Vancouver History: Nabob

Comments 4 by Rebecca Bollwitt
Disclosure: Unpaid, Personal Opinion — As with any post on, I was not paid to write this content. This is also not an endorsement for Nabob, it's simply a post about a company that has deep roots in Vancouver (and is only 10 years younger than the city itself). Please review the Policy & Disclosure section for further information.

While it’s not a brand most associate with our city specifically, yesterday Nabob coffee celebrated its 115th anniversary in Vancouver, where it originally began.

1924 – Water at Cordova (between Waterfront and Steamworks, today).
VPL Accession Number: 10698. Photographer: Leonard Frank.

1932 – Water at Cordova. Archives item# Bu N436. Photographer: W.J. Moore.

Founded in Gastown in 1896 by Robert Kelly and Frank Douglas, it was located at 123 then 375 Water Street in what we know as The Landing building.

1940s – Truck in the Nabob building (where Steamworks is today). Archives item# CVA 1184-2081.
Photographer: Jack Lindsay.

The company roasted and blended coffee beans for distribution in Western Canada and also included teas and spices in their original product lineup.

1920 – Nabob baseball team. Archives item# CVA 99-1362.

1940s – Billboard. Archives item# CVA 1184-138. Photographer: Jack Lindsay.

1940s – Billboard. Archives item# CVA 1184-2078. Photographer: Jack Lindsay.

1940s – Billboard. Archives item# CVA 1184-2079. Photographer: Jack Lindsay.

1940s – Women packaging coffee. Archives item# CVA 1184-2086. Photographer: Jack Lindsay.

1940s – Delivery truck at Davie & Nicola. Archives item# CVA 1184-2108.
Photographer: Jack Lindsay.

1941 – Nabob building in Yaletown, 1106 Mainland.
VPL Accession Number: 14504A. Photographer: Leonard Frank.

Nabob was very involved in city events whether by handing out samples, sponsoring afternoon teas and performances at The Orpheum, and a radio program that was broadcast nationally featuring the “Nabobettes”.

1946 – Nabob’s “Harmony House” at The Orpheum. Archives item# CVA 1184-2275. Photographer: Jack Lindsay.

From Beryl Boden sang with the band for a while, then left for New York. She was succeeded in 1950 by Lorraine McAllister, who performed with Dal’s band for almost 15 years and, in 1951, became Mrs. Dal Richards. “Lorraine sang with the Nabobettes,” Dal recalls. They were the vocal group on Nabob’s Harmony House, an Orpheum fixture for 11 years, and heard from coast to coast on CBC Radio. Also heard every week for many years and more than 2,000 programs on the national network was Dal’s own show from the Panorama Roof.

1940s – Nabob Harmony House at The Orpheum. Archives item# CVA 1184-2107. Photographer: Jack Lindsay.

To mark its anniversary and continue to support its hometown, Nabob donated $10,000 to the Vancouver Board of Trade’s Spirt of Vancouver initiative yesterday. The Spirit of Vancouver is a not-for-profit organization mandated to develop, support, and promote events, organizations, and individuals that are making Vancouver a better place to live, work, play, invest, and visit.

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4 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. Tim AyresFriday, September 2nd, 2011 — 10:06am PDT

    Wow, I had no idea that Nabob was a Vancouver company, nor that it was so involved in the community in years past. Thanks for this, Rebecca.

  2. Henry LeeFriday, September 2nd, 2011 — 2:07pm PDT

    Rebecca, thank you for your article on Nabob. As a young’un, I remembered watching local tv-adverts for Nabob products.

  3. CaroleMFriday, September 2nd, 2011 — 7:08pm PDT

    I had no idea either that Nabob started in Vancouver! Lookit, I learned something new!

  4. RobynFriday, November 16th, 2012 — 11:58am PST

    I had absolutely no idea Nabob began in Vancouver, and I thought I was well-versed in Vancouver history. Wow! What I find totally fascinating is seeing all those old photos too… especially of the Landing Building (which looks identical to how it currently stands) and 1106 Mainland (next door to where I work). Very few buildings from that era are left standing today and yet, there they they are, almost identical, housing Nabob Coffee. Who knew?

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