It seems that traditional British food either excites people (Anyone for Mr. Kipling Cherry Bakewell Tarts?) or bewilders people (Batchelors Mushy Peas… I don’t get it!), depending on which side of the pond you’re from! Being a Canadian with very little British influence, I had never been one to pop into a British import shop “just because,” and it wasn’t until I visited Dickens Sweets that I realized what us non-British folk were missing out on!
Named after the famous writer, Charles Dickens, Anne and Fred Hails first opened the doors of Dickens in September 2000 as a bit of a hobby project. Needing something to keep her busy, Anne decided a sweet shop would be a lovely way to enjoy her love for British sweets and also share them with her community. She originally planned to sell imported sweets in the shop 3 days a week, but Anne and Fred soon found themselves bursting at the seams and needing more space. Within two months of opening shop, they were already expanding to accommodate imported grocery items, in addition to their huge selection of sweet goodies.
As Anne starting spending most of her time making sure the shop was running smoothly, Fred decided he needed a little project to keep him busy as well – and so their British Museum was born! What started out as a small personal collection of antiques and British memorabilia, has now grown to a full museum of over 10,000 square feet of showcases, exhibits and loaned private collections. Artifacts are thoughtfully organized into different rooms (like their Titanic Room) to allow for continuity, but definitely be prepared to be surprised and amazed as you make your way through the museum’s nooks and crannies. With collections such as the Sir Winston Churchill & War Room and the largest collection of “Dinky” Toys in Western Canada, you really don’t know what you might end up discovering! Not British? No worries! I loved wandering through the exhibits and learning a little something about the lifestyles of the British. There is so much to see; everyone will enjoy something on offer at Dickens.
Now that Anne and Fred are semi-retired, Anne’s daughter Trudy has taken on the shop and it’s obvious she has just as much passion and flair for it as her mother does. Even though Anne and Fred still stop by a few times a week (usually to add a few special items to the museum), Trudy attributes most of their success to the level of customer service that they have continued to provide over the years. Having a common bond with most of their customers, Anne and Trudy take great pride in creating a community feel within Dickens. It is fun to watch them talk to a non-British customer about all their favourite British foods. I found it very educational! Seriously – mushy peas…
If you’re like me, you’ll most likely feel a little out of place when you walk in the door and you might not know what to think when you try your first Jelly Baby, but do stay a while – you’re in great hands. Think of it as a very cool learning experience and an opportunity to try a few new things…even if your adventurous side will only allow you a taste of authentic British chocolate! Don’t be fooled by the Cadbury wrappers though – these chocolates are not the same as what you’ve been buying from the local corner store. Made without waxy preservatives, British chocolate is a creamier and smoother treat than we’re used to. I encourage you to browse the shelves and see what neat British treats others are there for. I hear one of our FVP team members travels from Langley to Dickens just for their pickled onions and curried baked beans!
I must warn you, though, with so much to experience (they also have a loose left tea shop, as well as Mr. Pickwicks Pie Shop and Oliver’s Tea Room), there’s no way you can fit it all in one day. Now open Monday through Saturday from 10am – 4pm, there’s never a dull moment at Dickens – especially now that the holiday season is upon us!
Be sure to stop by to visit their Christmas Village, which is now open (and free)!
To help celebrate their love of all things British, Trudy is gifting one of our readers a Taste of Britian High Tea Experience for Two in the Dickens Tea Room!
Please leave a comment on this post to be entered to win. Winner will be chosen at random on December 24, 2012!
Update: Congratulations to our winner, Marnie. Enjoy your high tea! This contest is now closed.
45945 Alexander Rd, Chilliwack