When people dream of early retirement they often visualize travelling, playing golf, catching up on reading and pursuing hobbies. Steve and Lil McVittie, owners of The Celtic Treasure Chest, reached the point where they could have pulled out cruise ship brochures; however, they chose a different path and followed their dream to open a business and eventually retire. Ten years later they are busier than ever with two additional businesses in the mix.
Steve McVittie has great respect for his British and Irish roots. His grandmother was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and his father was born in Bedford, England. He proudly reports that his grandfather, who was born in Dublin, Ireland, was a Surgeon General in the British Army and served as the Honorary Physician to Queen Victoria. Lil McVittie is of French descent. Steve McVittie jokingly thanks his wife’s heritage and her love of cooking for his slim and muscular figure.
British food has always been an important part of Steve McVittie’s life. He recalls finding an envelope not too long ago containing an outline he had drafted as a teenager conceptualizing a British store; the dream to create this business had been percolating virtually his entire life.
The McVitties are originally from Alberta. They married in 1966 and moved to Vancouver in 1988. Steve McVittie built his career around sales which included everything from life insurance to hardware, boats, real estate and printing. Lil McVittie was an office worker and a buyer for the PNE.
After their careers had peaked the McVitties determined that Dunbar was the perfect neighbourhood to begin their next adventure and opened The Celtic Treasure Chest in August 2002. Steve McVittie was aware of the history of the neighbourhood. He knew that Scottish, Irish and English immigrants had settled in Vancouver at the turn of the 20th century and they had built many of Dunbar’s homes and named numerous streets. The McVitties made a wise choice to locate The Celtic Treasure Chest in this community as their business has become one of the largest retailers of British products imported from the United Kingdom.
Steve McVittie aptly describes The Celtic Treasure Chest as a British shop dropped into a Canadian location. Food has an amazing ability to ignite memories and indeed many customers share their stories as they browse. The sight of some of the products may remind you of a good “fry up” and transport you back to your childhood breakfast table. Or perhaps you took a wonderful vacation to Britain and recall a memorable Ploughman’s lunch? The Celtic Treasure Chest is stocked with a huge selection of groceries to help you recreate these memories.
You will find an amazing deli that offers everything from cheese, to black and white puddings, sausages, haggis and plenty of tasty meat pies. The Celtic Treasure Chest’s vast selection of specialty teas includes their number one seller, PG Tips. The shelves are well stocked with a variety of canned goods (including soups, puddings, baked beans, Devon custard and rice pudding) along with crackers, crisps, biscuits, British sweets and chocolate bars. Jars of pickles, piccalilli, chutney and mincemeat will inspire you to pull out a cook book, or you can refer to The Celtic Treasure Chest’s website for some fantastic recipes.
In addition to the array of groceries, you will find a good selection of imported hand soaps and health care products. Not to be forgotten are the collections of Royal Family memorabilia, Coronation Street souvenirs, crests, flags, tea accessories and other gift items.
Based on the success of the Dunbar store, the McVitties decided to open a second location in White Rock in October 2004. This caused a chain reaction as the McVittie’s needed a warehouse to receive the large shipments arriving from the U.K. They purchased a property in Delta and opened their third shop in April 2010, with a warehouse in the rear for their new company British Isles in Canada Wholesale Ltd.
Steve McVittie is actively involved with CelticFest Vancouver which sponsors the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. He has acted as parade marshal for the past eight years. He is involved with The Royal Society of St. George as a director, and with the B.C. Highland Games as their marketing and promotions manager. Steve McVittie has also served on the board of the Dunbar Village Business Association.
Lil McVittie is the backbone of the company and is well loved by their customers and suppliers. She orders, manages and controls the purchasing and pricing of the stock as it arrives at their stores.
Steve and Lil McVittie work exceptionally long hours, beginning their days at 4 a.m., as they travel across Metro Vancouver to their three shops. They can usually be found at the Delta or White Rock stores while their affable and highly competent manager Andrea Boyle oversees the Dunbar location.
There appears to be no sign that the McVitties will slow down any time soon. They recently took a well deserved vacation to the United Kingdom. While there, the couple celebrated the ten year anniversary of The Celtic Treasure Chest over a pint of Guinness and a Ploughman’s special at Dublin’s Temple Bar, three blocks from where Steve McVittie’s grandfather was born.
The Celtic Treasure Chest
5639 Dunbar Street