Expo 86 – Jasperdo/Flickr
I was nine years old when the ‘world’s exposition’—Expo 86—came to Vancouver and set up a bulbous, rainbow, multicultural, sky-defying shop in False Creek.
Colourful pavilions trumpeted the accomplishments of countries far around the world, known to me only previously through atlases. Each stop offered a stamp for our mock passports; I learned how to write my name in Arabic and Japanese. We watched and tried to comprehend the local weatherman doing his broadcast from in front of a blank green screen. A robot mascot skidded over pavement while trams and skytrains shushed overhead; a slice of the Jetsons below the otherwise wild western woods and coastal mountains.
Many British Columbians are reliving similar memories as we read about Expo 86’s 30th anniversary; CBC has a number of retrospective articles and entertaining videos exist online. But at St. Jean’s, Expo 86 wasn’t just an exercise in civic pride—it was a lifesaver for the company.
In 1985, the cannery was in the midst of expansion plans when interest rates skyrocketed and the economy sank; the business appeared to be hurtling towards bankruptcy. While just holding on into 1986, a company on Salt Spring Island approached St. Jean’s about producing canned seafood for Expo 86. Their initial order? Five thousand cans of smoked salmon.
As if revived by lightning, the cannery leapt into this mammoth order and the salmon turned out to be a hit. More orders came in. The flush of revenue saved the company in the short term while the national and international attention on St. Jean’s products at the world’s exhibition has helped to grow the company in the long-term. Just like Vancouver, St. Jean’s has continued to grow since 1986: proud to represent the best of the west coast of British Columbia.