Tiny Town, Ton of Heart: What I Love About Steveston
by Veronica Lynn (@LadyVSays)
Steveston may be a quiet village in Richmond, BC, but ever since the mega fairytale-inspired hit series Once Upon a Time began filming there in 2011 no day in Steveston has been exactly like the day before. The world has finally learned what the tight-knit yet hospitable-to-tourists community of Steveston has always known: Steveston is an enchanting place. To the thousands of Oncers in North America and around the world, Steveston IS the whimsical town of Storybrooke and so to every Oncer Storybrooke is the place to be.
I recently made my first pilgrimage to Steveston and was immediately charmed.
The taxi I had taken from the Vancouver Ferry port dropped me off in Steveston close to the intersection of Moncton Street and Third Street. Moncton Street is where the majority of the exterior shots of the town of Storybrooke are filmed. The pier, which houses Hook’s ship and the park that contains Henry’s castle, are both within walking distance from Moncton Street.
It was still morning on a blustery November day when I arrived, so I was happy to discover that where the cab driver left me was just mere feet away from Steveston Coffee Co. (Storybrooke Coffee). Though it was past 8:15 am local time, it felt every bit that early to my jet-lagged body. My Texas-raised self was freezing, despite the fur-insulate vest, fuzzy gloves, and velvet hat I was wearing in addition to my long sleeved shirt and cold-weather slacks.
Steveston Coffee Co. has an extensive menu, featuring a wide variety of delicious and very reasonably priced items. But I perused the menu merely out of curiosity; I already knew exactly what I wanted.
“Hot Chocolate with cinnamon, please,” I said to the pleasant barista, who stood ready to assist me.
“One 'Henry’s Hot Chocolate' coming right up,” she responded cheerfully, her friendly smile filling her entire face as her eyes sparkled in recognition of my special request. Apparently, my type of order was one she frequently filled.
It was my first ever hot chocolate with cinnamon and certainly will not be my last. The beverage is absolutely delicious!
Cocoa in hand, I made my way up Moncton Street without the aid of a map. I felt the very epitome of the Tolkien quote, “All who wander are not lost.” Until arriving in Storybrooke, I had not known I could feel so at home somewhere I had never been before.
The first Storybrooke site I recognized was Marine Garage. I later found out, in making a beeline for Marine Garage, I had completely bypassed the famous Storybrooke Clock Tower.
Before you take away my Once Upon A Time Fan card, you need to know two things:
First: Moncton Street was not staged for filming the day I was in Steveston.
Second: Special effects are employed in portraying the Clock Tower on television. Nikka Fishing Marine (Clock Tower/ Belle’s Library), while neat to behold, is not really the elaborate structure people see in episodes of Once Upon A Time.
The modest size of Nikka Fishing Marine did not keep me from taking twenty photographs of it--it may have been smaller than it appears on television, but it was still the Clock Tower/ Belle’s library.
Continuing up Moncton Street, I walked by Any Given Sundae. Though the building is an architectural delight, it was far too cold for ice cream so I skipped going inside. Then, suddenly, I saw it: the Cannery Café (Granny’s!!!!!!).
Walking into Cannery Café was one of the most magical experiences of my entire life. I was the only customer and knew what I wanted but it took me a good seven minutes to place my order, simply because it took me the first six minutes to stop gushing to the diner owner about how wonderful his restaurant is. Unlike the studio set version of the interior of Granny’s, there is no counter with stools inside Cannery Café, but the table arrangement is similar to what is shown on television. I recommend sitting in either of the tables by a window. Perhaps it was too early in the day, but Cannery Café was not filled with the scent of fresh-out-of-the-oven lasagnas as I had anticipated it would be. In every other aspect, however, being in the diner was exactly how I had imagined it. Had I not had more Steveston to see, I easily could have sat in Cannery Café all day, enjoying the cook’s delicious grilled cheese sandwiches and the restaurant’s delightful ambiance. Delicious and delightful-that’s how I will always remember the Cannery Café.
After lunch, I backtracked back down Moncton Street towards where I had arrived near Third Avenue because some friendly tourists told me that was where Mr. Gold’s Pawnshop is located. The window display of Mr. Gold’s Pawnshop in Steveston has different items on display than the ones seen on television, but its actual window is identical to its counterpart on the studio set. Immediately inside is a table of merchandise sure to delight your inner Oncer. There are beautiful postcards, writing pens, and a good selection of jewelry, including replicas of Snow White’s engagement ring. The first replica ring I happened to pick up was just my size! The ring has found a happy, permanent home on my finger and I look forward to all the love it will bring me.
On the same side of Moncton Street as Mr. Gold’s, up towards First Avenue, is Romania Country Bread (Storybrooke Country Bread). Located directly across the street is Steveston Museum/ Post Office (Storybrooke Post Office), which houses the Tourism Richmond Visitor’s Centre--home of the most kind, knowledgeable, and helpful tourism staff I have ever encountered. The Visitor Centre was my last stop but I recommend everyone make it their first. You will not find a warmer greeting anywhere and whatever questions you have, the staff has the correct answers. The only reason I went to the Visitor’s Centre last was because I knew I was going to purchase a bunch of the official Once Upon A Time merchandise that is exclusively sold there and I did not want to be weighed down with treasures until after I was done walking around. The best thing to do is go to the Visitor’s Centre twice--once as soon as you arrive to let them give you the lay of the land, and a second time right before you leave to buy souvenirs like the newly available Belle’s Chipped Cup, t-shirts, hats, tote bags, red apple-covered lanyard and magnets, to name a few. Be sure to check out the museum while you are there. It is free!
It would take many, many articles to adequately describe everything worth seeing in Steveston. If you love Once Upon A Time, you will adore Steveston and should make plans to visit it soon and often.
I entered Steveston searching for hot chocolate with cinnamon, longing for adventure and hoping for a warm welcome from the town’s inhabitants. Steveston provided me with all three-- and oh so much more! For as long as I live, I shall tell people about the magic that happened to me in a tiny town with a ton of heart. For, Once Upon A Time, a girl named Veronica travelled to a place called Steveston where she became The Author.
And she is living happily ever after.