“At first, this neighborhood will confuse you with its pleasantly startling mix of cuisines, ethnicities and income brackets — that’s a good thing. In just a few blocks, you’ll pass places advertising injera, sushi, tandoori, mezcal, Italian coffee, samosas, Cuban sandwiches and Vietnamese food both upscale and down-home. Upscale pet accessory stores live next to well-worn used bookshops; some people on the street look like they have a lot of money, others look like they don’t have much. Andy Yan, an urban planner with Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, says this coexistence is explained by gentrification in slow motion. Commercial Drive was an Italian stronghold, then a multiethnic neighborhood, and is now attracting the “bobos” (bourgeois bohemians).”
Well, that’s us all over, isn’t it? In the meanwhile, it was the perfect day for the walk this morning; my kind of weather.
My southern Drive correspondent advises me that City Avenue is expanding south and north. I have noted for the last couple of months that they are displaying their produce in front of what was a Cash Exchange office at 2283 Commercial. I’m told they will also be taking over the old restaurant space at 2277.
Tangent Cafe, 2095 Commercial, Cafe Deux Soleils at 2096 Commercial, and Prado at 1938 Commercial all get good reviews in I Live In East Vancouver‘s brunches on the Drive.
My correspondent also tells me that Frank of Frank’s Jewelers, 1937 Commercial, has died, but that his wife may try to keep the shop going.
What used to be LaLa’s at 1748 Commercial is still vacant but there is a sign saying that Cob’s Bakery will be opening soon. That is interesting on a couple of levels: first, we have a large number of bakeries on the Drive already; second, we used to have a Cob’s here and it closed more than a decade ago.
Note that J,N,Z at 1729 Commercial is closed for their summer vacation.
The new Loula’s Tavern at 1608 Commercial gets another review.
Exposure Home at 1616 Commercial is closing out.
My personal favourite, the Dime at 1565 Commercial, makes it onto the list of best brunches on the Drive.
The Vietnamese cafe Merci Beaucoup at 1468 got a great review on one of the local message boards: “The Pho broth is probably the best I have ever tasted… and I’ve tasted a lot! Banh Mi is so fresh! If you haven’t tried it yet you don’t what you’re missing!”
The Community Cash store at 1340 Commercial has closed, now dealing online only.
As the title states, this is the one hundred & twentieth edition of Changes — one each month for the last ten years. Taking a quick look back through those posts, I am amazed at how much change has happened in the relatively compact stretch of fourteen short blocks from Venables to N. Grandview Highway that is the world of Changes. Unfortunately, this may be one of the least interesting editions as there are very few changes since the last post.
It sure was humid yesterday when I did the walk, though fortunately not nearly as hot as I had expected.
I have noted over the last few months the significant growth in the number of patios on the sidewalk. Most of them make a good deal of sense, but the brand new one outside the bowling lanes seems oddly placed as there is only a small snack bar inside and no other restaurants nearby.
The one new opening this month is Loula’s Taverna at 1608 Commercial. There is a good piece on the new place, and something odd about the bathroom here.
Well, I can really appreciate the fact that the heat dome moved east overnight; I doubt I could have managed the walk in the temperatures of the last couple of days. Even at this more “tolerable” level, I was struggling. I was surprised at the number of businesses that had remained closed because of the heat.
On the walk today, I noticed an ever-growing number of street-side patios. They have been growing apace recently but this month sees them outside the Portuguese Club, Sula, Kulinyara, Bombay Kitchen, Absinthe, and others. Now that these seem to be a permanent fixture, I was wondering how that will affect Italian Day and Car Free Day when cafes have brought their cooking skills into the street. I like the change a lot.
The former restaurant at 2277 Commercial is still vacant after two years. The change this month is that the hopeful stickers that have for about a year announced a new café to open soon have been taken down and replaced by the always-attractive brown paper. Not sure yet if that is a good or bad sign.
Poke 5, at 2247 Commercial, has closed, as has the Dollar Plus Store at 1983 Commercial.
The new Sal y Limon at 1752 Commercial gets a quick review in the Daily Hive.
Loula’s — the new Greek concept at 1610 Commercial brought to us by a group of local restaurateurs: Petro and Yianni Kerasiotis (Nammos Estiatorio on Fraser), Bill and Niko Kerasiotis and Marco Mirisklavos (Sopra Sotto), and John Pavlakis (Minerva’s on W. 41st) — has not yet opened, but I suspect we are just days away from that event.
Next door, the small storefront at 1206 Commercial, which has been a pop-up outlet for a while, is now the new home of Manifesto Hair salon which has moved from its long-time spot at 1126 Commercial. I wish them great success at their new location.
Kin Kao at 903 Commercial has announced it will be opening a new Vancouver location. The concept will be setting up shop at 317 E Broadway (the former location of The Black Lodge) this summer, according to its social media accounts.
I noticed a sign in the window of Bump n’Grind at 916 Commercial that they are under new management. I hope they do well.
Finally, and just outside my normal location range, we now have a Bunny Cafe. Just around the corner at 1696 Venables we have a space where you can go pet the rabbits!
Today was a beautiful day for the walk; it was warm and just the slightest of breezes. On the business front, I hope we have turned a corner: the number of storefront vacancies has fallen this month by a decent number. And we are just a few days into this less restrictive phase of the pandemic which promises significant opportunities to re-open old stores and to open new.
Eggs Canna, the large cannabis dispensary at 2137 Commercial, has completed its make-over with a new sign and logo on the windows.
The Canterbury Tales Bookstore makes it onto Daily Hive’s list of the best used bookstores in Vancouver. The store “has a way of luring you in,” says the review.
The Dollar Plus store at 1983 Commercial is closing down and they were having a massive clear out sale today.
Across the street at 1832 Commercial, Expedia Cruises have temporarily closed their offices while they work online. They say they will be back in the new year.
The old Starbucks site at 1752 Commercial has finally opened as the Sal y Limon Mexican restaurant.
We now have confirmation that the old Libra Room at 1608 Commercial will soon re-open as Loula’s Taverna, a Greek restaurant. The extensive renovations to the front of the building seem complete.
Biercraft at 1191 Commercial is closed at present. Walking by this afternoon I saw what appeared to be major interior renovations going on. Will be interesting to see if it re-opens as itself or as a new business.
I still haven’t called Penelope’s at 1009 vacant, but it has been covid-closed now for a full year and more.
The double-front space at 1003 Commercial, which for years housed the Peg Antiques, and then a hair salon, is now an up-market clothing store called Turnabout.
As I passed by today, I saw bakers baking, which makes me think that Artisan Bakery at 935 Commercial is just about open.
And Covid Cafe has finally opened at 931 Commercial. They have been criticized on social media for the choice of name. I hope they do well; they have put a great deal of effort into remaking that storefront.
I wasn’t able to do my walk on Friday as I normally would; which turned out to be a good thing because today was just perfect for walking. The Drive and all its patios was alive with people enjoying themselves. Let us hope that the regulatory climate soon improves along with the weather so that more of the new places can open.
Poke Five, the restaurant at 2247 Commercial, has announced that it will be closing permanently later this spring. It opened in May of 2018.
The Harambe Ethiopian Restaurant at 2149 Commercial has a fine new patio, as does Giancarlo’s at 1865 Commercial. The latter was very popular at lunchtime today.
The Liberty Tax preparation office at 1848 Commercial has opened. Our first genuinely new business for several months.
At 1752 Commercial, which used to be a Starbucks and is soon to be a Mexican restaurant, an entire orchestra was out having fun.
The always-wonderful Fratelli’s Bakery at 1795 Commercial gets a long spread in Daily Hive for its almost-25 years of service on the Drive.
Our second new business this month is the CraftMaison store at 1840 Commercial. It is now open (the image was taken earlier).
I believe the Dive-In Desserts at 1706 Commercial is closed. Happy to be proven wrong.
“The new occupants of the retail space mostly appear to be chain stores and medical clinics. In areas with a rich tapestry of local stores and services, is it only chain stores and medical clinics that compete for the new space? Could smaller storefronts, with narrow frontages (for example 25 feet or just a bit more) encourage a wider range of services and more appeal and variety of the street front? What are the effects of high ceilings on the ground floor — in terms of building costs, rent costs, look, feel and ambiance? Are business improvement associations (BIAs, which often speak up at Public Hearings to endorse rezoning and development applications) talking to their existing members to get input on what kinds of developments/buildings will help them survive and thrive? How can the City and developers ensure that small shops and businesses (traditional and startups both) survive and thrive when existing commercial sites are demolished and redeveloped? Or does the appearance of a development application sign in front of a building automatically and inevitably mean the death knell for those existing shops and businesses that add so much to the feel, culture and richness of — and love for — a neighbourhood? These are things for everyone to consider, not the least being our planners and elected officials.”
I had hoped that this would be the turnaround month, when things started to look up for businesses on the Drive. And it is true that there are a number of new signs and canopies for businesses opening soon (see below). However, Dr. Henry’s news this week that all restaurants are banned from in-door dining until April 19 has left a lot of places suddenly closed yet again. That being said, yesterday, when I did the walk, was warm and sunny and all the patios were busy and several places (Fets, Havana, the Social, and Park Drive, for example) were rapidly expanding their patios onto the sidewalks and into the street.
Grounds for Coffee at 2088 Commercial gets a shout out for their “legendary” cinnamon buns.
The storefront at 1848 is still vacant but is soon to be a Liberty Tax outlet, giving some competition to H&R Block.
For some months now, Cannibal Cafe has been advertising the possibility of expanding next door to 1816 Commercial to open a Motherclucker’s Chicken place. But I see this month there is a new For Lease sign on the door, so perhaps they have give up on that idea.
La Grotta del Formaggio at 1791 Commercial is unsurprisingly listed as one of the seven best cheese shops in Vancouver.
What used to be a Starbucks at 1752 Commercial is still vacant, but the sign says a new Mexican Restaurant — Sol y Limon — will be opening soon.
At 1740 Commercial, the storefront is still vacant, but a new canopy suggests a furnishings doo-dads store is about to grace us with its presence.
At 1678 Commercial there is a new sign advertising the coming of Vancity Fried Chicken, though the store is still vacant right now.
The former Libra Room at 1608-12 Commercial is getting a complete make-over externally in preparation for opening as a Greek restaurant (?).
Where Ugly Dumplings is now, at 1590 Commercial, there used to be Merchant’s Workshop. Scout magazine has a fond look back at the place where chefs used to like to hang out.
Memphis Blues at 1342 Commercial is looking for all kinds of staff: supervisors, line cooks, bartenders, etc. That’s a welcome sign in these covid-depressed times.
The haphazardly-occupied storefront at 1303 Commercial is now a store called Velveteen Vintage.
The large double-front at 1005 Commercial is soon to be the home of Turnabout Luxury Resale, a designer consignment store.
The team behind Kin Kao at 903 Commercial are working on opening a second location at 317 E. Broadway in Mount Pleasant. The team and the name will be the same, but the menu will be completely different. “Tang and the core kitchen crew are being given the green light to do completely new things, retooling family recipes and tweaking regional specialities. The drinks program will also be different, with cocktails and wine making playing larger roles.”
* * * * *
I still haven’t called Penelope’s at 1009 vacant, but it has been covid-closed now for a full year
I did the walk on Saturday, the last of the sunny Spring days for a while I suspect. I am glad to say the Drive was really busy, with most of the patios full for lunch. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make up for no new openings and two new large closures.
The biggest new closure of the month (by size at least) is the closing of the BCC Ethical Financing company in the storefront at 1848 Commercial. It seems that the upstairs offices of Terra Housing are also closed.
The former Libra Room at 1608 Commercial is still but a distant memory, but I understand the double-front is being renovated for a new place; perhaps a Greek restaurant? During the work, the new owners uncovered a sign for the Windows Bakery that closed at that site in 1950. I hope they find some way to use that sign in their new display.
This month’s report has been delayed for a few days due to the inclement weather and the frailty of your correspondent. But here we are! I did the walk this morning and it was the most gorgeous sunny winter’s day: I’m glad I waited. Unfortunately, the state of the Drive is not as bright as the day, with no new openings but no further closings either.
The Benchhouse Bakery, inside Il Mercato Mall at 1641 Commercial, gets a great review for its caramelized onion sourdough bread.
La Mezcaleria at 1622 Commercial gets a shout out from Scout Magazine for its flight of margarita miniatures.
The former Libra Room at 1608 Commercial is still vacant and boarded up. However, I saw some work going on there on the weekend so maybe there is some hope for a new place?
What used to be the Euro Café at 1468 Commercial has morphed into a Vietnamese café called Mercie Beaucoup. (My apologies for the quality of this image).
The former Andy’s Bakery at 935 Commercial is still vacant, but there is now a sign on the door for a new bakery. No work seems to have been done on the interior though, so far as I could see.
What was the last remaining house on the Drive at 928 Commercial is now in the process of being re-developed. The entire front of the building (Commercial Drive side) has been removed, but the rear (backs onto the lane) is still standing.
I still haven’t called Penelope’s at 1009 vacant, but it has been closed now for a very long time.
Between rainstorms, much of yesterday was perfect weather for walking and it was good to get out and stretch my legs. Unfortunately, much of the walk was a depressing stroll between vacant storefronts — an imperfect end to an imperfect year.
At the far south end, I noticed that the Currency Exchange business at 2283 Commercial seems to have closed, and the space in front of their store has been taken over by the grocery store next door by what looks like a semi-permanent display.
The denturist office at 2057 Commercial which has been operating on the Drive since the 1950s has now closed. They have moved to a space on Renfrew Street.
Cowboys has now opened at 1875 Commercial, but the Columbus Travel Agency at 1503 Commercial has closed.
The recently-opened Cell Doctor store at 1433 Commercial now has a new canopy.
The former Beckwomans at 1314 has now opened as a fashion boutique.
There is an interesting article in Monetcristo magazine that is mainly about the new branch of Sula restaurant in Mount Pleasant, but it has a welcome amount of information about the owners and chefs who maintain their first Sula at 1128 Commercial Drive.
The Lunch Lady at 1046 Commercial is the only restaurant on the Drive to make the Daily Hive’s best new restaurants of 2020 list.
The storefront at 931 Commercial is still not open, but the anticipated Covid Cafe looks like it should be ready early in the new year.
I notice that the Drive’s last house at 928 Commercial now has a new security fence and the nearby trees have protective coverings. That probably means that, after a couple of years of vacancy, the building is about to be demolished.
These are depressing graphs but we live in hope that in the new year we will start re-filling these empty spaces and bring back the glory days of 2019. We also have to recognize that this is a city-wide issue and CityHallWatch has a good piece on the situation today on West Broadway and on Granville.
I was fooled yesterday by the bright blue sky and did not dress well enough to counter the bitter wind that blew me up and down the Drive. The walk from Grandview Highway to Venables sometimes seemed like I was crossing Antarctica without a dog sled!
There is a detailed illustrated look at the takeout specialties at Jamjar Canteen, 2290 Commercial in Scout Magazine.
Bar Corso at 1566 Commercial has applied to change the license on their premises from Food Primary to Liquor Primary. This would allow them to extend their liquor serving hours, I believe.
As always, the season really come alive at Commercial & Graveley where the mass of Christmas trees on the roof of Home Hardware spreads its delightful piney smell across the intersection.
The storefront at 1433 Commercial has had the interior refurnished and painted and is now another cell phone store or similar. We seem to have as many of those now as we do cannabis outlets.
The Harbour Oyster Bar at 1408 Commercial gets a long and favourable review in Daily Hive. My understanding is that these folks also own the Social (see above) and I guess it is no coincidence that both restaurants are being covered by the Hive in the same week.
The former Beckwoman’s at 1314 Commercial is still closed but work on what will soon be Rave On, a clothing boutique, is well advanced.
I am now declaring that Renzo’sCafe at 1301 Commercial is closed. I have heard rumours that the family has no intention to re-open. They are hoping, I am told, to sell the Cafe as a going concern which is why it sits closed but fully furnished. They also own the storefront at 1303 which has effectively been vacant for a long time.
I have been concerned about the Kin Kao restaurant at 903 Commercial — they have an imposing sign on the door saying “One Customer Only At A Time”, and they never seem to be open when I pass by. So I was glad to see an ad for Front of House staff the other day.
Vacancies on the Drive this month:
Depressingly, not a single business opened or re-opened in November so far as I could tell.