What I Do

March 26, 2017

Here on the blog I have a great time publishing my photographs, playing music, beating up on senseless developers and crony-politicians, talking about art, celebrating the odd anniversary, and whatever else comes up. It’s play time.

But each day, whether it is for a long time, or just an hour, I work on my history projects; and this is the real work on which I am engaged. To me, it is a bit like playing the piano — you have to practice every day to keep the muscles limber and the mind sharp.

Much of this effort goes into the Grandview Database. I am currently working on the next version which will be published on 1st April. There are several lifetimes of material still available to be loaded into the database and by that means made easily available to anyone who wants to look. If anything is to be my legacy, I suspect that is it.

But I am also keen to produce another book, this one covering the birth of Grandview from 1860 to 1935 (which will tie in with my earlier book, “The Drive“, which starts in 1935.) To that end, I wrote a book-length series of essays last year, but it didn’t work for me (or my readers), as the book tried to cover the entire period from 1900 to 1970 and there was significant overlap with the earlier book. So, I have begun to rework the material into a more focused and recognizably narrative form, and my plan is to publish drafts of it serially at Grandview Heritage Group as I complete sections  The first part was published today.

In the end, the entire work will be produced as a book. But I hope both those interested in the subject and I will gain something from the serial publishing idea.



Changes On The Drive #67

March 1, 2017

It was a typical February/March day this morning; cool and grey — pretty good for walking!  There were very few changes this month.

South of First, there were no changes that I could see, except that The Drive Smoke Shop at 2064 is now open.

2277 (1 month), 2240 (19 months), 1801 (1 month), 1740 (5 months), and 1735 Commercial (1 month) are all still vacant.

1706 Commercial is also still vacant (3 months) with the Bubble Tea shop still not yet open. Around the corner at 1706 E. 1st, that too is vacant as the cupcake store has not yet re-opened there.

North of First, in Il Mercato Mall, the former Strawberry Bakery site is still vacant after 26 months. There are still offices for rent upstairs, too.

Nothing much has changed at 1608, the Libra Room. The place is still papered over and the Opening Soon signs are still there, but the fact is it has been closed now for 7 months.  However, upstairs, some of the apartments look like they are now tenanted.  The Roma at 1510 is also still closed, after 4 months, with Opening Soon signs garlanding the windows but no other signs of life.

The Charlatan bar at 1447 Commercial is closed, too, but this is for renovations and they will be back open “in the spring”.

Across the street, there is a lot of activity. The former Bikes On the Drive double storefront at 1376 (vacant 2 months) is being completely rebuilt inside.


So too is the Pagoda at 1408: after sitting idle for 7 months, workman are hammering away inside and I saw new appliances being delivered today — a hopeful sign.

The small store next to Renzo’s Cafe at 1303 Commercial is vacant (5 months).

Having only opened in August, the ramen restaurant at 1179 is closed once again, but signs are hopeful they will “open soon” (seems to be this month’s refrain!)

The REACH rebuild in the 1100-block is moving ahead steadily. They had the back lane closed off this morning for some heavy-duty work.


At the northern end of the Drive, 1104 (34 months), 952 (6 months), and 902 Commercial (22 months) are all still vacant. With regard to 1104, I called the agent and he tells me they are looking for $4,000 a month for that tiny store. When I suggested that might be why it had been vacant so long, he gave me the telephone equivalent of a shrug.

Finally — after all these vacant notices — I want to say that at least five businesses have “Help Wanted” signs in their windows which must be good news.


Previous Changes on the Drive editions are here.

Changes On The Drive #66

February 1, 2017

It was a glorious morning to be walking today, cold and clear and sunny. Add maybe five degrees to the temperature and I could be quite happy to spend all year like this.

As usual, we start down at the southern end.  At 2277 Commercial, Kingdom Beauty Supplies has now closed.  Not long ago they had this space plus two storefronts next door. They gave up the other spaces some months ago, and now, it seems, they have shut down altogether.



Across the street, 2240 is still vacant (after 18 months, the last part of the Marquee development to be filled). There are still signs for the “soon open” 77K Freeze store, but o sign of an opening date.

The former Russell home and woodworking shop at 2084 and 2086 Commercial was demolished yesterday and the bulldozers were there today levelling the ground. Charlie Russell built the place himself back in 1955 and it is a shame to see it go. However, once it was sold in December 2015, we knew its future was limited.  Just after the purchase, the owner put up a development sign (see Changes #52) that suggested a one-storey building was to be erected. Given they spent $3m on the lots (so we hear), a one-storey seems unlikely. Now that the land is available, I guess we will soon see.



2064 Commercial (vacant for 3 months) will soon be The Drive Smoke Shop. Opening day is again unknown.



Wonderbucks at 1801 Commercial has closed now. I wrote about this earlier in the month. The ever-loving and I took a nostalgic trip to the store a few days ago, and we were saddened by how it looked. We bought a set of dinner plates REALLY cheap and we will remember the old place whenever we dine on them.

The former tanning salon at 1740 is still vacant (4 months), and now 1735 is also vacant as Catz Hair has moved to 1280 Commercial.



The storefront at 1706 is vacant (2 months), but I guess the new bubble tea place will open at some point.

In Il Mercato, the old Strawberry Bakery space is still vacant after 25 months.  Upstairs, some offices are also still available for lease.

The Libra Room at 1608 is still closed (6 months) and no date for re-opening is given on their website. However, they have large confident “Opening Soon” signs plastered on the windows.

Kalena’s at 1526 Commercial has announced they are celebrating their 50th anniversary on the Drive. I’m sure they know better than me, but oddly, I have notes from a story in the “Highland Echo” dated July 1968 (not 1967) in which Carmen D’Onofrio announces their opening that month. They were operating out of 1800 Commercial in those days.

Roma (closed now 3 months) also has big “Opening Soon” signs. But they also have a City Stop Work order on the front door and “Lead Hazard” tape all around, so who knows?

Marcello’s Pizzeria was visited by a number of fire engines and smoke blowers the other day. Not sure what that was about, but they seem to be all OK now.

1408 Commercial is still vacant (6 months) as is the space that used to be Bikes On the Drive (1 month). In the latter case, all the signs that used to promise a Bagel House to come have disappeared.



1303 Commercial is still vacant (4 months), while 1704 Charles has become a local art gallery, probably organised by Harry Grunsky.  1280 Commercial is still vacant (10 months) but Catz Hair is moving in today.

The northern half of Joe’s Cafe seems to have been taken over by BC Dance.



1104 (33 months) and 902 Commercial (21 months) are still vacant. 952 Commercial is also vacant (5 months) but the old cafe is all still set up inside, including with soda in the vending machines.

Previous Changes on the Drive editions.

Changes On the Drive #65

January 1, 2017

When I left the house first thing this morning, the sunshine was welcome but it was a brisk and challenging environment I walked into. It seems that very few of the Drive’s building owners understand their responsibility to clear the sidewalks. It was treacherous underfoot from one end to the other today and I sincerely thank those merchants that did take the effort to shovel away the ice.

Down at the southern end, Kingdom Beauty at 2277 Commercial still has a large For Lease sign in the window. However, the space at 2245, after being vacant for more than 2 years, is now a Cashmart store. There are several of these legitimized loan sharks on the Drive now and I am not sure that is a good sign. Like Christy Clark’s house deposit scheme, they do nothing but add debt and help create a generation of debt slaves.


Across the street, at 2240, the “Leased” sign has been replaced with posters about an operation called 77K Freeze that is taking over the space. To be frank, the Help Wanted ad read more like joining a cult than running a dessert store, but what do I know?



The former convenience store at 2064 Commercial is still vacant (2 months), as is the former tanning salon at 1740 (3 months).


Back in May last year we reported the rumours that Wonderbucks is closing due to a reasonable unwillingness to pay an unreasonable monthly rent.  Now it is confirmed, both in the media and in signs at the store.



It will be a very sad day when the store closes its doors.  That space, from the Crystal Dairy days through to Wonderbucks, has been important to the community; we can only hope something interesting and Drive-friendly moves in.

Catz hair salon at 1735 Commercial announced last month that they would be moving. It is now revealed that they are moving to the former Sophie’s at 1280, opposite Grandview Park.



The former cupcake emporium at 1706 Commercial is still vacant (1 month). However, the storefront is apparently to be taken by a Bubble Tea+Lifestyle operation.

In Il Mercato, the former Strawberry Bakery space is still vacant (24 months).  Across the street, both the Libra Room at 1608 (5 months) and the Roma at Grant (2 months) are still closed with no re-opening in sight. On the other hand, Mexcaleria at 1622 has made it into Scout’s Top 25 Restaurants in the City this season.

Above the Libra Room, in the apartments, someone has left a sign in the window expressing some thoughts for the day:



1370 Commercial is still vacant (2 months), but we are awaiting the opening of a bagel shop in the space come February.

1303 (3 months), 1104 Commercial (32 months) and 1704 Charles (6 months) are still vacant. So too is 1280 Commercial (9 months) but, as mentioned above, this is where Catz Hair will be moving in February.

Choices finally seem to have completed their expansion into 1035.



Nonna’s Sandwich place at 952 Commercial is still closed (4 months) but, with some of the paper having fallen from the windows, one can see that the whole place is still set up. I wonder if they will come back?

Finally, 902 Commercial is still vacant after 20 months with the expansion of Robin’s Pharmacy as stuck as ever it seems.


Previous Changes on The Drive editions

Essays To Come

December 5, 2016

My writing here has been a little less than usual these last couple of months. That is because I have been working on completing my new book: “Grandview: Collected Historical Essays.” The main draft is now complete and I have this week sent out the manuscript to selected professional readers for critical comment. Given that the readers don’t tell me to rip the whole thing up and start again, the plan is to have this in stores by the end of January.

For those interested, the Table of Contents looks like this:

  • John Mason’s House (1891)
  • Creating Grandview (1900-1907)
  • A Little Church In The Stumps (1904-1909)
  • Crime Story I: Wild West and Big City (1910)
  • Boom and Bust (1907-1913)
  • Early Retail on Commercial Drive (1905-1915)
  • Demographics of Commercial Drive in 1910
  • Grandview’s Parks (1890-1930)
  • The Bufton Family (1923-1985)
  • The Viaduct That Saved Grandview (1938)
  • Lawn Bowling Leads to Rock and Roll (1930-1965)
  • Crime Story 2: Just Like In The Movies (1949)
  • The Fight Over The School Site (1940-1955)
  • The Library Saga (1929-1975)
  • Crime Story 3: Robbery Central (1940s, 1950s)
  • The Acronyms of Activism (1907-1967)
  • Getting To Today.

When it becomes available, I will post another notice.

Changes On the Drive #64

December 1, 2016

When I left the house this morning, I was sure there was snow in the air, and it really felt like December. However, after a great breakfast at Skylight, and a decent walk down the Drive, it had improved to a regular fall day. Very pleasant.

Starting as usual at the south end of my range, Kingdom Beauty Supplies is operating at 2277 Commercial, but still with a very large “For Lease” sign in the window.  2245 is still vacant (26 months), as is 2240 (16 months), but the latter storefront continues to sport a “Leased” sign.

Today is the one year anniversary party for Cabrito at 2270 Commercial. They will be having a party later today.

What used to be Dr. Chan’s dental office at 2085 is now Dr. Dhir’s East Van Dental. The place looks as if it has been cleaned up and refurbished.



Across the street at 2064, the Rub-a-Dub Convenience Store seems to have bitten the dust, the store windows papered over.



At 1850 Commercial, the Blue Copper Capital Corporation’s pay-day loan office is now open.

Across the street, the building that houses the Salonika Restaurant seems to be having some serious work done on its roof. Not sure of the details.



The former Solaris tanning salon at 1740 Commercial is still vacant (2 months). Over the road, Catz Hair Salon at 1735 has announced they will be moving to somewhere else on the Drive in February next year.



Another move is apparently underway at Cassia Cupcakery. They have closed their shop at 1706 Commercial, and the notice on the door says they will eventually be moving to 1706 E. 1st.



The Libra Room at 1608 Commercial is still closed after 4 months. The closure is now “until further notice” according their website. It used to say “until end of October.”

One of the joys of the Drive at this time of year is the smell of the fresh Christmas trees at Home Hardware. Both my eyes and my nose noticed with pleasure they were back this morning.

The Roma on the corner of Grant is closed, papered over. They had a major issue with sewage backup according to a chap I spoke to their a week or so ago. It ruined their floor and much else. The contractor didn’t think the re-opening would be soon.

1412 Commercial is still vacant or at least the Pagoda is papered over (4 months), and 1303 is still vacant (2 months). So too is 1370 now that Bikes on the Drive have moved to East Hastings (1 month).



1303 (2 months), 1280 (8 months), and 1104 Commercial (31 months), along with 1704 Charles (5 months) are all still vacant.  With regard to the old Urban Empire store at 1104 Commercial, I am advised that somebody wanted to rent it but the agent has not returned calls for two months. Wonder what’s going on there?

The Heritage designation for the old Florida building at 1102 has been approved. That means the apartment development in the back lot should begin soon.

Choices seems finally to have been moving quickly to get their expansion into 1035 underway. I saw shopfitters putting in new racks and equipment this morning.  The Choices banner now shows across the entire space. 1035 has been vacant for 19 months.

Across the Drive, there is better news. At 1044, Rabbit and Empee have decided to accept a new lease and are staying, which is very welcome.

Finally, at the northern end, Nonna’s at 952 is still closed (3 months) and 902 is still vacant (19 months).


Previous Changes on The Drive editions

Changes On The Drive #63

November 1, 2016

I did the walk yesterday morning, in the pouring rain. I looked at the forecast ad decided that one day was going to be as wet as the next so might ad well get it over and done. It wasn’t so bad, I guess.

Starting as usual in the far south of our range, 2240 is still vacant (15 months) and still with the LEASED sign showing.  However, after 25 months vacant, it seems that 2245 will soon be another pay loan operation.

The marijuana dispensary at 2137 Commercial now has a Change of Use Development Permit application on its window. I guess they are one of the ones moving forward under the new regulations.


1850 Commercial, which used to be the MoGo store, is again to be a pay day loan storefront after 8 months vacant.


The former Solaris sun tanning store is still vacant (1 month) though being used this week as a pop-up fireworks outlet.

In Il Mercato, the old Strawberry Bakery space is still vacant (22 months), but the space on Commercial Drive has been taken by a cell phone company.


Across the street, the Libra Room at 1608 Commercial is still shuttered (3 months), as is 1412 (3 months), 1303 (1 month), 1280 (7 months), 1104 (31 months), 952 (2 months), and 902 (18 months); and the former Perogie Store at 1704 Charles (4 months).

1035 Commercial is still vacant (18 months) but Choices doesn’t seem to have made a lot of progress with its expansion.

Finally. Rabbit & Empee is closing their store at 1044 Commercial today.




Previous Changes on the Drive editions.