Farewell to Patricia Salmond

May 25, 2014

Yesterday afternoon we were privileged to attend a celebration of the life of Patricia Salmond, late owner of the “Urban Empire” store and well-known and well-loved Drive diva.

Salmond memorial

There was a very good turnout of family, friends, and Drive characters to say their farewells.  Thanks to everyone who helped arrange this lovely and loving event.

On the negative side, it was sad to hear that the owner of the building in which “Urban Empire” flourished has essentially locked out Ms. Salmond’s daughters and they have had to abandon the stock of zany goods still in the store.  Shame.

Celebrating Patricia Salmond

May 8, 2014

Many of you will recall the shock and sadness throughout the neighbourhood when we learned earlier this year that Patricia Salmond of Urban Empire had died.

I am so happy to be able to report that there will a  celebration of her life which will be held on 24th May, from 2:30pm to 4:30pm, upstairs at the Canucks Room, Eastside Family Place, the nearest building to the playground in Grandview Park.


More on Patricia Salmond

February 5, 2014

I have already reported on the sudden and sad death of Patricia Salmond who ran the Urban Empire kitsch store.  Now there is a lovely article in the Courier about her and how her daughters are dealing with their loss.

“The sisters said the outpouring from the community has been overwhelming and they consider it a testament to their mother’s attitude towards others. After word of Patricia’s death spread along the Drive, friends and acquaintances began leaving flowers at the door.  A memorial book was set up outside, but since the store is now open weekends, it’s been moved inside. While some messages refer to Patricia’s black sense of humour, others are more poignant. David Harkens started the book off with a heartfelt message that read in part, “She is greatly missed, forever cherished and her spirit will always be by my side…”

In the interview, the sisters confirmed there will be a public memorial, probably in April.

Changes On the Drive #34

June 1, 2014

A real summer’s day for the walk this morning, and it made the Drive just fill up with folks having fun; great to see!

Down south, the storefronts in the renovated and rebuilt Far East Building are just about ready.  In fact, the CCEC Credit Union is already back in operation in their once-and-future premises.


That means, of course that the CCEC’s temporary home at 2223 Commercial is once again vacant. I would be surprised to see this building reoccupied until the development connected to the Community Plan is forced through next spring.

Down at the Hi-Light Auto Body shop on the SW corner with E. 3rd there was a pleasant surprise — a sort of Thunderbird head statue made of auto parts.  There were other “heads” lying against the wall.


Not sure what’s going on there, but it was fun to find.

Roma signThere are new owners at the Sureno Grocery at 1730 Commercial, and they have renovated the interior to make it more attractive to shoppers. This is a good example of renovation rather than gentrification.

As is the extensive rebuilding going on at Caffe Roma Lounge (so says the new sign), 1510 Commercial.  They are aiming to be open for the World Cup in the next few weeks.

Scandalicious, that rather odd waffle joint at 1340, now has a second location at 25 Victoria Drive.  Congratulations to them on their success.

Far less successful are the vacant storefronts around the corner on Charles.  I just cannot understand the economics of forcing Flowerbox and the Little Nest to close by raising the rents just to see the revenue properties sit vacant month after month.  Bizarre economic behaviour, I think.

1268 and 1250 Commercial are still currently vacant.  However, there is a sign in 1250 suggesting a mortgage broker is moving in.

mortgage store

Right across the street from there is Grandview Park which has become, on Sundays at least, a de facto public market.

GV Park market

Has anyone seen the tarot card guy outside Tio Pepe’s recently?  As I walked by today it seemed like an age since I had seen him at his daily haunt.

The former Urban Empire at 1108 Commercial is still “vacant” although stuffed with the old store’s merchandise.   The old Florida (1102) is also vacant, as is 903 Commercial where sadly Bocadillo didn’t manage to make a go of it.

At the beginning of the month, the space upstairs at Penelope’s, 1009-1011 Commercial, was being renovated. I assume these are still offices.


Finally, Adeline’s at 950 Commercial has re-opened after a week or so of renovations.  The food and coffee has stayed the same (thank goodness!) while the space has been repainted and furnished with more comfortable armchairs.


See here for previous Changes on the Drive posts.



Changes On The Drive #32

April 1, 2014

It was a stunning day for my walk down the Drive today; sunny and warm, with the sidewalks and patios full, even though it it is a Tuesday.   Looks like we survived another winter!  After a few months of stability, there are a number of changes to report this month, mostly north of First.  But we’ll start at the south end as usual.

The old Far East Building which has been undergoing an almost complete rebuild for more than a year seems virtually complete, and many of the retail spaces on the ground floor are already leased.  It will be interesting to see what effect this has on the street traffic thereabouts.

Far East

At 2010 Commercial, on the corner of E. 4th, the bookstore is now called Canterbury Tales Bookstore.  It used to be Bibliophile, but I don’t know if the ownership has changed.  Frankly, I hope so as I never found the lady there very friendly or helpful.



Cannibal Cafe, the rock ‘n’roll burger joint at 1818 Commercial is looking for a new Executive Chef:  “Want to be at the helm of serving the BEST gourmet burgers in the city? The Cannibal Cafe is looking for an executive chef with a minimum of 3 years experience. We are currently in the process of expanding our brand with another location opening in late fall” they said at Scout Magazine.

Just south of First, I hear they have dug a new basement under the venerable Brandon Block.  No confirmation, but that’s the word.

Moving rapidly north, the Caffe Roma at 1510 Commercial has closed its doors.  Opened in 1990, it quickly became very popular. In 1995, the old Rainbow Magazine said: “During the day all types hang out here … [but] after eight it’s Italian Central!”  It had back rooms that folks didn’t talk much about and, before the days of broad cable coverage, it was a favourite for big name boxing matches and football games by satelite TV.  I saw a few fights there and the 2002 World Cup Final.


I am told it is going to become an “elegant” restaurant.

Up the street at 1344, where La Padrona used to be, the have removed the patio fence and there is a sign announcing a Maz Market. I have no dea what that is going to be.


1268, 1250, and 1108 Commercial are now vacant.  1250 used to be the Royal Candy store and was closed “temporarily” a couple of months ago, but now seems to have gone for good.  1108 is the site of Urban Empire and the late-lamented Patricia Salmond. I guess her daughters couldn’t find a way to keep it going.  It will be missed.

The old Florida building at 1102 Commercial is still vacant and for lease.  However, there has been a great deal of rebuilding going on in the apartments upstairs, and the old wooden lean-to at the back has been removed.  Apparently a more modern balcony/deck will be erected in its place.  That is a fabulous sign that the building is staying.

back deck

That’s it for this month.

Previous Changes on the Drive.

Changes On The Drive #30

February 2, 2014

It was another lovely day to stroll the Drive yesterday; clean, brisk air to shoo away the cobwebs from too many meetings!  But, and perhaps this is a good thing, there isn’t a great day of change to report, with one major exception which I’ll get to at the end.

The old Far East Building that takes up moist of the 2200-block on the east side is getting closer to completion.

East Asia

They are starting to pre-sell, with small studios going for the mid $300,000s.

The vacancies are much the same as last month: 1344 and 1268 Commercial are still empty, while the old Florida Market at 1102 is still being worked on.  The storefront at 1183 has still not opened as Stanley Nails Spa but they do, at least, have a brand new awning in place.

At 1250 Commercial, the Royal Candy confectionery store is currently “closed for personal reasons for the next few weeks.”

And that reminds us of the biggest change this month — the loss of Patricia Salmond of the Urban Empire store that we reported earlier.  The future of the store is still up in the air; I’m told there is an interested buyer but, of course, the property is caught up in probate so nothing can be settled quickly.  Ms. Salmond’s daughters have decided to open the store on weekends and we can be glad to know that their mother had already purchased cards and kitsch suitable Valentine’s Day.  I believe a memorial is being planned for April.  [Many thanks to Trish for keeping me in touch with this story].

Not wanting to end on a sad note, I want to give a shout out to the wonderful produce stores we have on the Drive who keep us colourful with fruits and veg all year round.  Orange seemed to be colour this weekend.


For previous Changes on the Drive look here.

A Sad Passing

January 15, 2014

Patricia Salmond, the witty and engaging woman who operated Urban Empire on Commercial Drive since the early 1990s, has died.

This is a terrible sadness for her family, of course, but also for all of us who were happy to pop into the shop and chat with her as we bought the odd range of doodads that the store specialized in.

She will be greatly missed.