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That time when Becker's was fresh and ready

Posted by Ed Conroy / November 30, 2012

Beckers TorontoOne of the many highlights of our Christmas season is indulging in that rich creamy nectar of the gods known as eggnog, and while you can still find some yummy, reasonably priced non-alcoholic brands around town, nobody makes eggnog as heavenly or affordable as the late lamented Becker's chain of dairy and convenience once did.

Not only was their eggnog crafted to perfection, but also their popsicles, ice cream, milk, chocolate milk, soda, bread, juice, coffee, cream, donuts, hot dogs and pretty much everything else they put their name on.

Becker's TorontoLegendary Canadian rockers Rush made a habit of accrediting "special thanks" to Becker's brand chocolate milk in many of their albums, leaving no doubt as to what majestic liquid was fuelling their complex progressive sound ship.

Founded in Toronto in 1957, Becker's was the king of convenience stores, primarily because of their cheap prices, ubiquity in the GTA and of course their already mentioned champion selection of own-brand treats and sweets. They also rented movies, in both VHS and Betamax formats, just for the win.

Like many other fondly remembered retail relics of that era, Becker's fostered a lot of goodwill through television advertising. For 80s kids prone to bouts of hyperactivity from guzzling bowls of Frosted Flakes doused in Becker's half and half cream chased down with grape soda and banana popsicles, this Dukes of Hazzard inspired commercial was as close to a direct hit as you could possibly get.

In 1996, Becker's assets were acquired by Silcorp, who itself was acquired by Alimentation Couche-Tard three years later. Couche-Tard owned 7-11 and Mac's, and opted to phase out the Becker's brand in favour of Mac's (although the Becker's flower logo remained on other Couche-Tard properties such as Dairy Mart and Daisy Mart). The Becker Milk Company morphed into a real-estate investment company which is still traded on the TSX and who owns the property of the majority of former Becker's locations.

Becker's TorontoA few franchised locations opted to keep the Becker's name and logo (such as the one pictured above at 1494 Kingston Road in Scarborough , but don't be lulled into a false sense of thinking they might carry any beloved Becker's branded product.

While Mac'Beckers does produce a fairly decent but pricey eggnog, nothing since the demise of Beckers has come close to equaling their utterly toothsome flavour of that sweet Christmas infused beverage. Meanwhile, Rush's last great album was produced in 1996: Co-incidence? I doubt it.

Becker's TorontoRetrontario plumbs the seedy depths of Toronto flea markets, flooded basements, thrift shops and garage sales, mining old VHS and Betamax tapes that less than often contain incredible moments of history that were accidentally recorded but somehow survived the ravages of time. You can find more amazing discoveries at www.retrontario.com.

First Becker's ad via jbcurio's stream on Flickr

Discussion

52 Comments

Jose / November 30, 2012 at 09:47 am
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I don't understand why businesses get rid of a good thing.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it".
Me / November 30, 2012 at 09:47 am
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We still call the local Mac's "Beckers". heh.
Matt / November 30, 2012 at 09:47 am
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Their chocolate milk was truly Nectar of the Gods.
j-rock / November 30, 2012 at 09:48 am
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The eggnog recipe has to still exist somewhere. I hope that one day I can once again find some that is as good as theirs was.
Cynthia / November 30, 2012 at 09:53 am
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I used to go to Becker's for their ice cream bars (you know, the kind that was dipped in chocolate but didn't come on a stick). The milk I drank came from Becker's too.
Johnny Tronno / November 30, 2012 at 09:56 am
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We used to have one at the corner near our grade school in Etobicoke in the 80's. Affectionately referred to as 'Pecker's'.

We would get our gummy bears, garbage pail kids, freezies and anything else to rot our young little baby teeth away. Many still had the local corner store feel to them. Another walk down memory lane. Thanks!!
McRib / November 30, 2012 at 09:57 am
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man i loved their chocolate milk. 1L jugs of heaven.

Dean / November 30, 2012 at 10:01 am
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I miss Beckers, growing up there was always one just down the street. 10¢ popsicles, freezes, slush puppies, jugs of milk and all that other good stuff. One of the problems with Beckers I heard was that it was hard to be a franchise owner since you had to buy every product from the Beckers Company and there wasn't much of a margin.
Beau / November 30, 2012 at 10:11 am
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I really don't know why, but when I was a kid (in Sarnia), for some reason Becker's was the "uncool" variety store and Mac's (back when it was called Mac's Milk and they had the cat mascot) was where it was at.
John / November 30, 2012 at 10:12 am
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Definitely the best chocolate milk! I used to get it all the time when I was a kid, it was part of my childhood.
BH / November 30, 2012 at 10:17 am
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Best memory is playing video games like Playing Frogger and Space Dungeon when they had an arcade game or two inside.
Me2 replying to a comment from Me / November 30, 2012 at 10:19 am
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We still call it Beckers too! lol
giselle / November 30, 2012 at 10:20 am
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Oddly there is still a Beckers on Weston rd north of Wilson. Well it has a Beckers sign anyway..
Todd Toronto / November 30, 2012 at 10:26 am
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I could be mistaken (Google is my friend, but laziness is my best friend), but I thought Couche-Tard owned Circle K, not 7-Eleven.
Alan / November 30, 2012 at 10:59 am
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I worked in a Becker's store in Willowdale (5215 Yonge Street) from 1978 to about 1980. I remember that when I started the price of 1 *quart* of skim was 59 cents, 2% was 60 cents, "homo" was 61 cents and "10% cereal cream" was 89 cents. A pack of large king-size cigarettes was $1.02.

I have a lot of fond memories of working there.
Gabby / November 30, 2012 at 11:11 am
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it really bugged my when the writer said "just for the win" applying internet slang to something that doesn't even make sense, how does carrying betamax make it "for the win"
iSkyscraper / November 30, 2012 at 11:16 am
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Loved Beckers. Hate Mac's. From Toronto to Gravenhurst, really miss the old place.
Gzilla / November 30, 2012 at 11:37 am
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Cool art of the Becker's train pulling a load of Furries around town
Hippie69 / November 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm
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Hipster milk was cool before you were.
Honey BooBoo / November 30, 2012 at 01:07 pm
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This article is For The Win! Retrontario - you've made me want to guzzle a whole carton of 'nog!
v79 / November 30, 2012 at 01:16 pm
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It was all about the chocolate covered ice cream bars (and Egg Nog when in season). My family couldn't pass a Becker's without us kids screaming loud enough to get our parents to stop.
Simon Tarses / November 30, 2012 at 01:41 pm
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I loved Becker's Orange Sherbet Ice Cream-I'd buy about two tubs of it, and eat the whole tub (they were small tubs). I wonder if they still sell that, or have they got rid of it?
dr.fever / November 30, 2012 at 01:42 pm
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Jungle Juice.
For the win.
McRib / November 30, 2012 at 02:02 pm
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i can also confirm that our local Becker's was affectionately referred to as "Pecker's".

I remember one time starting a plastics fire in a garbage can out back of Becker's that got a bit out of hand.

memories.

OMG replying to a comment from dr.fever / November 30, 2012 at 02:06 pm
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OMFG I totally forgot about Jungle Juice - memories!!!
Dave / November 30, 2012 at 02:13 pm
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Memories!!!
Cher Sylvester / November 30, 2012 at 02:13 pm
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It's so true -- they had the best eggnog. Haven't found a commercial one as good since :(
scottd replying to a comment from Alan / November 30, 2012 at 02:14 pm
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Alan, I grew up on Mckee and you probably served me at that store.A lot of great memories of that strip. Keith's Hobbies down the street went online a few years ago so there is almost nothing left of those days. By the way in 1981 I went to the Squeeze Elvis Costello show and we thought we were so cool that we snuck up onto the roof of that Beckers and too pictures.

Beckers rocked. Mac's not so much.
oops. / November 30, 2012 at 02:35 pm
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Jungle Juice. HAH!! I remember that. Forgot also. And mixing the grape one with Vodka...ah, the 80s....if only I could remember??...
oops. / November 30, 2012 at 02:36 pm
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I worked at the one at Yonge and Heath nights for a short spell in the mid 80s I think it was. Fun time.
NOBA / November 30, 2012 at 02:41 pm
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Remember Kiskos? Solid frozen rocks of sugar goodness from Becker's
Stra / November 30, 2012 at 03:08 pm
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Albion Rd. & Calstock Etobicoke Beckers ftw! - that and the Pop Shoppe in the plaza across the street beside the a&p.
cathie / November 30, 2012 at 03:14 pm
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Alan, I worked at the one just up the street from you at 7037 Yonge Street (corner of Highland Park) from about 1979 to 1986. As previously mentioned, it was a tough job to be a store manager, my boss worked day and night and made squat. Upper management treated store managers very poorly. I remember we had nicknames for all our regular customers: the SweetCap guy, Rod Stewart, dead Don Knots (he looked like what Don Knots would have looked like if he had died and was dug up 5 years later). Summers were the best - 19 cent Cokes in bottles were my fav.
the lemur / November 30, 2012 at 03:47 pm
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At U of T Scarborough there used to be a Becker's and a Hurricane's within equal walking distance, for all your beverage needs.

Never did like that Mac's cat, with his wee tam o'shanter and his 'Och, you're going tae like ma bags o' milk, they dinnae leak'.
$ Short / December 1, 2012 at 02:51 am
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Beckers was never cool where I grew up in Ottawa. I never knew it had the best anything until now. I don't regret getting high a lot but I do regret not going to Beckers for munchies.
Sheri / December 1, 2012 at 06:54 pm
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I have worked for Becker/Mac's Head Office (combined) for the past 23 years. When Silcorp (Mac's) bought Becker's, along with the Dairy, they kept the recipe and continue to sell it in Mac's stores today. I just had this conversation with a 35+yr employee (originally from Becker's) she goes nuts for it every yr when it comes out.
Now French Vanilla - Dolly Maddison Ice Cream is another story!
Name: replying to a comment from Sheri / December 2, 2012 at 09:30 am
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Sheri, if you are who you say you are can you please answer a question for me. When you said they kept the recipe what are the names they sell the old Becker products under. They sell a few types of chocolate Milk at my local Macs so which one is the legendary Beckers milk undercover. Could you please translate the old Beckers names (of some of the products listed above) to the new Macs names. "Pecker's" is just a huge chunk of childhood and and I would really appreciate knowing. Thank you.
paulita / December 2, 2012 at 11:50 am
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Beckers was so prominent when I was growing up that a relative came over from Europe for a holiday and took the Cliffside 20 bus home from Shoppers World and didn't quite know where to disemark ;) to get to our house. To ensure she was going to get to the right intersection, she asked the bus driver to let her off at Danforth and Beckers.
paulita replying to a comment from cathie / December 2, 2012 at 12:01 pm
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That's one of the funniest things I have read in a long, long time. You're harkening to one of my favourite sports. I used to work with a guy who was super nice but had a face like a busted sausage. I used to affectionately refer to him as "fair-haired Lyle". He had blondish hair but otherwise was the spitting image of Lyle Lovett.
Jake Chambers / December 2, 2012 at 03:23 pm
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It was always Peckers in Port Credit, with fat Lou behind the counter
TTOMO / December 6, 2012 at 04:51 am
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So that's how Retrontario gets all those old finds! Flea markets, who knew? I watch his stuff on YouTube regularly, even though I'm from Vancouver and I have never been to Toronto. The only exposure I ever had to Becker's out west was seeing the name on the boards of MLG during televised Leafs games in the 90's, so I didn't know at all what kind of company they were (Loeb, either.).
TTOMO replying to a comment from TTOMO / December 6, 2012 at 04:52 am
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I mean, at the time I didn't know what Becker's or Loeb were. I've known for several years since then what they are.
Wayne / December 6, 2012 at 10:52 am
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The memory must cheat because to my taste buds the Mac's egg nog is nowhere near as good as Becker's was.
sezme / December 7, 2012 at 02:36 pm
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It should also be mentioned that Beckers was (more or less) the only place in Ontario where gallons (or 4 litres) of milk came in jugs not bags. And they charged a deposit on the milk jugs just like the Brewer's Retail, um, for the win.
Alan M / December 22, 2012 at 02:34 pm
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So here is a little more left field history, Becker's was originally owned by the Bazos family, of which one of their sons ran Perrette Dairies in Quebec. My father was their accountant for 20 plus years. As a young boy Christmas meant Saturday mornings spent sharing quarts of eggnog with the plant manager's son or my sister in the massive fridge. Same eggnog recipe same chocolate milk and for us it was sip-sacs with orange, grape or lemonade. This machines used to make the sip-sac bags needed to be calibrated to get the right size of bags. We would take a bucket of rejects and drink em while playing in the plant. As far as I can tell (drinking Perrette/Becker's for 40+ years) the Mac's version is the same and NO ONE comes close. Here's a tip, buy a half dozen or more in January and freeze them. Pull one out every month and enjoy year round!
w-hat / December 22, 2012 at 03:31 pm
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Beckers was always about Jungle Juice for me. I was never allowed to drink sugary drinks as a kid (thanks Mom!), but once in a while I'd sneak off to Beckers for a Jungle Juice. I remember being in awe that you could get such a big container of it for twenty five cents.
JB / January 6, 2013 at 08:48 am
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Jungle Joose. Not Juice.
louise replying to a comment from Matt / January 29, 2013 at 05:53 pm
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I worked for Beckers for 11 years. The reason why beckers milk was heaven was because it was 3% chocolate milk now all chocolate milk is 1%
Red / February 27, 2013 at 01:14 am
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Who here remembers the can the Jungle Joose, the Grape and Root beer came in???

It was the pre-runner to the modern day pull tab cans.. The Beckers brand canned pop had the 2 buttons, one little one to put the straw into, and the large one to sip the contents from.. Shake the can and 'pop' the little button, and a little spray to douse your friends with would come spurting out!!! Or accidentally shake the can whilst you had it in your ADIDAS sports gym bag, and then you push the 'button', watch out!!! You'd put it to your mouth quickly, and it would come through your nose eventually...:)

How about the milk jugs?? And who remembers the 'big foot' ice cream in the coolers? It was made in the shape of a foot, and tasty!!!!

And the Lola's grape treats???? Triangle fun!!! How about those donuts with creme filling (the horns with cream) in a package of 2 or the boston cream style?? And the 25 cent Hostess chips, DILL PICKLE!!!!!!

The best thing in there was when you looked up at the magazine rack, and saw for the first time, ladies in various states of dress, ahem.... Many a young guys first glimpse of
bootie!!!
Jb / September 22, 2013 at 01:59 am
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Anybody know where I can get any beckers memorabilia? Old crates, old jugs, signs etc....?
Derek / June 5, 2014 at 10:08 pm
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Becker's Chocolate Milk Forever.
d / June 5, 2014 at 11:27 pm
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When I was a kid growing up in the '60s the owner of the Becker's store in Bloor West Village used to pinch my chubby little cheeks ... hahaha ... I didn't like that very much! But he was a nice man and I remember walking home with two glass jugs of milk (before they went to plastic) for my mom, and we were swinging them back and forth and they crashed together and broke. We went back to the store and he gave us two new ones, no charge. Thanks, Mr. Becker's ... despite the cheek pinches!

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