Changes On The Drive #78

February 1, 2018

I did the walk yesterday morning, to try to avoid the rain. I wasn’t so lucky! But at least it wasn’t desperately cold. There are remarkably few changes this month which shows some stability on the Drive. Luckily there is lots of news and coverage to report.

On the no-longer-new storefront at 2285 Commercial, there is still a sign advertising a Currency Exchange to be opened in the site, but it is still vacant at this time.

The biggest change is that the newly built storefronts in the 2000-block are now available and all four are, according to the signs, already leased. That’s good news and it will be interesting to see what goes in there. But, until they are actually filled, they will put a blip in the vacancy charts.


Prado Cafe at 1938 Commercial is one of only two places on the Drive that makes it into the Daily Hive’s list of the best places to have a Tinder date. See below for the other one.

One of the mainstays of the Drive, Cafe Calabria, 1745 Commercial, gets a nice mention from chef Alessandro Vianello in Scout this month.  “The coffee is fast, on point, and with no ego attached. Plus I love going in and speaking Italian with Frank and his sons. It really makes me feel like I’m in Italy having coffee with my Dad.”

Across the street, Federico’s Supper Club is still welcoming the world with his Merry Christmas sign.


Darcy Houser is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his owning the SuperValu at First & Commercial. I used to live just behind it on Graveley in the 1990s and the store was a mess; dirty, and with the worst selection of produce on the Drive. Now, it is clean and modern and just a great friendly place to shop with some of the most helpful staff around. Darcy and his manager Dwayne have a lot to be proud of. When he was interviewed on CBC Radio at the beginning of January, Darcy noted that they had just suffered a massive 30% rent increase.

Mezcaleria at 1622 Commercial got some more press this month, with an interesting story of its history on Scout. They explain the 9 month delay in opening (see Changes #1 through 18) was caused by the delays in getting an electrical upgrade.

The former oyster bar that is now Merchant’s Workshop at 1590 Commercial gets a rave review in Vancouver Magazine this month. “The best neighbourhood restaurants are almost an extension of your own home: welcoming, casual and comfortable—all three a check, check, check for Merchant’s Workshop.”

The Stormcrow Tavern at 1305 Commercial is the second Drive space rated to be great for Tinder dates.

Just around the corner from the Drive at 1704 Charles, the new art gallery has closed. However, a sign on the window says that the “Art Off Main” gallery is due to open in March.

One of our other longtime mainstays, which now operates under the  Fet’s Whiskey Kitchen name at 1230 Commercial, started the month with great publicity as Canada’s whiskey mecca. However, by the end of the month it was well known as the site of a Prohibition-Era-style raid by BC government agents. It appears to be a bureaucratic piece of nonsense that has, nonetheless, cost one of our most community-minded merchants a great deal of money.

Right next door to Fet’s, the Havana Restaurant is planning major changes.

We will be losing the art gallery space but they plan to keep the wonderfully intimate theatre behind the eating area.

Unfortunately, we have to close with sad news.  The quirky clothing store Rabbit & Empee has quit its space at 1044 and the store is now vacant.

Vacant or closed on the Drive this month:  2285 (8 months), 2283 (8 months), 2082 (1 month), 2084 (1 month), 2286 (1 month), 2286 (1 month), 1803 (13 months), former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato (37 months), 1500 (14 months), 1303 (15 months), 1268 (5 months), 1108 (43 months), 1044 (1 month), 956 (4 months).


Previous Changes on The Drive editions


Changes On The Drive #77

January 1, 2018

What a gorgeous winter’s day it was this morning. Perhaps a little cold for my taste, but bright and sharp.

Two of the three new storefronts in the 2200-block westside are still vacant. There is still a sign at 2283 advertising the opening of a currency exchange, but little or no work seems to have been done to it yet.

The new storefronts at 2080-2086 are still not ready for leasing and so do not yet appear on my “Vacant” list. I have been calling this a two storey building (because that’s the way it seems from the exterior) but I now suspect they are one storey with high clearance and clerestory-style windows.  That would at least match the development permit sign that was there many months ago.

Now that it is fully open, Spade at 1858 Commercial attracted a good review from the Daily Hive. The restaurant will also be hosting the first live on location broadcast for CBC Radio’s The Early Edition with Stephen Quinn as the new host. They’ll be at Spade from 5:00am to 8:30am on January 5th.


The Babylon Tea Company is finally open at 1740 Commercial.  We’ve been waiting for months for this.


The queso fundido at Mezcaleria, 1622 Commercial, was highly recommended in the Georgia Straight.   The restaurant also made it to Honourable Mention in Scout’s Top 25 Restaurants of the Year (nothing else on the Drive was even mentioned.)

At 1666 Graveley (still part of the Il Mercato building) that for decades was a wine-brewing place has received both a development permit and a business license to operate a cannabis dispensary as Farmacia.


What used to be the Abruzzo Cafe at 1321 Commercial is now the Toscani Coffee Bar. Ownership changed some time ago and perhaps the name did too; but I just noticed it in December.  I notice that their outside menu changed a little after I posted my picture of it. I rather preferred its previous originality.

The new Filipino restaurant, Kulinarya, at 1134 Commercial is now open. My quick review is here.

Moja at 1102  is the only Commercial Drive coffee shop on the list of Scout’s top 25 work-friendly cafes. Odd that. I also note that the tree beside Moja on Napier is now protected. That usually means building in their parking lot is probably about to start.


Although 631 Commercial is outside the usual geographic boundary of these reports, it seems impossible to leave a discussion about the Drive in December 2017 without mentioning the closing of Nicks’ Spaghetti House, a neighbourhood icon since 1955.  Nick Felicella opened a small coffee shop in that year and it quickly grew and morphed into one of the most popular traditional Italian eateries anywhere in Vancouver. I heard a rumour that the building owner refused a lease extension, while Nick talks tactfully about “moving on.”   Whatever the reason, Nick’s will be sorely missed. According to a later report, another restaurant is already booked to take its place.


Vacant or closed on the Drive this month:  2285 (7 months), 2283 (7 months), 2266 (2 months), 1801 (12 months), former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato (36 months), 1500 (13 months), 1303 (14 months), 1268 (4 months), 1108 (43 months), and 956 Commercial (3 months).


Previous Changes On the Drive editions.

Changes On The Drive #76

December 1, 2017

It was a cold, wet, windy and rather miserable walk along the Drive early this morning. But it was worth doing, as always.

At the far southwest corner, next to the newly opened convenience store, the storefronts listed as 2243 and 2245 Commercial appear to be prepping to open as a foreign exchange market.


Across the street, at 2270, Cabrito’s is looking for kitchen staff while the Splash Vape Lounge at 2266 has a For Lease sign showing.

The newly opened Spade at 1858 Commercial gets coverage in Scout.

The Bamboo Tea Company at 1740 Commercial is still just “Opening Soon”. Must be a license or import issue, I would have guessed as the store seems to have been ready for several months.

The operation of Norman’s has changed hands. Chris and his partner have, for medical reasons, passed on the operation to a gentleman called James. The original Norman, Norman Ng still owns the building and can be seen in the store some Saturdays.


What used to be the Candy Aisle store at 1544 has reverted to being just another window display for Kalena Shoes.

Rosemary Rocksalt bagels is expanding to two new locations.

The old Tio Pepe’s at 1134 is getting ready to reopen as Kulinarya. I’m looking forward to it.

REACH now fully open once again.


Vacant or closed on the Drive this month:  2285 (6 months), 2283 (6 months), 2266 (1 month), 1801 (11 months), 1740 (14 months), former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato (35 months), 1500 (12 months), 1303 (13 months), 1268 (3 months), 1134 (2 months), 1108 (42 months), 956 (2 months).


Previous Changes On the Drive editions

Changes on The Drive #75

November 1, 2017

I did the walk yesterday which, I have to declare for my own taste, was the best weather day of the entire year so far: bright blue skies, sun enough for sunglasses, cool walking temperature — just fabulous.

The two new storefronts at the very south end of the west side before the Cut (2243 and 2245 Commercial) are still vacant. However, one of them, probably 2285, will soon become, according to a sign, “a Greek donair store”.

At 2277, the Sweet Greek restaurant — which seems to have enjoyed good success since it opened this summer — is closing briefly from today for renovations.

Construction at the new building on the east side (2080-2088) seems to be nearing completion. I have not yet included the four new storefronts in the “vacancy” list but all indications are they will be ready for occupancy this year.


The former Waves  coffee shop at 1858 is becoming Spade, a beer and snacks place by the owner of Prado.

As of this month, it is still under renovation.

Across the street, at 1819 Commercial, the former Thai restaurant has now morphed into the Tikka House, an Indian place — a welcome addition to the neighbourhood.


At 1735 Commercial, we seem to have gained a new cannabis dispensary. This one is called KushKlub and I could not tell if it is open yet. The space had been vacant for six months.


The oft-mentioned Bamboo Tea Company store at 1740 still have the “Opening Soon” sign out. However it looks complete and there was a lady in there as I walked by so I looked in. They will open, she says, next week or the week after.  I wonder if they are awaiting a tea delivery?

A long time ago, when the Cassia Cupcakes store closed at 1796 Commercial, they said they would be reopening around the corner at 1706 E. 1st. I am sure they didn’t expect it to take so long, but they are finally up and running as the Cassia Bake Shop and Cafe.  I wish them well!


The Candy Aisle at 1544 seems to have failed, finally.  A couple of months ago I noted a For Lease sign on the window; now that, and all the candy, is no more.

There seems to be work going on at the former Roma at 1500 Commercial, but it is still definitely closed right now.

Long time resident of the Drive, Turks at 1276 got a small review in VanMag this month. I wrote my own brief review earlier this summer.  Stormcrow at 1303 also got some press.

Another long-time business (28 years), Tio Pepe’s at 1134 has closed. It is soon to be a Filipino place called Kulinarya, opening after renovations, with a very interesting menu.

Choices painted their  CD wall white with black window trim, installed a new entrance, and had their official opening. It would be so much better if they could fix the barrenness of their block.


REACH is still not quite open. It looks as if the finishing touches are being put in place, but they are still not operational. The history of this build, the backstory concerning the type of medical delivery they will offer in the future, and the comings and goings of Board members as a result, will make a great book.


After more than two years of vacancy, the space at 902 Commercial has been renovated and taken over by a store called Your Open Closet.  They offer “body positive undergarments for all genders”.  Sounds like a great business for the Drive!


Vacant or closed on the Drive this month:  2285 (5 months), 2283 (5 months), 1858 (8 months), 1801 (10 months), 1740 (13 months), former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato (34 months), 1544 (1 month), 1500 (11 months), 1303 (12 months), 1268 (2 months), 1134 (1 month), 1108 (41 months), 956 (1 month).

Previous Changes On the Drive editions.

GWAC’s Long History

October 25, 2017

Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Grandview Woodland Area Council, an institution of the highest importance in Grandview’s post-war history.

At the Grandview Heritage Group site, I have written a short history of how the group came to be founded.

Changes On the Drive #74

October 1, 2017

Today was a gorgeous morning, bright and cool; just perfect for my first real exercise in a month.

The building at 2211 has had a For Sale sign showing for three months now, though Universal Technologies is still chugging along.

The construction work on the eastside of the 2000-block seems close to completion. Four separate storefronts can now be clearly discerned, along with a second storey running the full length.

At 2058, the “For Lease” sign has gone, and the Bon Bon Laundry is still operating.

The renovation of 1928 Commercial has been completed in record time. It is now open as Ollie Quinn, optometrist. They also advertize itself as a “community workspace” though I don’t really know what that means at this point.


The former Waves coffee shop at 1858 has had a new white paint job on the exterior. However, the windows are still papered over and so what this is going to become is still a mystery to me. An equal mystery is why the Babylon Tea Shop at 1740 is till “Opening Soon” when it appears to have been ready for two months. Odd that.

I have seen a lot of work going on in both the former Roma Restaurant, and the Libra Room, though both are still closed at this point.  [Update:  I am advised that Libra Room is actually open]. However, after an 8 month closure, the Charlatan at 1447 had its soft re-opening yesterday and seemed ready and eager for business this morning as I strolled by.

The Havana Restaurant/Theatre/Art Gallery complex at 1224 Commercial with its ever-popular patio is in the process of being sold to a Vancouver company that owns Belgard Kitchen, Postmark Brewing, and Vancouver Urban Winery. It is not expected that many changes will be made once the ownership agreement is completed in November.

The new REACH Medical and Dental construction at 1117 is almost complete. There is some hope that it will re-open by the end of October.

The next ten days will see the final demise of Bosa Grocery on Commercial Drive. Their rebuilt store on Victoria officially opens next Friday. They have already started allowing the inventory on the Drive to be depleted and the manager expects it to be empty perhaps three or four days after the new place opens. He mentioned that the biggest problem they had with being on the Drive was parking availability. He has no idea what might go into the space although he did mention that a group of physiotherapists had shown some interest. He was concerned for the future of Joe’s Grill next door as they will lose the foot traffic that Bosa has attracted.

Finally, there is an unconfirmed rumour that Robin’s Pharmacy at 908 Commercial is either sold or looking for a buyer.


Closures and vacancies on Commercial this month include: 2283 (4 months), 2285 (4 months), 1858 (7 months), 1801 (9 months), 1740 (12 months), 1735 (5 months), the former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato (33 months), 1606 (14 months), 1500 (11 months), 1303 (12 months), 1268 (2 months), 1108 (41 months), and 902 (29 months).

Previous Changes On the Drive editions.

Changes On The Drive #73

September 1, 2017

I had a medical appointment at 7 this morning so, when that was done, and after a lazy breakfast, I was able to complete my walk on the Drive in the coolness of the early morning. It was very pleasant and all finished by 9.

The building at 2211 Commercial is still for sale, and that at 2058 is still for lease, though Universal Technologies and the Bon Bon Laundry respectively are still operating.

Kokopelli Hair at 2048-2052 Commercial is celebrating its twentieth anniversary on the Drive. Well done to them!

The Precious and Few consignment store at 1928 seems to have bit the dust. There were workman inside today apparently beginning a full renovation.

Olivieri’s, the First Ravioli Store, at 1900 Commercial has been sold and is now Easy Shop.

I notice that the old “First Ravioli” signs are still on the windows, so there is some continuity, and it looks to be the same inside as I recall. I believe I saw the lady who used to run this working in Bosa last week. Meanwhile, the old Waves coffee shop at 11858 is still vacant, and both the “For Lease” and “Leased” signs have disappeared.

I learn from a correspondent that the Mediterranean Food store at 1842 Commercial has changed hands. Jack Elmasu, the owner for more than 40 years, is staying on for a while to train the new owners in the business. My correspondent was also gracious enough to forward me this interesting article about the store and Jack Elmasu from 2011.

The Babylon Tea Shop at 1740 is still not open. It has appeared to be ready for more than a month, but “Opening Soon” is still the situation.

Mezcaleria at 1622 has new menus, it is reported.

The Libra Room is still very much closed and shuttered. However, I noticed this month (perhaps I missed them before), signs on the windows saying “Now hiring for all positions”. Is that a hopeful sign?

City Bistro at 1268 has closed already. The “opening soon” sign was up longer than the restaurant itself.

I never got to eat there. I tried to go with a Hungarian friend a few weeks ago but they were unexpectedly closed on a Thursday night.

Finally, it seems that this is the last month for Bosa on the Drive. They are planning to move back to their newly rebuilt premises on Victoria at the end of the month. It will be a real shame to lose them off the Drive.

Closures and vacancies on Commercial this month include: 2283 (3 months), 2285 (3 months), 1928 (1 month), 1801 (8 months), 1740 (11 months), 1735 (4 months), the former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato Mall (32 months), 1606 (13 months), 1500 (10 months), 1447 (7 months), 1303 (11 months), 1268 (1 month), 1108 (40 months), and 902 (28 months).

Previous Changes on The Drive editions.