For those of you who don’t already know, southern Richmond isn’t just home to Steveston, quaint fishing village with plenty of families, cafes, and shops. It’s ALSO home to Storybrooke, a town with residents that include Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and Prince Charming.
Seriously, it is.
Steveston IS Storybrooke, a vital character in the hit ABC series Once Upon a Time (ONCE). The show begins their third year of filming this July, and once again Richmond will become home to a famous cast and their fairytale counterparts.
Steveston village was chosen for the show because of its classic good looks – it’s a place that just screams Ideal Small Town.
During filming, many of the shop facades along Moncton Street change for the show – The Cannery Café becomes Granny’s Diner, the Romania Country Bread becomes Storybrooke Bakery, and Storybrooke Hardware and Paint replaces the Steveston version.
There’s even a ‘Storybrooke Pet Shelter’ year-round, though apparently it’s just a storage space the show rents to keep some of their gear!
The Storybrooke library is actually the Nitka building, which has a clock tower digitally added in post-production.
In addition to filming within the village, the show also utilizes the Britannia Shipyards as a set (Captain Hook’s boat was docked there a few weeks ago) and Garry Point Park. It’s an area that offers endless opportunities for filming.
I’ve known about the show since I started this job, and have often seen them filming elaborate scenes – remember the disaster scene I happened upon last year? That was surreal.
There was even one time when I walked out of a shop and found myself standing in the middle of an ONCE rehearsal, with Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White) and Josh Dallas (Prince Charming) standing on the sidewalk next to me. When I tried to walk away I rolled my ankle, making my brush with fame an extremely smooth one.
I decided to look into the Storybrooke impact on Steveston a little more, and by interviewing several business-owners I discovered some very interesting things. I first chatted with Kate, owner of Sara’s Ice Cream, an old-fashioned ice cream parlour that’s regularly featured as part of Storybrooke.
She was the first to tell me just how many ONCE fans are now visiting Steveston each year. They come to explore the real-life set, watch the show being filmed, and if they’re VERY lucky, chat with one of the stars. Apparently, there’s one room at the Steveston Hotel that’s especially popular, because it provides a perfect view down the ‘Storybrooke’s’ main street.
This painting was sent to her by a die-hard ONCE fan from Florida, and she said she’s met people from all over the world (including the U.S., Europe, and even Mozambique) who have come to experience Storybrooke.
Cleverly, Kate has developed many of her homemade ice cream flavours after characters in the story, and each have well thought-out ‘flavour philosophies’ that you can ask about in the shop.
Some of them include Once Upon a Thyme (vanilla and thyme), Cinderella’s Carriage (roasted pumpkin, cinnamon, and ginger), Entirely Emma (pineapple and champagne), and Mr. Gold (dark chocolate with edible gold flecks).
Other Steveston shops have also found whimsical inspiration for their products – The Candy Dish is famous for its homemade fudge, and they’ve developed a Snow White flavour that’s hugely popular.
Apparently ONCE’s youngest star – Jared Gilmor – loves coming into the store for candy, as any good kid should!
Seeing the increasing number of visitors coming to see ‘Storybrooke,’ The Candy Dish’s owner Shirley developed a simple walking tour of the village, with maps in her shop that are available to anyone.
With a $2 suggested donation for them and all proceeds have gone to the Richmond food bank, this is likely to turn into an easy and popular way of fundraising for the community.
Another business in on the fairytale is Juvelisto jewelry shop, which sells local artists’ work and custom-made pieces.
I chatted with Leanne, one of their jewelers, who has created several original ONCE rings that are now in high demand. They include this Evil Queen ring,
and the Blue Fairy ring, one of which had just been purchased online by someone as I walked in the door.
Whether you’re a fan of the show or not, I’d certainly recommend popping into Juvelisto if you can, because they have some remarkable jewelry; if anyone cares to buy me an End of 365 Days present, I’d gladly accept one of these poppy or pea-pod necklaces!
I also chatted with Kelly, the manager of Splash Toy Shop. They sell a lot of yellow toy VW bugs, the car that Emma Swan drives. Kelly told me that after meeting several fans the year before, she invited them back the next year to stay with her.
And they did – for two weeks! If that doesn’t say everything about Steveston hospitality, I don’t know what does.
Since I was hanging around Moncton Street, I decided to stop into the Steveston Coffee Co. to have lunch. It’s a quaint little shop just across from Sara’s, white with wooden shingles and a handsome sign.
They have a huge drink menu, various baked goodies, and sandwiches and soup for lunch. I ordered half a smoked turkey sandwich with a bowl of soup, and grabbed a Kitsilano Cookie.
The meal was simple, well-made, healthy, and satisfying. The half-sandwich was huge, so a full one would be serious business!
The multigrain bread was soft, the fillings were fresh, and the vegetarian golden lentil soup was wonderful – just a little bit spicy.
The cookie was sort of like a ginger cookie with seeds and millet on top – JUST the way to finish a soup/sammie lunch!
So, if you’re already a huge Once Upon a Time fan or are just discovering the show, you now know where to find Storybrooke. Steveston has embraced the series in a huge way, and every person I talked to told me how mindful the UOAT cast and crew have been about the fact they’re working in a real community, not a set. In many ways, they have become a part of that community, and will likely remain so for many years to come. Fairy tales do come true! In Steveston, at least.
Cash and cards accepted
Vegetarian options available