Nathaniel Ryan Bailey was born in 1902 in Minnesota, and moved with his family to Vancouver at age nine. In his later teen years he could be found at Athletic Park baseball games, announcing players, working the concessions, and selling peanuts in the stands. He was a well-known figure at the park and a devoted baseball fan. Bailey then transformed his 1918 Model T truck into a food truck, serving sightseers at Vancouver’s lookout points with menu items like hot dogs for 10 cents, or ice cream for 5 cents. When a customer called from his car “why don’t you bring it to us,” Bailey was inspired to create a drive-in restaurant.
White Spot Barbeque
Bailey had dreamed of owning a restaurant, and after saving money by working as a cashier for an insurance company, he opened White Spot Barbeque in a small log cabin on 67th and Granville on June 16, 1928. Bailey’s goal was to offer unique meals using fresh local ingredients, and a few of White Spot’s first dishes were chicken pick’ns, a meat loaf dinner, BBQ chicken sandwich, triple triple burger, and blueberry pie. It was the first Canadian drive-in restaurant and the first restaurant to have “car hops” (the waiters would “hop to it” to deliver meals to patrons’ cars). It was also where the secret Triple-O sauce was created. On the order forms that carhops would fill out, X meant hold and O meant extra, so Triple-O meant extra of everything.
The 1930s were a busy decade for White Spot. After instant success at Granville and 67th, Bailey opened a second location in 1930 at Slocan and Hastings. In 1937, White Spot Barbeque became White Spot Restaurant and Drive In, and a year later Bailey added a dining room to the original location. Bailey continued to expand, and his wife Ouelette would co-manage the restaurants for the next thirty years.
White Spot considers the 50s and 60s their boom years. In 1955 there would be 10,000 cars a day and 110,000 guests a week. White Spot was a place for families to enjoy a night out, young people to come on dates, and on any given night groups of teenagers could be found enjoying Triple-O burgers and milkshakes. In 1968, Bailey retired and sold his thirteen White Spot restaurants to General Foods, but they were back under local ownership again in 1983, when Peter Toigo bought the company. For Expo 86, White Spot was given the honour of being the host restaurant at the BC Pavilion. The restaurant had truly become a British Columbia institution. Unfortunately, that same year a kitchen fire at the original White Spot location on Granville and 67th destroyed the restaurant, and it was permanently closed, and the property redeveloped.
The Last Thirty Years
In the 1990s, White Spot left home, expanding into Alberta. Lounges were introduced into restaurants catering to people looking to enjoy a drink, such as the new Nat Bailey Pale Ale and Lager, created specially by Granville Island Brewery. In 2013, White Spot celebrated its 85th anniversary, offering a menu of White Spot Barbeque classics, and encouraged long-time patrons to write in their favourite stories from White Spot, some of which can be found on their website.
According to White Spot, close to 40% of customers still order the Triple-O Burger, and in 2017, 87% of British Columbians visited a White Spot. There are now over 100 locations in British Columbia and Alberta, including eleven drive-ins, and Pirate Paks continue to be the go to for younger patrons (since their introduction in 1968 over 25 million have been sold). Today, White Spot is owned by Peter and Ron Toigo and run by Warren Erhart, who stick by Bailey’s founding principles of fresh, local ingredients, and unique dishes.
Nat Bailey and Baseball
Bailey had a lifelong love of baseball, and was an active member of the community. The White Spot supported countless Little League Baseball teams, and in the mid 50s Bailey bought the Vancouver Mounties (Vancouver’s Triple A team), and attended every game. Nat Bailey died on March 28, 1978, and five days later Capilano Stadium was renamed in his honour. When Bailey was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013, they praised his “commitment to the club [which] helped raise interest in professional baseball to new heights in city.”. The White Spot is still dedicated to supporting sports for children, among other causes, and partners with the Vancouver Giants to support local charities. Since 1963, White Spot has also sponsored the White Spot Pipe Band.
Related Places That Matter
- Brissenden, Constance. Triple-O: The White Spot Story. Opus, 1993.
- Davis, Chuck. The Greater Vancouver Book. Surrey, BC: Linkman Press, 1997.
- Ferreras, Jess. “White Spot at 90.” Global News. 15 June 2018.
- Kluckner, Michael. Vancouver Remembered. Vancouver: Whitecap Books, 2005.
- “History.” White Spot Website.
- “Nat Bailey.” BC Sports Hall of Fame Website.
- “Nat Bailey.” Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Website.
- “Your Stories.” White Spot website.