Most people will only visit the gas stations in Whistler today for gas. There was a time, however, when the gas stations offered many much-needed services to the growing community.
Before its closure, the Husky was the longest-standing conventional gas station in Whistler, but it was not the first. The B/A gas station opened not long after Garibaldi Lifts Ltd. declared Whistler Mountain open for business. In 1969, The B/A, or British American Oil Company, was amalgamated into the Canadian Gulf Oil Company and the gas station became a Gulf, easily recognised by the orange and blue circular logo. Located in today’s Creekside, where Coastal Culture and Tim Hortons are now found, the first gas station in Whistler was the place to go if you needed to buy groceries and it could get busy after skiing. Identifying a need in the community and a business opportunity they also installed a washing machine and dryer that was used as a public laundry.
It was not long before there was competition for these services when the Union 76 gas station opened in 1970. Then, in July 1977, the Union 1976 rebranded to Husky, and the station remained a Husky until a fortnight ago when the longstanding Husky station became the Co-Op. Throughout that time the Husky went through many iterations, expanding multiple times.
Garibaldi’s Whistler News in 1977 advertised only two places in Whistler to buy groceries. According to the paper, they were, ‘FOOD PLUS, located on Highway 99 in the Husky Service Centre. Carries fresh and frozen produce, meat, pharmaceutical products, sundries.’ Along with the ‘MINIMART at Whistler-Rainbow Gulf Station stocked with a variety of foods. Open daily.’
With groceries only available at the gas stations, those visiting Whistler were encouraged to bring their food if they wanted to cook at home and most people we talk to remember buying candy at the gas stations but going to Squamish for grocery shopping. Bob Penner, a long-time Whistler local recalled, “You did have to go to Squamish for food because at the gas station there were two types of beans and a pound of sugar at the shop. We would pool our things and shop. Everything was out of cans, canned meat – spam was huge. Kraft dinner was great.”
When The Grocery Store opened in the Village at the beginning of 1981 the competition ramped up. In January 1982, Jan Systad who previously ran the popular Cookhouse at Mons took over the operation of the deli, store, and laundry facilities at the Husky, where she continued to serve her “much-sought-after home-cooked goodies”. In 1983, the store at the Gulf was bought and renamed the Rainbow Grocer. Photos from The Whistler Question at the time show deli items for sale, including bacon for $2.19/lb and Coho Salmon steaks for $4.00/lb.
In 1985, Petro-Canada acquired all of the Gulf gas stations in Canada and the Gulf station soon transitioned to a Petro-Can. In 2000 it was released that the Petro-Can underground storage tanks had been leaking, likely for several years, disrupting Intrawest’s plans for the redevelopment of Creekside. Remediation started to remove the petrochemicals and hydrocarbons from the ground and remediation efforts continued until 2006 with the Petro-Can open for business as usual. Then in 2006, Whistler’s first conventional gas station was demolished to finish the remediation works. While the flier to patrons said it was a temporary closure for redevelopment, the empty lot and large hole remained for many years and a gas station never did reopen on the site.