gain of 15, when the morning papers showed that the net gain was by the Liberals for 16.
    (VDW 7 July 1892)
  • Lost and Found: Lost: Fox terrier dog, black and tan head, evenly marked: black spot at root of tail, making a ring around tail; answers to the name of Fleet. anyone returning him to Buxton & Rodney’s cigar store, Sich’s corner, will receive the above reward [$5.00], and anyone detaining him after this notice will be prosecuted. (VDW 7 April 1893)
  • Way-finder for nearby businesses: NOTICE: Crowder & Penzer’s uptown coal office has been removed to 307 Cambie St next to Sich’s Corner. (VDW 2 Dec 1893)
  • Bicycle/pedestrian concerns (how little has changed, in this regard!): The rule should be rigidly enforced concerning the ringing of bells. A lady was nearly knocked down at Sich’s Corner on Saturday night by a furious [speeding] cyclist. (VDW 29 Apr 1895)

Thomas sold Sich’s Corner in 1892 to Buxton & Rodney, other tobacconists. J.G.V. Field-Johnson opened a realty/brokerage business at 301 Cambie in 1898 and for some years, the two businesses seemed to co-exist at the same address (as shown in the photo at the beginning of this post).

The Sich’s Corner brand was retained until roughly 1900, after which the name gradually fell into disuse.

CVA 810-285: The Townsite Corner – Cambie at Cordova. 1950-68. “Sich’s Corner”, although by this time, the name had long since fallen into disuse.

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