Willem Vanderpol’s car in front of the office at the Surrey plant, circa 1953. Ria Vanderpol is standing in the door of the office. (Submitted photo, from the book “First With the Finest: Vanderpol’s, a Family Enterprise”)

Willem Vanderpol’s car in front of the office at the Surrey plant, circa 1953. Ria Vanderpol is standing in the door of the office. (Submitted photo, from the book “First With the Finest: Vanderpol’s, a Family Enterprise”)

HISTORY/HERITAGE

SURREY NOW & THEN: New book cracks open the story of egg-farming Vanderpol family

A look back at Surrey-area landmark sites and events

Rows of houses now stand in Fleetwood where Vanderpol’s Eggs first became a long-running family enterprise.

From the 1950s until 1992, the egg processor operated a large plant at 8592 148 St., employing dozens of local residents.

Pieter Vanderpol has authored a detailed new book that tells the story of how his Dutch immigrant family built a door-to-door egg delivery service into the largest egg processor in Canada’s western provinces.

The hard-cover “First with the Finest” includes several photos of the 10-acre Surrey property, which had barns, a farmhouse and lots of clucking, egg-laying chickens.

The business began in fish delivery, and later got cracking with eggs in Fleetwood, writes Vanderpol, who was president of the company for decades.

“Our new home was in a rural neighbourhood with unpaved roads and only one or two neighbours – not only a perfect property for expanding the business, but also ideal for a large family with lots of room for everyone and everything.”

READ MORE: SURREY NOW & THEN: Public market memories at 64th/King George, and not much more.

As a delivery worker, Vanderpol said he was struck by the high level of trust of Canadians.

“If a customer was not home but wanted some eggs, she left a note in an egg carton on the doorstep with the cash,” he writes. “We couldn’t get over that.”

One morning, an egg truck collided with a milk truck, resulting in “giant eggnog,” according to a newspaper report in 1957.

Pieter’s sister Ria, who was 12 in 1959, recalls life on the family’s Fleetwood property.

“I enjoyed growing up on the farm in Surrey, as I was never bored and there was always something to do,” she notes in the book. “The large orchard provided apples that we stored in the attic, and they lasted us the entire winter. We also kept a few cows and some sheep. We tried keeping pigs, but they didn’t last long as they were ornery and wouldn’t herd, and Pieter and Jack were allergic to pork. Jack and a friend each had a horse, and twice raised colts. I learned how to ride and made other horsey friends in the neighbourhood. We often went for a ride in Bear Creek Park.”

Saturdays at the Surrey plant, egg-grading contests involved a “kid crew” and employees.

“We were all so fast that each team could easily grade and pack 10 cases in an hour,” Ria recalls. “The weekday workers had piped-in music, but we were allowed to bring our record player, and we worked like idiots while listening to 45-rpm records of the Everly Brothers, Johnny Cash and the Kingston Trio. Those were Jack’s favourites. Pieter like classical. We had to change the record every three minutes.”

By the late 1980s, Vanderpol’s Eggs had a national presence, with its head office and egg grading done in Surrey, a processing plant in Abbotsford, another plant in St. Mary’s, Ont., and a sales office in Burlington.

While Vanderpol’s Eggs ceased to be a family-owned business in 2013, the family legacy is carried on by two of Vanderpol’s sons. Phil Vanderpol is president and CEO of Vitalus Nutrition Inc., and Mike Vanderpol is president of EggSolutions Vanderpol’s. Both companies occupy the Abbotsford plant once operated by Vanderpol’s Eggs.

The book can be bought there, at 3911 Mount Lehman Rd., and also online at vanderpolseggs.store.

“Starting with his parents, (the book) is about the family members and long-time employees who made the company prosper,” Vanderpol said. “To understand them — their personalities, backgrounds, values, and motivation — is to understand why things happened, and why Vanderpol’s enjoyed such success.”

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tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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