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SOOKE HISTORY: Brownsey building housed grocery store and post office

SOOKE HISTORY: A new store opened in 1958, making it one of the town’s largest grocery outlets
Doug Brownsey at work in his store. He began working in the store when he was seven years old. (Contributed - Sooke News Mirror)

Elida Peers | Contributed

One notices a street sign Brownsey Boulevard as one drives through central Sooke today. Sooke council decided on the street’s name at a meeting when then-mayor Wendal Milne was in office.

It was recommended by a councillor who grew up in Sooke that the name Doug Brownsey be chosen, as he fondly remembered the proprietor of the store located alongside today’s roundabout.

“Doug would always give us green ice cream cones – he always liked to make us kids happy,” he said.

Doug Brownsey contracted Howard Lewis in 1958 to construct the stuccoed structure on Sooke Road that is now owned by Jim Mitchell Enterprise. Brownsey’s new building was a big change from its earlier one at the corner of Anna Marie Road and Sooke Road where Doug began helping his family when he was only seven years.

Brits who arrived in Sooke in 1927, Doug’s mum Betty Brownsey ran the store and his dad, Fred, became the village’s new postmaster, dispensing mail from one end of the small shop.

MORE HISTORY: Welsh family has a long history in Sooke

With the opening of Doug’s new store in 1958, it became one of the largest grocery outlets in town. The building’s west side housed the new post office, where dad Fred Brownsey carried out his 36 years as postmaster.

When this photo was taken in the 1960s, Doug Brownsey worked long hours and was often counted on by folks who were struggling between paycheques, to carry them with needed groceries on account. His kind heart was known to many. Doug married Winnie Stange, and the couple built a house near the brow of Charters Hill, raising sons Keith and Paul.

Though Doug Brownsey had the misfortune of developing multiple sclerosis in his mid-years, he worked as long as he could. Eventually in a wheelchair, he had to part with the way of life he’d known since childhood. In 1972 his grocery business was sold to Murray and Joan Plum, and many changes have taken place in the building since then.

Seaview Pharmacy, owned by John Farmer, took over the post office space. In 1983, after he moved to Evergreen Centre, the building went to Jim Mitchell and his associates, and a variety of businesses have been operated there, including the Sooke News Mirror.

Doug would have been proud to see his sons successful in their own future careers, and might have been especially tickled to note that son Keith became a professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary and was often invited to take part in a national news show discussing political science.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email

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