As Vancouver’s Terminal City Club celebrates its 125th anniversary, it remains one of the city’s gems, delivering a member experience closer to that of an extended family who knows you, gets excited to see you, and cherishes the priceless moments you’ve shared together.
“I was a member for many years before becoming the general manager, and it gave me a different perspective. I joined here because I really felt as though this was the kind of place I wanted to be, and I quite frankly love the facilities,” says Peter Jackman, the GM of Terminal City Club, which boasts four dining rooms, 11 banquet rooms (wired up and ready for business seminars), as well as a pool, squash courts, and a world class fitness centre, recently given a million-dollar upgrade with no increase to membership.
“Every time I would host a function or an event, I was always, always, always very impressed with the experience that I had,” he says.
A new member, Henry Soo, who has lived all over the world, including Shanghai, Beijing and India, chimes in, impressed by the club’s geniality, authenticity, and attention to detail: “In Chinese, we say, ‘Use your heart.’ It’s something that you can’t intrinsically copy.”
The Terminal City Club was founded by the mayor at the time, Frederick Cope, and a clan of local businessmen in 1892, only six years after the establishment of Vancouver itself. Notable members over the years have included the who’s-who of Vancouver, including sugar and diamond magnates B.T. Rogers and the Oppenheimer family, respectively.
“When you go back to what the club was, originally, it was a lot of mining and lumber barons, the titans of their time,” says Jackman. Like the handful of other private clubs in the city during the early 20th century, Terminal City Club was men’s-only, and later admitted women in 1989. Now, as Vancouver grows into an international cosmopolitan city, the club is characterized by its diversity, with a staff speaking an impressive 22 dialects, a measure making anyone, from anywhere in the world, welcome.
“Today, you’re seeing more and more entrepreneurial women joining the club, and we like it because it’s a modern contemporary space that they’re able to utilize and feel very comfortable using,” says Jackman. “We’re very lucky with respect to the fact that we’ve got a great diversity in membership as well.”
Terminal City Club has also been avante-garde in its financial approach, creating a sustainable model that doesn’t just rely on membership dues and food, like many clubs. In 1998, they tore down the building that was their home for almost 80 years, and did a rebuild. The club then sold 17 floors of residences and now leases its land to multiple tenants, such as the popular Lions Pub and Auberge hotel.
“So the tower that we’re in, it was one of the first mixed-use buildings in Vancouver, at a time when that was very uncommon,” says Jackman. “It was the foresight of the directors more than 25 years ago that worked on it for many years to get this done.”
Interestingly, the owners are also the members, who are given a share upon joining, which adds a feeling of permanence, a welcoming feeling, especially important for immigrants. The club’s family-friendly ethos during the weekends also fosters that same warmth, which of course makes the grooming of the next generation of members effortless and natural.
With over 1,900 members, one may be concerned about getting lost in the crowd, though that’s not at all the reality.
“We’re very lucky that Vancouver is the city it is, as welcoming as it is,” says Jackman. “The individuals graciously say hello — it’s a very friendly group. Terminal City Club is a club. It’s not somewhere that people don’t engage and connect — they are quite welcoming and open.”
An irreplaceable part of that priceless, personalized touch is in dining at the club. Tough to argue, considering it hosted 2,200 events last year, delivering some 500,000 plates of delectable world-class cuisine.
“The culinary is something that in private clubs, particularly city clubs, is vital because a lot of members join to utilize those,” says Jackman. “So if they’re coming down to our Lions Pub or if they’re utilizing our fine-dining facilities or our other restaurants or wine lounge, they’re expecting something that’s going to be exceptional. And we’ve got a culinary team that their quality, consistency and service, it’s second to none, and that’s really what’s most important.”
Jackman smiles, knowing his team does truly make the club a special place, even for a visitor.
“When you come back, our server today will remember what you’re having for breakfast,” he says. I smile back at him, knowing my next visit won’t come soon enough.
English Text by Lindsay Wallace Photos Courtesy of Terminal City Club