Patrons relax in the original food area at Mayfair mall in the 1980s.

BUSINESS BEAT: Victoria’s Mayfair set to sparkle on its 50th birthday

Shopping centre has undergone several major renovations since opening in 1963

More than 30 years after the fact, Mayfair Shopping Centre building services technician Bruce Knight remembers well the early days of his career at the mall. He was originally hired for summer relief in 1983.

The following year he was among many new full-time hires as the mall underwent a major expansion, the first of a series of improvements that happened over the following six years.

As he helps Mayfair prepare to celebrate its 50th anniversary with visitors and mall staff today (Oct. 18), Knight recalls the look of the place when he started.

“It was just really small. All we had was from basically where Anne Louise (Jewellers) and Purdy’s (Chocolates) are now, down to where admin is,” he says, listing stores that are well inside the current entrances.

It was even smaller in 1963, when it opened as one of the region’s first shopping centres, one in which most stores and services had outdoor entrances.

The first major changes came in 1974. “There was the big trend in the ’70s when everything got enclosed,” says Mayfair marketing manager Julie McCracken.

Woodward’s department store, with its food floor, book department and candy counter a destination for many area families, was the anchor tenant in those days. As shopping and mall trends evolved, further changes occurred.

A major expansion happened in 1984 when Consumers Distributing opened up, followed in 1985 by an expanded food court and in 1990 by a larger expansion that added a number of new stores and saw the food floor taken out.

Many teenagers learned to drive in the vacant Mayfair parking lot on Sundays or evenings over the years. The advent of Sunday openings in 1986 cut down the time available for such educational sessions at Mayfair.

In recent years Mayfair has cultivated its standing as a fashion hotbed, with such retailers as Banana Republic, Sephora, Aerie, American Eagle, The Gap and Eddie Bauer moving in.

The centre is home to the lone Vancouver Island outlet for some retailers, such as Bath and Body Works, which opened recently to lineups and excitement.

Mayfair general manager Ken Hoang says the marketplace has exploded in the past 10 to 15 years in Greater Victoria.

“As a consumer I see that as a fantastic thing; there’s a lot of options,” he says. “But that obviously leads to increased competing pressure. That helps push us and keeps us moving forward and drives the motivation to innovate.”

Consumers are looking at shopping centres to be something that is all-encompassing, Hoang says, which means it’s all about the experience. A way to enhance that, he adds, is by staging special events such as today’s anniversary celebration, which offers both a look back in time and a thank you to the community who have kept the mall thriving for 50 years.

The 50th anniversary event runs from 5 to 8 p.m., with a fashion show at 7 p.m. and numerous draws and special offers. Visit mayfairshoppingcentre.com for more information.

Young Drivers opens two new locations

Young Drivers of Canada has moved out of the downtown and opened classroom facilities in Langford and Saanich. The Langford location is in the boardroom at Westhills Arena, 1089 Langford Pky., while the Saanich site is at 103-1551 Cedar Hill X Rd. Both locations offer ICBC approved Graduated Licensing Program courses, which include 20 hours of classroom study and 12 hours of in-car instruction and practice. For more information on upcoming courses, promotions and driving lessons, visit yd.com/victoria or yd.com/victorialangford.

Cosmetics retailer expands product line

Megan Johns, operator of The Green Kiss Beauty Bar inside The Good Planet Company at 764 Fort St., has purchased Sidney-based Paperdoll Minerals, one of its best-selling lines of natural cosmetics, from Carmel Graham. Johns expects the move to nearly double her sales quickly, as Paperdoll products are sold at seven other locations in B.C. Visit thegreenkiss.com or call 250-412-2305 for more details.

Making waves on the business scene

Colin Ewart has been elected board chair for the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence Society, while Bob Cameron was accepted as a new board member. Ewart succeeds Jim Reed as chair … Kelly Orr, Rod Windjack and Ray Spencer are new board members for the Canadian Heritage Arts Society, which operates the Canadian College of Performing Arts in Oak Bay … Janet Crocker is the new policy and communications manager for the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce. She is former executive director of a similar body in Prince Rupert.

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