3 Vets Ltd in the early days

Selling Outdoor Gear and Military Surplus since 1947

During World War II, Bill Wolfman was in the Royal Canadian Air Force in Saskatchewan training fighter pilots. On one of his leaves from duty, he travelled to Vancouver and met a young lady. Once the war was over, he decided to move to Vancouver and took residence in a downtown hotel. While staying there, he saw a need for bedding in the hotels throughout the downtown area. Jericho military base had a surplus of military items, such as bedding, and Bill saw an opportunity. He would buy as many sheets and blankets from them as he could carry on the streetcar, and he would sell these to the local hotels.

Eventually he saved enough money to buy a truck. In 1947, he enlisted the help of his brother Joe and a friend (both were also WWII vets) to open up a store on Prior and Main called the 3 Vets. He started to bring in other surplus for miners, loggers and construction workers in the area including footwear, blankets, clothing and tents.

3 Vets became one of the first discount stores in Vancouver. Bill Wolfman, through his honesty, integrity, willingness to give a hand and his uncanny humour, became known as the un-official mayor of Main Street.

Once Bill’s two sons Jerry and Keith started school, Bill’s wife, Esther, got involved in the business and became a driving force behind Bill. In 1968, the city expropriated the land that the store was on in order to build the Georgia Viaduct.

Bill and Esther, with the help of their two sons, opened up a 10,000 sq. foot store with a 10,000 sq. foot warehouse on 6th and Yukon. When opening the new location, the store went through a major transformation, evolving from a military surplus store to a true outdoor store. This was because of the influence of Keith, who was a global backpacker, and Jerry, who was an avid hiker and camper.

Today, Jerry and Keith continue the family business in the same old-fashioned tradition. The Wolfman family has made 3 Vets an icon in the history of Vancouver.

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