British Columbia·Still Standing

The secret behind the success of The Patty Shop

The small Vancouver shop, tucked away on a quiet strip of MacDonald Street, has become a long-standing favourite stop for students from nearby schools — and customers returning year after year for the same recipes.

‘Little by little, people got to know us and we're still here’

The patties, a meat-and-spiced-filled pastry, are a traditional food in Jamaica. (Jennifer Chen/CBC)

Marilyn and Daryl McHardy have been serving up Jamaican patties for more than four decades.

Their small Vancouver shop, tucked away on a quiet strip of MacDonald Street north of King Edward Avenue, has become a long-standing favourite stop for students from nearby schools — and customers returning year after year for the same recipes.

 "We haven't changed a thing," said Daryl.

"That's one of our secrets: we try to remain constant. If you come here tomorrow, you would get the same thing that you got yesterday."

Marilyn and Daryl McHardy started The Patty Shop more than 40 years ago - with the idea of testing it for a couple years to see if the business model would work. It does. (Jennifer Chen/CBC)

Experience eating patties

The patties, a meat-and-spiced-filled pastry, are a traditional food in Jamaica.

"You grew up eating these things," said Daryl, who's from Jamaica.  

The small, family-owned shop it at 4019 MacDonald Street, near King Edward Street in Vancouver. (Jennifer Chen/CBC)

The McHardys knew what they wanted the patties to taste like, but that's about all the experience the couple had when they first opened The Patty Shop.

That didn't stop them jumping in head first, though, and they learned everything from baking to business on the job.

"We said we'd try for two years to see how it went and we're still here," Marilyn said.

As the business grew, so did the McHardy family.

"We had two children and, soon after we opened, the third child came along," she said.

"Daryl spent long hours here, especially at the very beginning."

The secret ingredients? Salt, pepper and time. (Jennifer Chen/CBC)

Return customers

The family lived near the shop, which is how they chose the location where the shop still stands decades later.

"It's where we happen to live and our own children went to [the nearby] Trafalgar school," Marilyn said.

"That was one of our initial sources of customers, people who went to the school and their families."

Students and staff from nearby schools were the shop's first customers. Now, decades later, a lot of those customers are still returning. (Jennifer Chen/CBC)

The process

The name of the shop sums up the joyful simplicity of going in for a mid-afternoon snack: The Patty Shop.

But making those patties is not so simple.

Sometime between 5 and 6 a.m. every morning, the machines are whirling and the pastry is pushed into patty-shapes and filled.

By the time customers start showing up, it's just a matter of heating and serving the snacks.

"We started with pretty well nothing and, little by little, people got to know us and we're still here," Daryl said.

The small Vancouver shop, tucked away on a quiet strip of MacDonald Street, has become a long-standing favourite stop for students from nearby schools - and customers returning year after year for the same recipes. 6:14

Still Standing is a series about the small businesses in the Lower Mainland that have managed to stay open despite the challenges. Listen every second Tuesday on CBC Radio The Early Edition.

If you have a suggestion for a store or business in the Lower Mainland that's been around for awhile and provides a specialized service, or has an unusual survival story, please email earlyed@cbc.ca

With files from Jennifer Chen and The Early Edition

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