When Steveston’s long-established British-themed store closed in 2017, friends Lenny Entwistle and Elly Fenton decided to join forces and plug the teabag-shaped gap in the market. But while English expat Entwistle and Australia-born Fenton were familiar with UK staples such as Marmite, Walkers crisps, and Dairy Milk chocolate, launching their shiny new Steveston’s Best of British shop was still a steep learning curve.
“We talked to the staff from the old store and asked them questions about everything—then we hired three of them,” says Entwistle, adding that her knowledge of beloved British products—she was raised in the English town of Darlington before moving to Canada in 1979—combined with Fenton’s organizational and number-crunching experience make them an effective business partnership with complementary skills.
Lenny Entwistle (left) and Elly Fenton (right) operate the store together. | Photo: John Lee
Who is it for?
Now, two years after opening their bright and inviting heart-of-the-village store, the duo and their friendly staffers welcome a steady stream of nostalgic Brits hungry for flavours of the old country. But there are also plenty of shoppers from other nations that have links to UK heritage—along with Steveston visitors curious about exotic items ranging from black pudding and malt loaf to lemon curd and Curly Wurlys (a popular chocolate-covered caramel treat).
There's a great selection of jams. marmalades and lemon curd. | Photo: John Lee
“The diversity of people who walk through the door here is amazing,” says Entwistle. “There are people from Fiji, Hong Kong, and South Africa who grew up with these products. But it’s also everyone who’s ever been to England and found a chocolate bar they really liked—and can't wait to try it again.”
What’s on the shelves?
An Aladdin’s cave of classic UK candy treats like chunky Yorkie Bars, silky-smooth Galaxy chocolate, and baskets of pick-your-own sweeties in shiny wrappers, the store also has much more than branded confections to check out.
There are jars of imported jams and condiments (neon-yellow piccalilli included) as well as a plethora of packaged cookies, ranging from garibaldis to ginger nuts to Scottish shortbread. And from the country that regards tea as a life-giving elixir, there are also premium leafy concoctions from Marks & Spencer and boxes of Builder’s Tea, a super-strong brew guaranteed to put hairs on your chest (just kidding).
Imported UK snacks include Monster Munch. | Photo: John Lee
But one of the store’s bestselling lines, says Entwistle, is pies—made in Richmond and delivered to the store in two large orders every week. “Some people come here from miles away and buy loads of them to take home for the freezer,” says Entwistle. Fruit pies are part of the mix, she adds, but it’s the pub-style savoury pies—including Steak & Kidney and Steak & Guinness—that many regulars love. They add to a well-stocked meat and deli selection that also includes sausages, Cornish pasties, and haggis (a Scottish delicacy).
Shortbread cookies are never in short supply at the store. | Photo: John Lee
Christmas is here
Many of the same pie-loving regulars also beeline to Steveston’s Best of British in the weeks before Christmas, hunting for nostalgic, hard-to-find Yuletide items for their traditional festivities. On our visit, it was all hands on deck as the shop’s Christmas products—ordered many months ago—were being unpacked, priced, and placed on the shelves. As if sensing their arrival, the store suddenly seemed extra busy with holiday-minded browsers.
The shop is full of tasty treats. | Photo: Steveston's Best of British
And what are these keen holiday shoppers particularly looking for? “The mince pies, Christmas puddings, and Cadbury selection packs [multiple candy bars in festive packaging] fly out the door at this time of year,” says Entwistle, mentioning that their pudding selection includes traditional versions in both shareable and individual sizes, plus some rich and decadent Glenfiddich and Guinness varieties.
You can stock up on Christmas puddings at the store. | Photo: John Lee
“There’s a lot to see in the store and you have to give yourself plenty of time to look around,” says Entwistle, as she busily arranges brightly-coloured boxes of Christmas chocolates from UK confectioner Thorntons. “This has always been a good place to find something unique for yourself or as a treat for someone else,” she adds.
If you go:
Steveston’s Best of British store is at #110 - 12031 First Avenue in the heart of Steveston Village. Opening hours are 10:00am to 5:30pm Monday to Saturday, and 11:00am to 5:30pm Sunday. The shop is just a few steps from several bus stops: services run to and from city centre Richmond every few minutes and you plan your trip via the TransLink website.