Vintage Toronto Ads: Party at the PoP Shoppe

Originally published on Torontoist on November 15, 2011.


Toronto Star, October 21, 1976.

For a child growing up in the 1970s or early 1980s, a trip to a PoP Shoppe depot was an eagerly awaited adventure. Running around the stacks of red cases filled with a rainbow of soda flavours, you’d wonder which varieties your parents were going to let you pick: Black Cherry? Lime Rickey? Tall bottles or stubbies? Spokespeople like Captain Cola and former Maple Leaf Eddie Shack didn’t need to do much enticing to get kids to drink the stuff.

Launched in London, Ontario, in May 1969, the PoP Shoppe built its initial business model on selling cases directly to the public from its own factory/warehouse facilities, at prices that were half of what supermarkets charged. Customers were, however, charged a three dollars deposit per case to ensure the bottles would be reused. The company estimated that the fee, considered high at the time, was responsible for 99 per cent of bottles being returned. When this ad appeared, most of the bottles produced when the company launched were still in circulation, in fact. In an interview with the Toronto Star, president Bruce Westwood touted the PoP Shoppe system’s benefits to the environment: “Can you imagine the amount of energy that would go into the manufacture of 35 cases of canned pop and the cartons, and the extra energy needed to destroy them all?”

The company was in rapid expansion mode by the time the Dufferin and Lawrence location opened; sales rose from $1.2 million in 1973 to $17.1 million in 1976. Officials believed they could open 15 new plants a year, widen the franchisee base, expand into the United States, and enter joint ventures around the world. But the company was too ambitious in its goals: its debt-ridden foray south of the border proved the beginning of the end. Bottlers and franchisees complained of massive mark-ups designed to recoup corporate losses, and supermarket chains improved the quality and selection of their generic soda offerings. After the corporate parent went into receivership in late 1982, several bottlers attempted to keep the PoP Shoppe name alive, but it slowly faded from view until 2004, when the brand was revived as a nostalgic drink.

google map august 2011

Google Maps image of 944 Lawrence Avenue West, August 2011.

As for the location celebrated in today’s ad? The site was last used as a medical supply store. Hints of the building’s past lay in its architecture—compare the shape of the white section above the storefront to the PoP Shoppe logo in the ad.

Additional material from the May 25, 1977, edition of the Toronto Star.


944 Lawrence West was later torn down. As of 2019, the site is occupied by Centura Tile.

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Windsor Star, June 15, 1976.

I grew up drinking plenty of PoP Shoppe sodas, thanks to a giant depot in south Windsor (the Ouellette Place location listed in the ad above). My memories are faint, but I recall buying it by the case load, and that black cherry and lime rickey were among my favourites.

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Toronto Star, July 17, 1975.

Alas, Captain Cola was never as popular as other caped crusaders.

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Toronto Star, June 23, 1977.

Al Biggs, who went to elementary school with Eddie Shack and was employed by PoP Shoppe during the 1970s, described Shack’s impact on the company in Ross Brewitt’s book Clear the Track: The Eddie Shack Story (Toronto: Stoddart, 1997):

Eddie was the Don Cherry of the 1970s. People, ordinary people, gravitated to him because he related to them so well. And though he might appear to be a buffoon, every time he went into a plant he’d touch all the right buttons instinctively. He stressed cleanliness, keeping the place looking shipshape, having pride in your job. He told the workers that he spoke from his own experience as a butcher, from the early days in Sudbury and as a hockey player. Everywhere he went his talks had a tremendous effect on the staff, their morale and productivity, stuff you could actually measure before and after he made an appearance.

sun 72-12-22 pop people

Toronto Sun, December 22, 1972.

PoP Shoppe had its share of competitors and imitators, such as this one. An upcoming post will look at one who had ties to the Loblaws grocery empire.





Vintage Toronto Ads: Short Cuts 4

Ten Thousand Doctors Can’t Be Wrong

Originally published on Torontoist on January 12, 2010.


Toronto Star, March 5, 1915.

Trusting the judgment of her faithful nurse, the morose, near-suicidal patient took the tipple of Wincarnis. And another. And another. She wasn’t sure if the promised “new life” ran through her veins, but at least she was temporarily distracted from the other pressures of this mortal coil.

Wincarnis derived its name from its mixture of wine and meat byproducts. It was a snappier branding than the one it bore when introduced in Great Britain in 1887: Liebig’s Extract of Meat and Malt Wine. The current manufacturer continues to tout the medicinal qualities of the herbs and vitamins mixed into Wincarnis, even if it is officially marketed as an aperitif instead of a cure-all. We’ve also read that it tastes great mixed with Guinness and milk.

Golden Girls Galore

Originally published on Torontoist on April 27, 2010.


Toronto Sun, August 29, 1983.

Thirty years after this ad teased Toronto Sun readers, the phrase “golden girls” may not conjure up a night in a peeler joint, unless you’re a fan fiction writer willing to place the sitcom characters in such a setting (though given Betty White’s willingness to do anything lately, it might not be that great a stretch to imagine her in pasties and a g-string).

Besides overemphasizing the hair colour and lusty potential of the dancers, we wonder if club management had a soft spot for a classic Bob Dylan album. Would the non-blonde (unless the newsprint is lying) Viki Page have titillated her audience to the strains of “I Want You” or “Just Like a Woman”? Would the urging to get stoned in “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” combined with the lack of accessories on the dancers have caused club clientele to drop all discretion?

Later nightclub incarnations at the same address include Uberhaus, Tila Tequila, and Moda Night Life.

A Cure for Oilcers

Originally published on Torontoist on June 1, 2010.


New Liberty, March 1948.

Today’s ad is for readers who are puzzled whenever bags appear under the headlights of their vehicle that aren’t caused by scratches bestowed by other drivers exiting a tight parking space or provided by a bird in an artistic mood. Fret not: oilcers can be cured (however, that puddle of stomach battery acid on the ground might be a different story…).

For readers unable to decipher the good doctor’s prescription underneath the remedial box, our certified medical professional recommends that the patient should have “one complete set of Perfect Circle Custom Made Piston Rings—to be taken before the next meal. This to be followed by plenty of road work.”
Disclaimers: Only use Perfect Circle as recommended. Do not use if car develops fever, froths at the mouth, or responds to the name “Christine.”

Free to Go

Originally published on Torontoist on July 13, 2010.


Maclean’s, March 2, 1987.

Yes, this businesswoman is free to go…into the afterlife, that is. The glowing lights and yellow arches welcome her to whatever awaits after she shuffles off this mortal coil (though it looks like it will resemble a 1980s ad designer’s dream). She should have taken it as a warning sign when the pressure of balancing so many communications gadgets sitting atop her head, day after day, caused her face to assume a grape juice–like complexion. Poor Robert will receive neither a reply about the breaking developments with the coffee supply contract, nor will he receive the page she was preparing when her brain caved in.

National Pagette was acquired by Shaw Communications in 1995. At the time, it was described as Canada’s largest provider of telephone answering services and sixth-largest paging company.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Sleepless, Stubborn, and Sterling

Originally published on Torontoist on November 17, 2009.


Mail and Empire, November 9, 1931 (left); The Telegram, November 4, 1931 (right).

Pity the person made agitated and restless by drinking an over-stimulating beverage. Because of their tragic decisions, the owl woman fell asleep at her office desk, while the mule man walked up to his boss, a report firmly clenched in his hand, and allowed his overactive nerves to tell the boss what he really thought of the company’s management. By the end of the day, both found themselves facing the harsh realities of the Great Depression. If only they had sent away for a free sample of Postum…

Postum was developed in 1895 by C.W. Post as a caffeine-free alternative. As these ads demonstrate, Postum’s mixture of bran, wheat, molasses, and corn byproducts was targeted to drinkers who wanted to stay cool, calm, and collected. The beverage enjoyed great popularity among religious groups like the Mormons and Seventh-Day Adventists, who found its non-stimulating properties did not lead the faithful astray.

Postum’s most infamous advertising icon was the nefarious Mister Coffee Nerves, who was introduced during the 1930s. A ghostly symbol of the evils of mocha-induced jitters, Mister Coffee Nerves found his attempts to wreck careers and romances were inevitably thwarted by Postum. When Kraft discontinued Postum in 2007 due to dwindling sales, devotees scoured the continent for the remaining jars.


Sterling Tower, corner of Bay St. and Richmond St., looking south-west, 1972. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 76, Item 12.

General Foods, in an earlier guise as the Postum Company, was one of the earliest tenants of the Sterling Tower. The sixty-five-metre-tall complex at 372 Bay Street briefly held the title of tallest building in Toronto when it opened in 1928, but that glorious honour was wrested away when the Royal York Hotel opened the following year. Other early tenants included the Campbell-Ewald advertising agency and the Sterling Bank. A 1929 ad in the Globe claimed that “the environment enjoyed in Sterling Tower goes a long way towards making the business day successful. Businessmen recognize the value of good surroundings…and profit by them” (perhaps particles of Postum were wafted through the heating system to induce calm feelings). Restorations made to the building a decade ago earned architect Dermot Sweeny a merit award from Heritage Toronto in 2001.

Additional material from the February 8, 1929, edition of the Globe and the November 16, 2001, edition of the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Ice Cold Cornelius

Originally published on Torontoist on October 27, 2009.


Canadian Hotel Review & Restaurant, August 1964.

We’d like to offer a toast to the unheralded service industry workers who served up fine fountain drinks back in the 1960s. Whether it was a bow-tied bartender who knew the perfect mixed drink to suit his or her customer’s needs or a bow-tied teenager asking if you’d like a Coke with your burger and fries, these professionals required the finest of beverage-dispensing equipment to quench the thirst of bowlers, brides, and boozers.

Machines like the President and the similar Diplomat provided a space-saving option for bar areas with little room for a full-size machine. Judging from the number we’ve seen still in operation at banquet and Legion halls over the years, many of these machines have been durable enough to continue serving soft drinks with a retro flair.

As for Cornelius Manufacturing‘s Toronto facilities, the company appears to have operated out of at least two sites in Etobicoke. Besides the location mentioned in this ad, 385 Carlingview Drive was its home during the 1970s and 1980s. The most significant mention of the company that we found in any local newspaper was a listing of sites housing cold, refreshing PCBs published by the Toronto Star in 1985. The Carlingview site was recently available for any company looking to satisfy its thirst for space.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Easy-Going, Manly Ales

Originally published on Torontoist on October 13, 2009.


Liberty, May 1960.

Based on these ad campaigns for two of Labatt’s top-selling brews in 1960, we surmise that 50 was targeted to men who indulged in a healthy round of log rolling/jumping or other potentially fatal tomfoolery while downing a few stubbies, while IPA was intended for the alpha male who wanted no distractions, apart from watching his favourite sport, while indulging in his favourite beverage.

India Pale Ale was one of the company’s oldest brands, having won awards in North American brewing competitions as far back as 1876. Labatt 50 arrived on the scene in 1950 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the corporate stewardship of John S. and Hugh Labatt. The brew was Labatt’s best-seller until Blue overtook it in the late 1970s. Though it never regained the sales crown, 50 later developed a reputation as a cheap brew for hipsters to knock back.

What better place for happy young Toronto drinkers to sing the praises of their favourite beer in 1971 than the recently opened Ontario Place?