On Tuesday 5th June 1923, Vancouver was enjoying a heat wave, with noontime temperatures close to 80 across the city. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a storm erupted east of the city, moving rapidly west, moving first over Grandview and then much of downtown.
“Great crashing in the heavens and flashes of flame from the black heavy clouds, accompanied by one of the worst downpours of rain experienced for years, blown by a wind of almost cyclonic velocity,” said the Province.
Two bolts of lightning ten minutes apart did much of the damage. A blue ball of electricity formed on the BCER trolley wire on Cambie Street, rolling and jumping along the wire towards Hastings Street. Trees were uprooted, windows were blown in, signboards were wrenched from walls.
At the corner of Commercial and Kitchener, lighting struck a telephone pole, splitting the timber ten feet down from the top. Another pole was struck at Commercial and Charles. A Grandview woman pressing clothes with an electric iron received a shock so great it knocked her over. People reported minor shocks near other utility poles.
Sources: Sun 1923 June 6, p,1, 12; Province June 6, p.24
We begin this month with a note that the New York Times has yet again “discovered” Commercial Drive — or at least the bits of the Drive they consider trendy, I guess. They like our “eclectic, rough-edged vibe” and that we are “the epicenter of Vancouver coffee culture.” Businesses getting mentioned include Gateley (1136 Commercial), Dilly Dally (1161 Commercial), Livia (1399 Commercial), and Mum’s The Word (1301 Commercial).
On Friday, 18th May 1923, John Y. Steel received a $3,000 building permit for a new store at 1544 Commercial. Steel had operated a dry goods business at 1584 Commercial since 1918. This image from 1922 shows the empty lot beside the corner block.
Steel had moved into his new building by the spring of 1924 and he stayed there until he sold the business to Frank Frost in 1928. Frost’ Dry Goods was a great success, surviving through Depression and War until April 1953. This image shows the store in 1939.
In the middle 1950s, a greengrocer and a salvage store used the space. But in 1956 it was taken over by Manufacturers’ Outlet flooring until the early 1980s. For most of the time since then, the building has been part of the Kalena Shoe empire.
It was wonderful weather to do the walk this morning: not too warm and not too cold.
The double storefront that is 2115-2125 Commercial is being divided. National Massage Chairs will retain 2125, but Chic Lash Boutique will soon open in 2115.
Ever since Tino retired his barbershop at 2111 Commercial in June 2020, we have listed the storefront as vacant. However, we have learned that the space is actually being used by a visual effects company called G Creative.
After a long wait, Chancho Tortilleria has finally opened at 2096 Commercial. It had a soft opening on the weekend of April 15th, and an official opening a week later. Welcome to the Drive!
Image: Scout Magazine
Tierra Latina at 2018 Commercial has a lovely “thank you” sign in the window:
The wonderful Lea Watson, who for many years operated the Canterbury Tales bookstore at 2010 Commercial, has retired. She will be greatly missed. However, the business continues under the new ownership of Nena, whom we welcome to the Drive!
Eric and Allura, the former owners of Fet’s at 1230 Commercial, have confirmed that their space will be taken over by a dentist office in the near future. We have to say that this seems an incredible waste for one of the premier patio locations on the Drive, opposite Grandview Park.
The storefront at 1126 Commercial which has been renovating for a few months has opened as the Guava Vegan Wellness salon.
Next door, at 1124 Commercial, the Lotus House Tattoo Salon and Barber is also now open.
Friday 27th April 1923 began as an ordinary working day. That afternoon, Drive power-broker and realtor Charles Smith was driving his touring car south on Commercial. He had in the car with him a Mr Wilbrand who was looking for a property, and a Mr. Robinson who seems to have been just along for the ride.
Smith was in the process of turning east on 2nd Avenue when he realized that a large industrial truck was bearing down on them at speed, and that a collision could not be avoided. Smith yanked the car out of the way, but mounted the sidewalk and ran into a number of women talking at the corner. Mrs. Boulton, wife of the storekeeper at Commercial & 1st, was mortally injured and died in the ambulance on the way to hospital.
The truck that Smith was trying to avoid — carrying a load of cider barrels for Van Brothers — locked up its wheels as it skidded to avoid the car, grazed the sidewalk causing the barrels to fly though the air. One cider barrel struck Mrs Thomas Fea outside Thomas Cahill’s Grandview Grocery Store, throwing her against a telegraph pole, damaging her back and legs. Another of the barrels hit Smith’s car, leaving a big dent.
Smith was arrested for manslaughter and was released later on $10,000 bail. At the Coroner’s hearing, the police charged that Smith had “tried to beat” the truck to the turn but had miscalculated. The coroner’s jury agreed, placing responsibility for the accident fully on Smith. In May, Smith was committed to trial.
Sources: Province 1923 Apr 28, p.1, 23; 30, p.13; Vancouver Daily World Apr 28, p.2; 30, p.11; May 17, p.9; Sun Apr 29, p.1
We start this month by noting an article in the Vancouver Sun describing the Drive and Grandview as “a family friendly suburb”. It touches on a wide range of points of interest without digging very deep. A useful survey for those who perhaps don’t know the area too well.
As for changes this month ….
The Haze Smoke Shop at 2245 Commercial is apparently open, but their windows are still papered over.
Chancho is still not yet open at 2096 Commercial, though we have waited quite some months now. Some background to this well-known Yaletown eatery can be found here and here.
The storefront at 2017 Commercial has been taken over by Cafe Des Amis.
There is a very nice review of Audiopile, 2016 Commercial, at TheVinyl Factory. The store is described as “friendly” and “a pleasure for fans of experimental and avant-garde” music.
At long last, Fior Di Latte has opened at 1858 Commercial.
We haven’t mentioned before that 1816 Commercial is now home to a developer’s sales office for The Cut. I believe it was there last month, too.
Osita Restaurant at 1728 Commercial was granted its liquor license at City Council last Thursday.
The customer-and community-friendly 24/7/365 supermarket, SuperValu at 1st and Commercial, is rebranding to Fresh Market. Our understanding is that ownership and staff will stay the same as today.
Hanai at 1590 Commercial celebrated its first anniversary on the Drive at the beginning of March. To celebrate they have begun a Happy Hour series on Thursdays to Mondays.
The building at 1350-1380 Commercial, which houses Rosemary Rock Salt and Famoso Pizzeria has been sold. Arranged by the Altos Group, the sale was for $5,560,000 or $1,150 per square foot, according to an article in the Globe & Mail‘s Report on Business. I believe the seller was Bennis Properties. Interestingly, the property had been listed at $6,800,000 just last year.
In Japan, they designate a select number of senior craftspeople and artisans as Living National Treasures (人間国宝Ningen Kokuhō.) Those so honoured are treated with great deference and this indicates the respect that they have earned in their lifetimes in their particular fields.
I have no desire to speak for the rest of Canada, but I do want to suggest that historian Bruce Macdonald be considered and honoured as one of Grandview’s Living Treasures.
Bruce is perhaps best known for authoring the innovative “Vancouver: A Visual History” which told our story in a series of highly detailed and informative maps of each decade. Filled with useful visuals and careful text, this is one of the primary sources of Vancouver history. But he has done so much more.
He has written extensively on the History of Grandview, Mount Pleasant, and Kitsilano. He has composed innumerable numbers of the Vancouver Heritage Plaques that adorn our city, and he has worked with First Nations on ideas for a Salish Sea celebration. He was a founding member of the Grandview Heritage Group, worked on a series of video interviews with our neighbourhood’s seniors to ensure that their stories are not lost, and he was actively involved in the Our Community, Our Plan movement.
Bruce is a fine guy and I am honoured to call him my friend.
Monday 19th March 1923 saw the first running of motor buses as scheduled units within the BC Electric system. It seems self-evident to us today that the bus would eventually take over the role in transit that streetcars used to serve. But in 1923, this was still a new and exciting development, allowing better access to and from Grandview and Hastings Townsite. The Province raved that the new service had been “awaited with keen interest” in Grandview.
The first route of this extension began at Broadway & Commercial, travelled SE along Grandview Highway to 13th Avenue and then on to Renfrew to 22nd and along 22nd to Rupert. One bus handled the service in the beginning, but a second bus would enter service later.
The two buses each cost $7,500 to purchase and a total of $20,000 to put on the road. The company made great efforts to ensure everyone was aware that the buses were part of the BC Electric fleet; each car is furnished inside and out in the same style as the company’s streetcars, and ticketing and transfers were the same as the rest of the system. Each bus was rated for 35 passengers, with 21 seated and 14 standing.
Sources: Province 1923 Jan 16, p. 13; Feb 17, p.5; Mar 9, p. 14; Mar 16, p.4; Vancouver Daily World Jan 10, p.2, 3; Mar 19, p.9; Apr 4, p.9; Sun, Mar 19, p.11
Another month gone by and so time for another Changes on the Drive. Penny & Steve did the walk just before the snow hit, so many thanks as always to them.
We have decided to assume that Dr. Tong’s office at 2105 Commercial is closed. The telephone number listed for the office is no longer in service, and the space is always padlocked.
There is a nice new sign at 2096 Commercial (Chancho) but no sign of it opening yet.
The former Bangladeshi restaurant at 2017 Commercial seems to have been taken over by La Luce, but it is not yet open for business.
The Afro Hair Studio at 1969 Commercial is celebrating its 25 years of operation on the Drive. It was started in 1998 by Abrham Berhe and was only the second specialist black hair salon in the city. This year, they are opening a second location on Granville Street.
The BC Liquor Store at 1520 Commercial is sporting what is, for me at least, a new sign.
Solys Pizza at 1417 Commercial has now become Auntie Jen’s Pizzeria.
Livia at 1399 Commercial is now open four nights a week for dinner service.
The former — and much-beloved — Santa Barbara Market at 1322 Commercial is now under new ownership as Santa Sahel, and some of the stock is moving away from its Italian heritage.
We had reported last month that Party Rock at 1314 Commercial had a closing out sign. However, they are still open and seem to be selling small appliances now.
There is a rumour that the former Fets restaurant at 1230 Commercial is slated to become a dentist’s office, which would be a second one on that block. The space is looking rather forlorn these days, now that the patio seating has been dismantled.
The Willow Wax Bar at 1126 Commercial seems to be renovating; perhaps to Your Spa.
We have been reporting for some time that Nicli Pronto at 935 Commercial was being renovated. However, Penny & Steve spoke with the owners and there has been a change of plan. The idea now is to cook in the kitchen and sell to grocery stores rather than open to the general public.
As mentioned in last month’s edition, the former Covid Cafe at 931 Commercial has morphed into the Pizza Bagel Cafe. Along with the pizza bagels, they also have a breakfast menu and may add an afternoon tea later in the year.
On Friday 9th February 1923, movie-goers at the Grandview Theatre on Commercial got their first chance to see fan-favourite Harold Lloyd as a country doctor who cures a girl (Mildred Davis); she promptly falls in love with him to the ire of her father (John T. Prince.)
Having been released at the end of November, “Dr. Jack” was already one of the top ten box office hits of 1922.
If that wasn’t enough for your nickel, there was also a baritone and a dance!
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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,
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: https://grandviewheritagegroup.ca/blog/
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):
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.