Changes on The Drive #98

October 1, 2019

I did the walk yesterday and it was like a summer’s day; I was significantly over-dressed, but not complaining.  There are virtually no changes on the Drive this month, stability (almost) reigns).

Not surprisingly, Mintage at 1714 Commercial is listed as one of Vancouver’s Best Thrift stores in a list compiled by the Georgia Strait.

The Benchhouse Bakery in the Il Mercato mall gets a nod in the Daily Hive’s list of best bread in Vancouver.  It is the only place on the Drive that makes the list (although Uprising on Venables makes the list).

As suggested last month, 1346 Commercial has now opened as a multi-service store with printing and cell phones.


Sula at 1128 Commercial makes the Hive‘s list of best Indian food in Vancouver. They call it “a gem.”

Next door, at 1124, the Stlll Fabulous store makes the Straight’s Best Thrift stores.


The Miscellany store at 1029 Commercial is another Best Thrift store according to the Straight.

As posted a few days ago, the wonderful Skylight Restaurant, at 1012 Commercial has joined the pantheon of now-closed diners I have loved. We went back on Sunday, their very last day, and were happy to stand in line for half an hour, so eager were folks to say goodbye to a treasured neighbour. This was my last meal there and the shot represents my nostalgia for things now gone.


This storefront has been a diner since the building was erected in 1977. But no longer: A little bird tells me that the space will be taken over by a non-sushi, non-breakfast, Japanese restaurant.

I had wondered where the Britannia kids who frequented the Skylight at lunchtime would go. Perhaps it is no surprise that, when I walked by yesterday about noon, the Pizza Garden at 1042 Commercial was overflowing with them.

Little Miss Vintage at 931 Commercial also gets a mention in the Straight‘s Best Thrift stores article.


Vacancies on The Drive This Month:  2277 Commercial (3 months vacant), 2223 (7 months), 1740 (2 months), 1735 (12 months), 1544 (4 months), 1260 (3 months), 1128 (2 months).


Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Celebrating Grandview

September 29, 2019

I spent much of yesterday celebrating our neighbourhood as part of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Grandview Heritage Tour.

The Grandview Heritage Group (GHG) was an Event Partner, and we set up shop on the porch of the historic Wilga house, now the rectory of St. Francis of Assisi Church at Napier & Semlin. Father Gino was extraordinarily generous in allowing us to use his space for a series of GHG displays featuring aspects of Grandview’s history.


The Tour was a resounding success, helped no doubt by the perfect weather yesterday.  We had about 350 people come through the Church, most of whom stopped to chat about the exhibits and to share their own memories of Grandview of an earlier time. There were some wonderful conversations and exchanges that were as valuable, I hope, for the visitors as they were for us.

It was a very worthwhile way to spend an afternoon.  Thanks again to Father Gino, to the VHF and to their volunteers.

What Value Neighbourhoods?

September 27, 2019

In a post yesterday, I outlined a few of the developments that are altering Grandview beyond recognition.  As if on cue, on Wednesday October 9th, Heritage Vancouver and SFU are hosting a conversation specifically called “What do we do about neighbourhoods?”  To quote their website:

“Neighbourhoods are often positively associated with community. They tend to have a combination of qualities that communities identify with which can make them distinct. These include the people, the types of interactions they have with each other, nature, types of commercial spaces, housing tenure, and public spaces in addition to the type and design of buildings. However, there are conflicting views as to whether this distinctiveness is positive or not.”

In 2016, I was a panellist on one of these “Shaping Vancouver” conversations, and this is part of what I had to say then about the changing nature of the Drive:

“Since that time – for some 60 years – the Drive has been the scene of continuous change. We have had a constant change of people on the Drive – starting with the Italians and the Portuguese and some East Europeans, followed by Central Americans, Jamaicans, those from the Middle East, and a variety of Africans. Not only different cultures and nationalities and languages, but also different sexualities and those of various economic circumstances were welcomed to the neighbourhood.

Each of these groups have left their mark on the patina that is the glory of the Drive today. They have changed building styles, grocery options, street art, food availability, everything; and they have done this over and over again.

And all of these continuous changes have been welcomed, indeed encouraged, by most Drive residents.  And that is because all these changes have been subtle, incremental, and evolutionary within the general envelope of what the Drive is – which is a place of low-rise buildings, 25′ store fronts, and, importantly, local business ownership.

That is how we got to today, and it this same velocity and style of change that will maintain the Drive that we all love. Introducing rapid and intrusive change can only damage what is a highly successful and well-loved neighbourhood.”

My opinion  hasn’t changed.  It will be interesting to hear a discussion on this three years later.  Hope to see some of you there.

A Very Short History of Grandview

September 24, 2019

I was recently asked by Vancouver Heritage Foundation (VHF) to write a history of Grandview in 400 words or so. It was an interesting exercise in editing!

The shortest version is included as part of the ticket for the VHF Grandview Heritage Tour this weekend.

A (very) slightly longer version has been published by Spacing today (with photographs), and is also on the Grandview Heritage Group website.

Diaries As History

September 19, 2019

Dr. Irving Finkel is one of my favourite scientists. He is an Assyriologist and a senior curator at the British Museum. His daily work involves the translation of 5,000 year-old cuneiform tablets from ancient Iraq. He is an elegant, impassioned, and amusing speaker, helping to popularize what might otherwise be a rather mysterious period of history. He is perhaps most famous for having found and translated a Sumerian text detailing the Flood story written thousands of years before the same story was adopted in the Bible.

Following another of his interests, in 2007, Dr. Finkel founded the Great Diary Project which collects, preserves, and publicizes diaries of all kinds.

“Diaries are among our most precious items of heritage. People in all walks of life have confided and often still confide their thoughts and experiences to the written page, and the result is a unique record of what happens to an individual over months, or even years, as seen through their eyes. No other kind of document offers such a wealth of information about daily life and the ups and downs of human existence. The Project’s idea is to collect as many diaries as possible from now on for long-term preservation. In the future these diaries will be a precious indication of what life, in our own time, was really like.”

Dr. Finkel can explain the importance of diaries to the historian better than I can:


As a social and cultural historian, I would be ecstatic to find the diaries of one or more of the characters who have enlivened Commercial Drive over the last 120 years.  In some ways, the Highland Echo which thrived on the minutiae of local activity acted as the diary of our neighbourhood. But to read the actual diaries of the local players would be so much more valuable in understanding, for example, motivations and prejudices.  I live in hope that some may eventually emerge.

Exploring Grandview

September 15, 2019

On Saturday 28th September, come explore our wonderful neighbourhood and its history with the help of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Grandview Heritage Tour.

“Following on the success of the 2018 West End Heritage Tour, this tour will be offered in a similar format with the chance to explore a variety of heritage places including private homes, community buildings and long-established businesses …

The tour is self-guided and will offer opportunity to get inside both private and community spaces, ticket holders can choose which ones to visit and in which order. Volunteers and your guide map will offer historical information about each site as well as additional neighbourhood insight.”

During the tour, I will be joining colleagues at a Grandview Heritage Group display table at St. Francis Church.  Buy your tickets at VHF and stop by for a chat!

Changes On The Drive #97

September 1, 2019

When I started the walk yesterday, the day was cool and pleasant. By the time I got home it had become as muggy as a tropical forest. Oh well, it was a joy to be out.

Not much change at the southern end of the Drive.  However, the old Smoke Shop at 1840 Commercial has now become a tattoo parlour (one of quite a few on the Drive these days).

I am glad to have been corrected by a commenter last month that both sides of Falconetti’s at 1810-1812 are back open as a restaurant, including the upstairs balcony.

However, the Babylon Tea Company at 1740 Commercial does not seem well. Someone has at least picked up the mail from the doorstep since last month, but otherwise it still seems very closed.  I am going to declare it vacant this month. I can always reverse that decision if it springs back to life.

The space just around the corner at 1706 E. 1st has now become the Oh Sweet Day! Bake Shop operated by food blogger Fanny Lamm.  It is a spot that recently failed with another pastry shop, and they now have the added competition of Dive In Desserts at 1706 Commercial.  I wish them all good fortune.

The Ugly Dumpling restaurant at 1590 Commercial has made it to the list of nominees for Canada’s Best New Restaurant of 2019.  Well done to them!

The former Maz convenience store is in the process of becoming yet another mobile phone store.  I realize that my non-phone bias is showing, but do we really need three of these places in such close proximity?


The Wilder Juice place at 1128 Commercial seems to have bitten the dust.

Finally, the building at 1102 Commercial, which was the first brick building on the Drive when it was erected in 1910, has now received a Heritage Plaque.  Some of my friends will say that the owners don’t deserve the recognition because of the monstrosity  of what they putting up on the car park behind. I have some sympathy with that, but the building itself is important and I hope that being recognized may save it from further depredation in the future.


Vacancies on the Drive this month:  2277 Commercial (2 months vacant), 2223 (6 months), 1740 (1 month), 1735 (11 months), 1544 (3 months), 1260 (2 months), 1128 (1 month).


Previous editions of Changes On the Drive.