GWAC Tonight: Schools of the Future

February 7, 2023


100 Years Ago Today in Grandview, #3

February 3, 2023


Swap Columns

The Vancouver dailies included scores of pages of ads. Many of them were corporate material just trying to sell you stuff; but a significant number were “swap” ads, where individuals offered up something in exchange for something else. For example, on Saturday 3rd February 1923, someone offered a short silk plush coat with fur collar and cuffs in exchange for “anything useful.”

Someone else was willing to swap their Edison phonograph and records for a heater or pullets.

A bed with dresser, skates and boots, a Briscoe roadster “in good shape,” 40 acres of unimproved land in the Okanagan, an 8-day clock and a Mackinaw coat were offered. A late model light touring car, a lot in South Vancouver, chickens, and a modern typewriter were sought after items.

Several people offered help around the property in exchange for rent.

It was an efficient way to recycle and re-use.

Source: Sun 1923 Feb 3, p.10

Buses and Commercial Drive

February 2, 2023


Further to the discussion about the pedestrianization of the Drive (see here and here), the City has announced significant changes for the southern half of Commercial. The following information is from recently published notices on the Vancouver City website.

While I am always pleased to see improvements to our transit network, it is clear from the language used in the notice (and the discussion at last month’s GWAC meeting) that the City’s primary interest is for the businesses on the Drive — and that the wants and needs of the 30,000 residents of Grandview are of only secondary (if that) concern. Apparently, what constitutes neighbourhood consultation these days does not involve talking to those ordinary folk who live here.

(H/t to Nathan Davidowicz)

GWAC: Schools of the Future

February 2, 2023


Changes On The Drive #129

February 1, 2023


We are back with edition #129, thanks once again to Penny and Steve for walking the walk and feeding me information.

The big news of the month was, of course, the closure of Santa Barbara Market at 1320 Commercial. That has been covered elsewhere (here and here). There are hopes that the new owners will be re-opening as soon as this week, and we await what changes that may bring to the street. In the meanwhile, our report goes as usual from south to north.

At 2245 Commercial we have just what we needed — yet another smoke shop! This one is called Haze.

The dope store at 2223 Commercial, which was Cannabis Cantina, appears to have changed its name to VanCity Weed.

We are not sure if Dr. Tong at 2105 Commercial is still in business? It is padlocked and never seems to be open.

The Holy Smoke Bangladeshi Restaurant at 2017 Commercial seems to have failed. That’s a shame — lost a bit of our diversity.

The purchase by Dava Developments for $62.5m of the Il Mercato Mall from Millenium City Malls is listed as one of the top ten commercial real estate transactions of 2022. The entire site is scheduled for re-development within this decade.

The space that used to be Drive Cafe at 1670 Commercial has people working inside, so hopefully this will open as something new soon.

People’s Co-op Bookstore at 1391 Commercial is now officially open 7 days a week!

Party Rock at 1314 Commercial is now sporting a Closing Down Sale sign.

We have lost the Spank boutique at 1027 Commercial.

The long-time “opening soon” Nicli Pronto at 935 Commercial finally looks as if it is close to being open.

The former Covid Cafe at 931 Commercial is re-branding as the Pizza Bagel Cafe, with a new menu and some decorative changes.

Although it is a couple of blocks outside our usual boundaries for these posts, I believe it would be sad to move on without mentioning the death two weeks ago of Nick Felicella, the owner of what used to be Nick’s Spaghetti House next to the York Theatre at Commercial & Frances. Nick’s was always a warm and welcoming place to go for huge family-style Italian meals until it closed at the end of 2017. He will be missed.

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2111 Commercial, 2096 Commercial, 2058 Commercial, 2017 Commercial, 1861 Commercial, 1858 Commercial, 1733 Commercial, 1670 Commercial, 1428 Commercial, 1340 Commercial, 1230 Commercial, 1124 Commercial, 1027 Commercial, 1020 Commercial, 935 Commercial

Previous editions of Changes on the Drive

A Brief History of 1320 Commercial

January 31, 2023


In a previous post today, I reported on the farewell party the community held for the closing of the Santa Barbara Market at 1320 Commercial. As part of the celebration, I gave a short speech on the history of the building. Several people asked me to write it down, so here is an extended version.

In 1926, businessman Clarence Webber opened the Old Mill Gas station at 1350 Commercial. He ran it until 1945 when he sold the business. With the money he received, Webber purchased three large lots which today are 1320, 1338, 1340 Commercial. Once wartime restrictions on building materials were lifted, Webber built two new buildings on his lots — 1344 Commercial which housed a hardware store on the ground floor, with doctors’ offices upstairs, and 1320 Commercial.

1320 Commercial was designed to have offices upstairs while the rear of the ground floor housed Webber’s new business — 1200 food lockers, which local residents used in the days when home fridges and freezers were far less common than today. He also built a small produce store to front on Commercial Drive. While the food lockers were a big hit, the grocery store became even more popular. It featured the first ice cream bar on the Drive and also was the first store outside the downtown core to feature muzak for the customers.

The popular market stayed in business (as Artic Food Markets, then Arctic IGA, and finally, Kaufman Meats) until the early 1960s.

In 1965, a major fire destroyed the interior of the building, which was then occupied by Thomas Furniture & Appliances, but it was restored and eventually became the home of Italian Furniture by Marano, with apartment suites upstairs. Italian Furniture stayed in the building until August 1972 when they and the suites were badly damaged in another fire.

Later in the 1970s, the building was used by the Vancouver Community College as a space for skills development, and then was occupied by Italian Sporting Goods until 1979. The offices at this time housed the Marco Polo Italian newspaper, and Radio Italia CJJC. It then fell vacant until 1981 when Paco Celador opened Santa Barbara Market, which flourished until this very day.

Farewell to Santa Barbara Market!

January 31, 2023


Today was the last day of business for the hugely popular Santa Barbara Market at 1320 Commercial Drive. The current owners are retiring, and the business closes after 42 years of wonderful service.

A couple of hundred fans, organized by Penny Street and supported by much of the Carnival Band, held a thank you celebration outside the store at lunch time today. It was an emotional affair, with songs written for the occasion, lots of dancing, flowers for the staff, a quick history lesson from me, and memories galore.

Santa Barbara has been an integral part of the Drive experience for so long, and the community came out to show just how important that has been.

We understand that new owners will be taking over the business, probably with a new name. However, I know that for me, like many others, it will be very strange walking that block tomorrow without Santa Barbara Market being there.

100 Years Ago Today in Grandview #2

January 29, 2023

It was a big day for Grandview — January 29th, 1923 — as the Grandview Theatre debuted its brand-new $15,000 orchestral organ. It was, they said, “the last word in organs.” You got all this, plus a Jackie Coogan feature, for just 30 cents!

100 Years Ago Today in Grandview #1

January 24, 2023


One hundred years ago today, on 24th January 1923, it was announced that the School Board had purchased the block between Lakewood & Templeton, and E. Georgia and Barnard (now Adanac), for the sum of $10,500, a price that was considered “exceptionally low”. This would eventually become Templeton School.

GWAC and the Future of the Drive

January 10, 2023


Further to the meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC) last night, I believe it will be vitally important that GWAC take the lead in organizing a community-based response to the concept of a “pedestrian first” Commercial Drive.

Clearly, the Drive will continue to change over time, as it should, but that change should be at the discretion of, and with the approval of, a majority of residents for whom the Drive is not a travel-to destination for dinner, but an integral part of our daily lives. The current ideas — too amorphous as yet to call a concept — are being driven solely by the BIA and City Hall. It was telling that the 30,000 residents of Grandview were not included in the list of primary stakeholders the BIA suggested they needed to speak with.

Many of the ideas being floated are worthy of support but would, no doubt, be made even better with a genuine community engagement process. Therefore, I would call on GWAC to develop a strategy to advance that engagement process, as quickly as possible, and to ensure that City Hall (both staff and Councillors) are aware that this community has ideas of its own for the future of our Drive.

Commercial Drive as a “Pedestrian High Street”

January 9, 2023


This evening’s Grandview Woodland Area Council meeting concerned a Motion approved by City Council last year (, page 18) to “develop a vision for Commercial Drive as a complete street”, with a focus on walking.

We were supposed to have both Paul Storer, Transportation Director, and Lon LaClaire, general manager engineering, from the City to share their thoughts, but LaClaire could not attend, and Storer was only available for 45 minutes. However, between statements by Nick Pogor of the BIA and Storer, a very good turnout of local residents asked a significant number of relevant questions.

Paul Storer made clear that the initiative for this development came from the BIA. He noted that there was no grand plan or capital budget to change the Drive, but they were looking at “practical interventions” that could be accomplished in the next few years. These include experimenting with bus bulges on the Drive south of First, eventually losing one lane of traffic in each direction which would be replaced with a wider sidewalk, and improving parking on the Drive.

Nick Pogor of the BIA noted that several changes being contemplated (Britannia, Safeway, traffic calming) are in fact parts of other City initiatives rather than the Pedestrian First motion. He noted that new bike locks will be available in July and praised the new garbage cans that were part of “branding” the Drive. He also mentioned there are dreams of bringing light rail to the Drive at some point in the future.

Several residents were concerned that changes in traffic patterns on the Drive would inevitably result in larger traffic flows through the smaller neighbourhood streets. One suggestion from a resident was to block 3rd Avenue west of the Drive to reduce short cutting. Storer agreed that short cutting was taking place and was something they were concerned about. This is a problem in a number of districts, and they are currently trying to look at traffic calming initiatives in one or two neighbourhoods each year.

Another resident complained about the lack of way-finding signs in the neighbourhood, and she sought more animation to encourage more visitors.

A number of residents complained that the current Britannia Renewal process planned to have Brit’s entrance on Venables rather than the Drive. There was also some surprise to discover that the City’s senior Transportation Director had little or no connection with such a major re-development as Britannia. This led a couple of residents to wax lyrical about the lack of connection between the multitude of conflicting City plans.

As it became clear that a reduction in traffic (both flow and speed) was a consideration in this “pedestrian first” concept, one resident stated that she needed her car to shop on the Drive and she thought the sidewalks were plenty wide enough. Storer noted a City survey that showed almost 80% of shoppers on the Drive walked or took transit.

Several residents discussed improvements that are needed in the provision of bike lanes around the Drive, including the provision of more bike parking between parking meters. Others mentioned better rain awnings.

One interesting idea put forward by a resident was for a “mobility lane.” I assume that is part of the sidewalk and I certainly support it. On the same tack, several residents (including me) called for there to be sitting benches on each block.

Steve Bohus of GWAC and CityHallWatch requested that future design discussions take advantage of technology and be more open and transparent, and thus accessible to residents.

A number of us pointed out that the BIA had not approached what we consider the main stakeholder — the 30,000 residents — before presenting their ideas to City Council. Whether they will bother in the future we will see, though history does not suggest a positive outcome.

Commercial Drive as a Pedestrian-First Street?

January 9, 2023


The next meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council — tonight — should be of great interest to everyone:


This will be an important debate on the future of our favourite street — the very heart of our neighbourhood. Join us on ZOOM to add your voice to this vital discussion.

Commercial Drive as a Pedestrian-First Street?

January 3, 2023


The next meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council should be of great interest to everyone:


This will be an important debate on the future of our favourite street — the very heart of our neighbourhood. Join us on ZOOM to add your voice to this vital discussion.

Changes On The Drive #128

January 2, 2023


Many thanks once again to Penny and Steve for undertaking the walk this month and for the images.

With the closing of Pacific Ink & Toner last month, it seems that National Massage Chairs at 2135 Commercial has expanded into their space at 2115.

The former Cafe Deux Soleils space at 2096 Commercial will be occupied this spring by Chancho Tortilleria. (h/t to KL for the heads up). See also.

The former laundromat at 2058 Commercial is still closed, but the For Lease sign has been removed, and the windows are now papered over. Perhaps a good sign?

Carthage Restaurant at 1851 Commercial appears to have re-opened, though its signs are somewhat confusing (do they mean “Main Course” and “Mussels” perhaps?)

The storefront at 1832 Commercial has now reverted to being an office for Expedia Cruises (which it was before February last year) after being a housing developer’s sales office for most of 2022.

The Osita Restaurant at 1728 Commercial has an application in its window for a liquor license.

The latest news I have on the much-loved Santa Barbara Market at 1322 Commercial is that they will be closing at the end of this month. I haven’t seen official confirmation of that (though it came from a store employee) and so there is still hope, I guess, that it will remain with us into the future.

Fet’s at 1230 Commercial has closed after 35 years in business. My small tribute to them is here.

That same block will be very quiet this month as Havana Restaurant and Theatre at 1212 Commercial will be closed for the month of January for renovations.

The new building at 928 Commercial seems close to completion. We should be adding new storefronts anytime now,

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2245 Commercial, 2111 Commercial, 2096 Commercial, 2058 Commercial, 1858 Commercial, 1861 Commercial, 1733 Commercial, 1670 Commercial, 1428 Commercial, 1340 Commercial, 1230 Commercial, 1124 Commercial, 1020 Commercial, 935 Commercial

Previous editions of Changes on the Drive

Farewell to Fet’s

December 30, 2022


As the year closes, so too does one of the longest-established businesses on the Drive — Fet’s Whiskey Kitchen at 1230 Commercial is no more.

Eric and Allura Fergie opened Fettucini’s Cafe at 1179 Commercial in 1987. It changed its name to Fettucini’s Espresso & Pasta Bar in 1994. In February 1996, it moved across the street to 1230 Commercial and dropped “Espresso” from its name.

One of its features were large murals on the wall, many of which featured the Fergie’s love of the Rolling Stones. (I still have a marvelous portrait of Mike Jagger which I bought from their artist).

In the 2010s, the restaurant underwent a complete renovation, emerging as Fets Whisky Kitchen showcasing one of Eric’s other obsessions — a huge range of whiskeys. A few years ago, the government raided Fets and took away a large quantity of their whiskey. But the Fergie’s fought back and just a few weeks ago they successfully won the whiskey war with the BC government.

Both the Everloving and I really enjoyed spending time at Fets. The food was great, the service was excellent, and the Fergie’s were excellent hosts. It was always my go-to place if I had lunch meetings on the Drive. Unfortunately, their lease is expiring and they decided the time was right to end their 35 year-old business.

They will be sorely missed, but we hope that Eric and Allura enjoy their retirement.

The Whisky War Is Over — and Fet’s Won!

December 8, 2022


Long-time readers will perhaps remember the great Whisky Raid of 2018 when the forces of law and order raided Fet’s Whisky Bar on Commercial Drive and absconded with 242 bottles of the really good stuff.

Now — as Eric reports it — “after five years, two enforcement hearings, a Judicial Review and a hundred thousand dollars in legal fees later, a couple of tenacious restaurant owners won their case against an out-of-control provincial liquor regime and two hundred and forty-two bottles of some of the world’s rarest whiskies are being returned to them.

Good for them, and a shame that it took so much and so long to straighten out.

My question: what is happening to all the bottles once the restaurant closes at the end of this month?

Italian Labourers’ Strike, July 1910

November 10, 2022


I have written a short research article on the strike of Italian city labourers in July 1910, which started in Grandview and which featured action on our streets.The article can found at:

I hope you find it of interest.

Breaking Down The Drive

November 6, 2022


Based on the wonderfully detail inventory created by Penny & Steve, I note that we have the following breakdown of businesses between Venables and the Cut:

It is easy to see how successful the BIA and others have been in developing the Drive as a “destination”, rather than as the main street of a residential neighbourhood. I take that as a reasonable position for the BIA to have taken in the past, especially as the City was working hard to restrict certain businesses (furniture stores, appliance stores, automobile businesses come to mind) from inner-suburban neighbourhoods and move then into big box stores a car ride away.

But I think we are at the point now where the main street needs of the residents are being squeezed to bring in ever more restaurants and fast-food joints. Back in the 1980s and 1990s — not so long ago — we had a few dozen restaurants along the Drive. Now we have 92. While I welcome that diversity and availability of great food, I have to note that the last 40 or 50 restaurants have displaced 40 or 50 other different businesses that used to service the multiple needs of the people of Grandview.

Those are my thoughts on a snowy early November day. Here are some of the newest windows on the Drive (Images: Penny and Steph):

Changes on the Drive Coming Back!

November 5, 2022

Back in March, I announced that Changes on the Drive #126 would be the last of the series. I have missed walking on the Drive and keeping track these last few months, and it was gratifying to know through messages that others also missed the monthly updates.

Luckily, through the good offices of my friends Penny Street and Stephen Holmes, who have volunteered to do the legwork I’m no longer able to handle, we have a plan to restart the monthly Changes posts in December.

Meanwhile, as the first fruit of their walk on the Drive from the Cut down to Venables, they have produced this real-time list of all the businesses on that stretch as of November 2nd, 2022. (It is worth comparing this with the list still being offered by the BIA which is several years out of date). We’ll be using this as the baseline against which we will start noting changes next month.

Always happy to receive tips and news and gossip.

Happy 100th Magnet Hardware!

October 28, 2022


Magnet Hardware, which currently operates as a Home Hardware franchise on the corner of Commercial & Graveley, has been in business for exactly 100 years today. Magnet originally opened on 28th October 1922 “in the gallery of the Cal Van Market” at 25 Hastings Street. By early 1923, the business was located at 1515 Commercial Drive.

Magnet was owned and operated by Allan P. Squires who had been a salesman at Terminal Hardware. Twenty-two years later, in September 1944, Squires decided to retire and sold the business to Fred Ross, a new arrival from Edmonton. At the time of the sale, the Highland Echo said that Magnet was a perfect example of the Commercial Drive way: starting out small and building to a substantial business.

In June 1954 he sold Magnet to E.J. “Ted” Walker, also from Edmonton, due to Mrs. Ross’s ill health; and Ross sold it on to local former-Alderman Syd Bowman in 1955.

The store and building were severely damaged in a fire on 5th April 1963 shortly after Bowman left that night sometime after 9pm. Bowman rebuilt as quickly as he could, closing the store during weekdays for renovations, but opening on Saturdays for a fire sale. It re-opened on 20 June 1963 with “a brand-new interior, new stock and plenty of enthusiasm.”

In July 1964 Bowman sold the business to Sam Buonassisi who had been a successful entrepreneurial carpenter before buying Magnet. In 1972 the business took over the old Royal Bank branch at 1575 Commercial where it remains. They appear to have joined the Home Hardware group in 1994.

When Sam died in 2020, his son-in-law Ed Wilkerson took over the store and he manages it to this day.