West End Starbucks Hero Remembered

Comments 8 by Rebecca Bollwitt

I heard about this in the news years ago but every time I walk into the Starbucks on Robson and Bidwell I am reminded of the heroic act and sacrifice made by Anthony McNaughton.


In January of 2000, Tony McNaughton was the manager of the Starbucks when a man (who was the disgruntled ex-husband of an employee) entered the coffee shop wielding a butcher knife to attack his ex-wife.

McNaughton fended off the man and told his employee to run, while he then got stabbed. The woman involved crossed the street to call for help and McNaughton was later taken to St Paul’s Hospital for his wounds, and passed away. The perpetrator was charged with second degree murder. The story made headlines across the globe, including a write up on the BBC’s website since McNaughton was a Northern Irish immigrant.

His selfless act, basically saving the life of his employee who would have been dead in the hands of this man otherwise, is commemorated by way of a painting (by Joe Average) and plaque at the Starbucks. I also discovered a Tony McNaughton Memorial Fund founded at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, by the Starbucks Coffee Company. The Fund is used for violence prevention projects in Western Canada.


October 2014: This West End location of Starbucks is closing. The Hero painting in Tony’s honour will be moved to the Starbucks on the corner of Robson and Denman.

The Robson and Bidwell Starbucks felt more like a neighbourhood coffee shop than any other I’ve know in Vancouver, and this was because of its staff. I hope many of them stick around (there is the Starbucks at Jervis and Robson as well as the Denman and Robson location) since they were truly what made the neighbourhood great. Tony’s spirit lives on.

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8 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. KristaTuesday, May 26th, 2009 — 9:19am PDT

    You’re right, that is more effective than anything written on a disposable cup. People like that are a rare find, what a sad story.

  2. JennyTuesday, May 26th, 2009 — 10:06am PDT

    A true hero

  3. rboTuesday, May 26th, 2009 — 12:32pm PDT

    I’ve rarely visited that starbucks, but it’s great to hear the story 🙂
    – I’ll add, that the artwork is by Joe Average, a local artist whose work has appeared all over the city, from the old banners on Davie St. to a line of Granville Island Brewing labels, and countless AIDS charity posters. More about him and his work at joeaverageart.com

  4. Miss604Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 — 12:35pm PDT

    Thank you for that – I was wondering about the artist, cheers!

  5. Vincent NgWednesday, May 27th, 2009 — 1:58am PDT

    It’s strange. I’ve always told people about this store. And I’ve been to a lot of Starbucks, as I consult and manage a store myself part time. With almost 69 of them downtown, it’s hard to find a truly truly great one. Most people don’t know this but it’s really probably the best Starbucks I’ve been to. It’s no exaggeration, this place takes pride in their drinks, their service and drink calling is accurate, and they have a huge legacy to live up to. I’ve never met McNaughton myself, but I tell my staff that if they want to see what’s great service…go to this store. What he did was truly heroic, and I’m glad that there are people out there that still remember him. I still remember sitting at home when I read the news…truly tragic.

  6. AC MoneyFriday, May 29th, 2009 — 12:18am PDT

    I normally like that artist and I know the letters reads “Hero”, but to me it looks too comical to be a tribute to someone who died in a stabbing. Other than it spelling that word, what does the painting have anything to do with the incident or the person?

  7. Mike MetzakTuesday, June 9th, 2009 — 5:39pm PDT

    great post. i forgot about this completely and it’s nice to be reminded.

  8. JayWednesday, July 21st, 2010 — 12:28pm PDT

    I spotted the placard and photo today. I remember hearing about the story when it happened but didn’t realize until now that it was the Starbucks right next door to me.

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