Changes Update

September 1, 2021

After posting the most recent Changes post, I learned that Spade Coffee at 1858 Commercial has also closed permanently. They had one of the most evocative websites.

That means we have 21 vacant storefronts this month rather than the 20 shown previously.


Changes On The Drive #121

September 1, 2021

I’ll begin this month’s edition with an overview of the Drive from the Seattle Times by Brendan Kelly last week:

“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.

The Del Ray barbershop at 1798 E. 4th gets a shout out in the Hive’s list of Vancouver’s Best Barbershops.

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.

Another of the great brunches on the Drive is Mezcaleria at 1622 Commercial.

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.

Havana at 1212 Commercial also gets a high five in brunches on the Drive.

The Arcane Tattoo Parlour at 1111 Commercial has finally closed, moved to East Hastings.

The DownLow Chicken Shack at 905 Commercial has proven so popular, they are opening a new location at UBC.

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2283 Commercial (9 months vacant), 2277 (26 months), 2247 (3 months), 2223 (30 months), 2111 (16 months), 2057 (9 months), 1983 (3 months), 1816 (16 months), 1748 (13 months), 1733 (12 months), 1728 (16 months), 1678 (12 months), 1503 (8 months), 1305 (16 months), 1303 (2 months), 1301 (11 months), 1191 (4 months), 1126 (3 months), 1111 (1 month), 902 (11 months).

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes On The Drive #120

August 1, 2021

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.

Image: Loula’s

There is a long advertorial about the Tandoori Palace‘s 20th anniversary at 1434 Commercial.

The Little Earth toy store at 1020 Commercial has a smart new sign.

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2283 Commercial (8 months vacant), 2277 (25 months), 2247 (2 months), 2223 (29 months), 2111 (15 months), 2057 (8 months), 1983 (2 months), 1816 (15 months), 1748 (12 months), 1733 (11 months), 1728 (15 months), 1678 (11 months), 1503 (7 months), 1305 (15 months), 1303 (1 month), 1301 (10 months), 1191 (3 months), 1126 (2 months), 902 (10 months).

As the graphs show, Commercial Drive is still deep into a pandemic slowdown. However, we are in far better shape that commercial streets in the UK where one in seven shops are now vacant: One in seven shops now vacant across the UK | Retail industry | The Guardian

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes On The Drive #119

July 1, 2021

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.

Sopra Sotto at 1510 Commercial makes the list of the best pizza places to visit.

The former Beckwoman’s store at 1314 Commercial has for a few months now been operating as a fashion boutique. However, its long term future appears to be as yet another cannabis dispensary.

Havana at 1212 Commercial gets another shout out for best brunch.

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!

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2283 Commercial (7 months vacant), 2277 (24 months), 2247 (1 month), 2223 (28 months), 2111 (14 months), 2057 (7 months), 1983 (1 month), 1816 (14 months), 1748 (11 months), 1733 (10 months), 1728 (14 months), 1678 (10 months), 1608-12 (18 months), 1503 (6 months), 1305 (15 months), 1301 (9 months), 1191 (2 months), 1126 (1 month), 902 (9 months).

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes On The Drive #118

June 1, 2021

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.

Also on the list of best bookstores is, of course, the People’s Co-op Bookstore at 1391 Commercial.

Memphis Blues BBQ at 1342 Commercial is looking to hire staff.

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.

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2283 Commercial (6 months vacant), 2277 (23 months), 2223 (27 months), 2111 (13 months), 2057 (6 months), 1816 (13 months), 1748 (10 months), 1733 (9 months), 1728 (13 months), 1706 (2 month), 1678 (9 months), 1608-12 (17 months), 1503 (5 months), 1305 (14 months), 1301 (8 months), 1206 (7 months), 902 (8 months).

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes On The Drive #117

May 1, 2021

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 nachos at Memphis Blues, 1342 Commercial, get a great rating.

Havana, 1212 Commercial, has been advertizing for a new Restaurant Manager.

What’s the story with Biercraft at 1191 Commercial? They are papered up as if closed, but their website is still saying they exist, and I thought they recently upgraded their patio.

The Kulinarya restaurant at 1124 Commercial has a new patio that was very popular today.

I still haven’t called Penelope’s at 1009 vacant, but it has been covid-closed now for a full year and more.

CityHallWatch had this to say about most recent commercial developments in Vancouver:

“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.”

See also the City’s report on small business: City Report: https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/city-of-vancouver-small-business-study-2020.pdf

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2283 Commercial (5 months vacant), 2277 (22 months), 2223 (26 months), 2111 (12 months), 2057 (5 months), 1816 (12 months), 1752 (15 months), 1748 (9 months), 1733 (8 months), 1728 (12 months), 1706 (1 month), 1678 (8 months), 1608-12 (16 months), 1503 (4 months), 1305 (13 months), 1301 (7 months), 1206 (7 months), 1003 (15 months), 935 (15 months), 931 (10 months), 902 (7 months).

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes On The Drive #116

April 1, 2021

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.

Also receiving great reviews for their cinnamon buns is Livia’s at 1339 Commercial.

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

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2283 Commercial (4 months vacant), 2277 (21 months), 2223 (25 months), 2111 (11 months), 2057 (4 months), 1848 (2 months), 1816 (11 months), 1752 (14 months), 1748 (8 months), 1740 (20 months), 1733 (6 months), 1728 (12 months), 1678 (7 months), 1608-12 (15 months), 1503 (4 months), 1305 (12 months), 1301 (6 months), 1206 (6 months), 1003 (14 months), 935 (14 months), 931 (9 months), 902 (6 months).

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes On The Drive #115

February 27, 2021

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 Bench Bakehouse at 1641 Commercial (inside the mall) has been advertizing for an experienced operations manager.

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.

The Ugly Dumpling at 1590 Commercial is featured in a spread about take out foods. They recommend the omakase.

Image: Scout magazine

The storefront at 1507 Commercial is still vacant but the new canopy suggests it is going to be yet another cell phone shop.

Livia at 1399 Commercial is good at drawing crowds and attracting media. The bread baker there is Sabine Thorson, and she gets a good feature in Scout magazine this month.

The other big upcoming closure is of the Arcane Tattoo and Piercing shop at 1115 Commercial. They have been on the Drive for about eight years but their sign says they are moving to Gastown.

I still haven’t called Penelope’s at 1009 vacant, but it has been closed now for a very long time.

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2283 Commercial (3 months vacant), 2277 (20 months), 2223 (24 months), 2111 (10 months), 2057 (3 months), 1848 (1 month), 1816 (10 months), 1752 (13 months), 1748 (7 months), 1740 (19 months), 1733 (5 months), 1728 (11 months), 1678 (6 months), 1608 (14 months), 1503 (3 months), 1305 (11 months), 1303 (5 months), 1301 (4 months), 1206 (5 months), 1003 (12 months), 935 (13 months), 931 (8 months), 902 (5 months).

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes On The Drive #114

February 3, 2021

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.

Image: La Mezcaleria

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).

At Livia, 1399 Commercial, the buckwheat and oat sourdough is said to be delicious.

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.

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2283 Commercial (2 months), 2277 (vacant 19 months), 2223 (23 months), 2111 (9 months), 2057 (2 months), 1814 (9 months), 1752 (12 months), 1748 (6 months), 1740 (18 months), 1733 (4 months), 1728 (10 months), 1678 (5 months), 1608 (13 months), 1503 (2 months), 1305 (10 months), 1303 (4 months), 1301 (3 months), 1206 (4 months), 1003 (11 months), 935 (12 months), 931 (7 months), 902 (4 months).

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes On The Drive #113

January 1, 2021

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.

.

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2283 Commercial (1 month), 2277 (vacant 18 months), 2223 (22 months), 2111 (8 months), 2057 (1 month), 1814 (8 months), 1752 (11 months), 1748 (5 months), 1740 (17 months), 1733 (3 months), 1728 (9 months), 1678 (4 months), 1608 (12 months), 1503 (1 month), 1305 (9 months), 1303 (3 months), 1301 (2 months), 1206 (3 months), 1003 (10 months), 935 (11 months), 931 (6 months), 902 (3 months).

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.

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes On The Drive #112

December 1, 2020

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.

The Social at 1812 Commercial gets a full coverage review at the Daily Hive.

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’s Cafe 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.

The streetscape at Grandview Park changed literally while I was on my walk as one of the older trees fell over in the wind.

The popular Indian restaurant Sula at 1128 Commercial is preparing to open a second location, this time on Main Street.

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.

2277 Commercial (vacant 17 months), 2223 (21 months), 2111 (7 months), 1875 (3 months), 1814 (7 months), 1752 (10 months), 1748 (4 months), 1740 (16 months), 1733 (2 months), 1728 (8 months), 1678 (3 months), 1608 (11 months), 1314 (6 months), 1305 (8 months), 1303 (2 months), 1301 (1 month), 1206 (2 months), 1003 (9 months), 935 (10 months), 931 (5 months), 902 (2 months).

Interesting discussion on how to make outdoor patios more acceptable in winter: What Outdoor Dining May Look Like in Winter – Bloomberg

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes On The Drive #111

November 1, 2020

It was a gorgeous day on Saturday when I did my survey walk — bright sun, cool air, and no wind.  I could have stayed out for hours.

The former cannabis store at 2137 Commercial which has been vacant for more than 8 months is now re-opened as another cannabis store, Eggs Canna which used to have a much smaller space at 2235 Commercial.

At 2017 Commercial, what used to be the Addis Ethiopian restaurant has morphed into the Holy Smoke — Vancouver’s only Bangladeshi restaurant according to their sign. It is a brave move to start a new dining establishment in these peculiar days.

Prado at 1938 Commercial, and Spade at 1858 make it on the list of Daily Hive’s best coffee shops in Vancouver. I’m sure many of us on the Drive have our own favourite that didn’t make the list.

The former Mark’s Pet Shop at 1875 Commercial is still closed but will soon be yet another dope store called Cowboys.

At 1812 Commercial, the new-last-month casual eatery called Social in the space that used to be Falconetti’s gets wide coverage in the Hive.

The Babylon Tea store at 1740 Commercial, which has been essentially closed for more than a year, has finally been cleared out and the store is now most definitely vacant.

What used to be Flight Centre at 1733 Commercial is now vacant.

The vacant space at 1433 Commercial has been taken over by a clothing store that seems as yet to have no name.

Fet’s at 1230 Commercial has joined the growing number of restaurants that have expanded their patios onto the street.

What has been a Make Merry pop-up store at 1206 Commercial has been closed for a couple of months now and so I will consider it vacant.

The Lunch Lady at 1046 Commercial gets a rave review of its XO sauce-tossed egg noodles in Scout magazine.

The underwear store, Your Own Closet, at 902 Commercial has closed.

During my walk I saw long patient lines at JJ Bean, JNZ, Tangent, Moja, Livia, and Downlow which indicates to me both that business is brisk and folks are finding ways to cope with this pandemic.

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2277 Commercial (vacant 16 months), 2223 (20 months), 2111 (6 months), 1875 (2 months), 1814 (6 months), 1752 (9 months), 1748 (3 months), 1740 (15 months), 1733 (1 month), 1728 (7 months), 1678 (2 months), 1608 (10 months), 1314 (5 months), 1305 (7 months), 1203 (1 month), 1003 (8 months), 935 (9 months), 931 (4 months), 902 (1 month).

Of the 19 empty storefronts this month, at least 7 are being refitted with hopes for an early re-opening.

Once again, Renzo’s Cafe, and Penelope’s are still  not operating  but neither seems permanently closed.

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes On The Drive #110

October 1, 2020

It was a splendid T-shirt day to go walking down the Drive yesterday; hopefully, these sunny days will carry us well into October.

The former cannabis dispensary at 2137 Commercial is still closed but the rebranding for a re-opening is coming along well:

 

The former site of Falcone’s (bar and butchery) at 1810-1812 Commercial has morphed quickly into a place called Social. i am told it is owned by the Harbour Oyster Bar people, but I have not confirmed that yet.

 

 

My BBQ Hut at 1678 Commercial appears to have closed. There is a “Coming Soon” notice in the window without further information.

 

The storefront at 1303 Commercial has been taken over this month as the election office for the NDP.

Mogu at 1012 Commercial is now open, and gets a shout out from the Daily Hive.

The tiny store at 931 Commercial is being refitted and will soon re-open as a Covid Cafe.

 

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2277 Commercial (vacant 15 months), 2223 (19 months), 2137 (8 months), 2111 (5 months), 1875 (1 month), 1818 (5 months), 1752 (8 months), 1748 (2 months), 1740 (14 months), 1728 (6 months), 1678 (1 month), 1608 (9 months), 1433 (3 months), 1314 (4 months), 1305 (6 months), 1003 (7 months), 935 (8 months), 931 (3 months).

 

We have retreated a little from the high of storefront vacancies of the previous few months. And, of the 18 empty storefronts this month, at least 7 are being refitted with hopes for an early re-opening.

Once again, Renzo’s Cafe, and Penelope’s are still  not operating  but neither seems closed.

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.

 


Changes On The Drive #109

September 1, 2020

It was another muggy day for the walk yesterday; they had promised me sunshine, but heavy cloud was the best we got.

I noticed that Donald’s at 2279 Commercial is now City Avenue Market.

 

The former Pain Management Clinic cannabis dispensary at 2137 Commercial is still closed, but will soon be another dispensary called the Hatching Room.

 

1875 Commercial is currently home to a pop-up store called Velveteen Vintage.

 

The recently opened Indian restaurant called Zazie at 1859 Commercial has morphed into the Delhi Fusion. Not sure if this is just a change of name or owners, too.

 

Last month I was loathe to call Falconetti’s closed at 1812-14 Commercial. However, I understand the building was sold and they are definitely closed. There are two storefronts there and I wonder if it will get two tenants or just the one again.

LaLa’s at 1748 Commercial is closed which is a great shame.

The flowershop Studio Full Bloom has taken over the space at 1319 Commercial. They also have space at 831 Commercial so I am unsure if the new outlet is permanent or pop-up.  Glad to see them in a more prominent location though (It was hard to get a good image as they were filming next door).

 

Unlike the rest of my blog, I try hard to keep politics out of this section. Therefore, I will merely point out, as a change on the Drive and without comment, that a few tents have shown up on Grandview Park.

At 1012 Commercial — former site of the much loved Skylight Restaurant — the new Mogu Fried Chicken place opens today. There is an excellent piece in Scout Magazine about how this has been created as a bricks-and-mortar store after four years as a popular food truck. Image is from Scout.

 

Following up on a note from last month, both Renzo’s at 1301 and Penelope’s at 1009 Commercial are still closed.

 

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2277 Commercial (vacant 14 months), 2223 (18 months), 2137 (7 months), 2111 (4 months), 1816 (4 months), 1814 (1 month), 1812 (1 month), 1752 (7 months), 1748 (1 month), 1740 (13 months), 1728 (5 months), 1608 (8 months), 1433 (2 months), 1314 (3 months), 1305 (5 months), 1303 (11 months), 1012 (11 months), 1003 (6 months), 935 (7 months), 931 (2 months).

We have reached a new high in storefront vacancies. There are three or four stores being readied for opening at some point in the future, but the trend is not good.

 

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.

 


Changes on the Drive #108

August 1, 2020

I suspect that yesterday was the muggiest, closest, heaviest day of the year — just what I needed for the walk on the Drive! Thank goodness I know every single sitting down place between Broadway and Venables!

 

Big piece in The Tyee on JQ Clothing at 2120 Commercial:

“[F]or the past 20 years, the Commercial Drive store has been a safe haven for members of the LGBTQ2+ community. Acceptance is the order of the day, and JQ Clothing is a place for people to come out, hang out and try out new clothing and new identities. Rave wear, costumes, burlesque supplies: it caters to all sizes, lifestyles and identities.”

The former Moroccan restaurant space at 1851 Commercial has now reopened as BC Donair.

Falconetti’s at 1812-14 Commercial has brown paper all over the windows again. I am loathe to call it closed yet as they seem to have powers of sudden rejuvenation.

 

I am sad to report that LaLa’s gift boutique at 1748 Commercial is closing, probably in September. Her store in Deep Cove may already have closed by the time you read this. This has been my go-to place for odd gifts on the Drive since Urban Empire closed so long ago.

Very nice piece about the Everloving’s favourite store Dolce Amore at 1588 Commercial and its remarkable gelatos.

I am hearing rumours about upcoming changes at the Medical Clinic at 1515 Commercial; not sure how that is going to pan out yet.

The mobile phone store at 1411 Commercial is still open, but there is a prominent For Lease sign on the building.

 

The always popular Livia restaurant at 1399 now has its patio open on Grant Street.

Bikram Yoga at 1109 Commercial is in trouble again. This time, they have banned clients from wearing masks in the studio even though they are advised to do so by Provincial Health.

The newly opened Lunch Lady restaurant at 1046 Commercial has been busy every day. An artist is in the process of putting up a splendid mural on their wall along Napier.

 

I am glad to see that Spank clothing has re-emerged at 1027 Commercial. It looked dead as a door nail last month.

That odd looking clothing store called Sinn Sativa at 931 seems to be closed. It is empty at least.

 

No surprise that DownLow Chicken Shack at 905 Commercial gets rated as one of the best fried chicken places in Vancouver.

Finally, I want to make note of Renzo’s Cafe at 1301, Making Merry at 1206, and Penelope’s at 1009 Commercial which have not yet re-opened, though they show no signs of closing down.

 

 

Vacancies on the Drive this month: 

2277 Commercial (vacant 13 months), 2233 (17 months), 2137 (6 months), 2111 (3 months), 1875 (3 months), 1816 (3 months), 1752 (6 months), 1740 (12 months), 1728 (4 months), 1608 (7 months), 1433 (1 month), 1319 (3 months), 1312 (2 months), 1305 (4 months), 1303 (10 months), 1012 (10 months), 1003 (5 months), 935 (6 months), 931 (1 month).

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes on the Drive #107

July 1, 2020

It was a pleasant day for walking yesterday and it seemed like the Drive was back to its pre-virus self — on the outside at least, though going into shops and restaurants is still a matter of getting used to new rules.

The recently-vacated space at 2770 Commercial has been taken by a new restaurant called B House.

 

The large double-front at 2137, which used to be a cannabis dispensary, is still vacant, but some serious work seems to be going on in there, including painting the exterior brick white.

The Cannibal Cafe at 1818 Commercial has been approved for a temporary patio. They also seem to be involved in the new place next door at 1816 called Mothercluckers Fried Chicken which is still being shop-fitted.

 

The space at 1608 Commercial, which used to be the Libra Room, is still closed but it is now boarded over and work seems to be going on inside.

Bar Corso at 1566 Commercial seems to be open, which is good to see.

The Charlatan bar at 1447 Commercial is on the list of the first dozen restaurants in Vancouver to get swift approval for extended patios. Odd, because they already have a renovated patio all along Grant Street.

The fairly recent Hina Ramen at 1431 has morphed into Viet Family Restaurant.  Next door at 1433, the Donair Town has closed and a “for lease” sign graces the window,

At 1314 Commercial, the venerable Beckwoman store has shut down after some difficult years. Barbara Beckman opened her “Storefront Art Studio” at 1319 Commercial in 1981. She moved across the street to 1314 in 1989 and has been in business there ever since. In the spring of 2015 she suffered a serious fire in the store and it has been closed as often as open since then. The storefront is being stripped and refitted as a fashion boutique, perhaps?  Thanks to Penny for the photograph.

 

Fets Whiskey Bar has re-opened at 1230 Commercial which is great news. I understand they spent their virus downtime renovating the kitchen.

The pop-up boutique at 1206 Commercial is closed, but it is hard to tell if they are vacant as they have had periods of closure before.  I’ll give them another month before adding them to the vacancy list.

The Lunch Lady at 1046 Commercial will be opening today, July 1st, after a complete remodelling.  There is a good piece on their story at Scout Magazine.

The places I thought should have been open by now, but are not, are Renzo’s Cafe at 1301 and Penelope’s at 1009 Commercial. Both have window signs saying they will reopen when they can, so I guess we just wait and see.

There is an interesting piece in the Vancouver Sun about why some of the places on the Drive have closed. It is fascinating to read Federico Fuoco blame everyone but himself for his failure.

Vacancies on the Drive this month:  Listings in bold are those businesses that have announced their closure this month.

2277 Commercial (vacant 12 months), 2233 (16 months), 2137 (5 months), 2111 (2 months), 1875 (2 months), 1851 (2 months), 1816 (2 months), 1752 (5 months), 1740 (11 months), 1728 (3 months), 1608 (6 months), 1433 (1 month), 1319 (2 months), 1312 (1 month), 1305 (3 months), 1303 (9 months), 1027 (2 months), 1012 (9 months), 1003 (5 months), 935 (5 months).

 

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes on the Drive #106

June 1, 2020

It was an interesting walk down the Drive yesterday afternoon. It seemed a lot like a December day — the weather was overcast, most of the stores seemed to be open, but there were far fewer people on the street than one might expect on a late Spring day. However, it did feel a lot more like home than, say, last month’s rather desolate walk.

There were at least five new closures this month — Tino’s at 2111 Commercial, Mark’s Pet Store at 1875, Carthage Cafe at 1851, Flower Box at 1319, and Spank Clothing at 1027 Commercial — so the vacancy rate has exploded.  And frankly I doubt we have seen the full extent of the damage yet.

We are in phase two of the pandemic recovery process and there are still discussions to be had about re-opening bars and live music venues. That means that places like Bar Corso at 1608 Commercial, which literally just opened before it was shut down, still have a less than certain future. Lots of sunk costs wasted there.

Looking for good news, what is now the former Carthage Cafe has a sign saying that “BC Donair” will open soon. Also, the former Starbucks at 1752 has a sign saying “Leased”, so we can look forward to something new on that corner.

Grounds Coffee at 2086-2088 Commercial has a new patio-type area out front of both their storefronts.

For many years Coastal Food Market occupied the large storefront at 1961 Commercial. In the spring of 2019 it changed into ShipRite 2 Smoke Shop.  Now, I see, the sign proclaims it is the Vapester Smoke Shop.

 

I noticed that Dr. Vigari’s gallery at 1816 Commercial was empty. I have decided not to call it vacant yet as they may just be storing the art works elsewhere during the plague closure. I’ll try to track down more information.

It was good to see a number of restaurants re-opening, with restrictions. I wrote last week about my pleasure at being able to eat at The Dime once again. And Havana at 1212 Commercial makes the Hive’s list of Best Patios in town.

 

Vacancies on the Drive this month:  Listings in bold are those businesses that have announced their closure this month.

2277 Commercial (vacant 11 months), 2270 (2 months), 2233 (15 months), 2137 (4 months), 2111 (1 month), 1875 (1 month), 1851 (1 month), 1752 (4 months), 1740 (10 months), 1728 (2 months), 1608 (5 months), 1319 (1 month), 1305 (2 months), 1303 (8 months), 1027 (1 month), 1012 (8 months), 1003 (4 months), 935 (4 months).

The New York Times has an interesting article on what the collapse of restaurants can do to a neighbourhood.  Thanks to Penny for the heads up.

 

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes on the Drive #105

May 1, 2020

Doing the walk this month was even more depressing than last month as nothing has changed to improve the situation, and a number of businesses have announced this month that they are closing for good.

As we approach the end of spring, we usually see the Drive begin to blossom with patio cafes filled with happy diners, and crowded sidewalks; none of that exists right now, and it might as well be mid-winter. With the big street festivals — Italian Day and Car Free Day — already cancelled, the good times seem far away.

  • Cabrito’s at 2270 Commercial has closed.
  • Mark’s Pet Store at 1875 Commercial is closing, though this is from a desire for retirement rather than as a direct result of the virus.
  • Federico’s Supper Club at 1728 Commercial has announced its closure.
  • Storm Crow Tavern at 1305 Commercial has closed for good after seven years.  The owners thanked patrons for making the Tavern a special place for the “misfits, the geeks, the oddballs and bohemians of Commercial Drive and Vancouver in general.”

The Cubana Sandwich from Havana Restaurant at 1212 Commercial gets a call out from Scout.  It is still available for take-out.

Image: Scout Magazine

Kulinarya at 1134 Commercial gets a pleasant write up about their take-out and delivery options.

Eternal Abundance at 1025 Commercial was broken into early in April. From their Instagram message:

“We were broken into last night. Front window smashed, tills sawed off and stolen, debit machines, laptop, delivery tablet all stolen. Not much reward for the burglars but a lot of damage to fix and things to replace on our part. Small businesses are already struggling due to the times, so being violated on top of this is just such an incredibly discouraging blow when we’re already down.”

That’s really all I have to report this month.

 

Vacancies on the Drive this month:  Nothing that was closed has re-opened yet, so this list is an update from last month.  Listings in bold are those businesses that have announced their closure this month.

2277 Commercial (vacant 10 months), 2270 (1 month), 2223 (14 months), 2137 (3 months), 1752 (3 months), 1740 (9 months), 1728 (1 month), 1608 (4 months), 1305 (1 month), 1303 (7 months), 1012 (7 months), 1003 (3 months), 935 (3 months).

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes On The Drive #104

April 1, 2020

I have been writing this series of posts every month for almost nine years now, and this is certainly the oddest month so far. The covid-19 virus has turned our vibrant street culture neighbourhood into something more like a small prairie town on a Sunday.  Even the Community Policing Office at 1977 Commercial, VanCity Savings, and the Grandview Lanes at 2195 are closed until date unknown.

One beautiful thing: Blossom Market had spring flowers on display outside. I was resting on a bench just by there and the fragrance was intoxicating.

As I have no news of openings or closures, nor any reviews to share, I thought it would be of interest to list the businesses that are still open — though that, of course, can change overnight.

 

Grocery & Convenience Stores

  • Express News, 2289 Commercial
  • Donald’s, 2279
  • Dollar Grocers, 2210
  • Blossom Market, 2091
  • Drive Smoke Shop, 2084
  • Vapstore, 1961
  • Easy Shop, 1900
  • La Grotta, 1791
  • Persia Foods, 1730
  • Grandview Smokes, 1721
  • SuperValu, 1st & Commercial
  • Liberty Wines, 1622
  • Norman’s, 1604
  • BC Liquor Store, 1520
  • Fig Mart, 1472
  • Pasture to Plate, 1420
  • Daily Catch, 1416
  • 7 Days Smoke, 1407
  • Santa Barbara, 1322
  • Choices, 1045
  • East End Food Co-op, 1034
  • Eternal Abundance, 1021
  • Licorice Parlour, 1002
  • Food Stop, 1698 Venables

Cannabis Outlets

  • Vape, 2235 Commercial
  • KultureKlub, 1735

Mail Services

  • UPS, 2055 Commercial
  • Post Office, 1424

Pet Stores

  • Pet Smart, 2240 Commercial
  • Marks, 1875
  • Mr. Pets, 1710

Auto

  • VAP, 2098 Commercial

Money

  • Cash Mart, 2245 Commercial

Dollar Stores

  • Dollar Store, 1983 Commercial

Book Stores

  • Pulp Fiction, 1744 Commercial

Pharmacies

  • Drive Pharmacy, 1684 Commercial
  • CarePoint, 1623
  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 1517
  • Pharmasave, 1308
  • Robin’s, 908

Cell Phone stores

  • Fast Cell, in Il Mercato Mall

Interior Design

  • Exposure Home, 1616 Commercial
  • Kali, 1000

Hardware

  • Home Hardware, 1575 Commercial

Cleaners and Laundries

  • Washing Wells, 1910 Commercial
  • Busy Bee, 1519
  • Williams Laundromat, 1315

 

There are also a number of restaurants and cafes serving take-out and delivery. Sometimes hard to tell, so I decided not to try to list them.

This list seems quite long now that I look at it.  However, without the restaurants and the patios, and with so many people quite rightly staying at home, the Drive seems almost deserted. There were quite a few people in an orderly well-spaced line waiting to get orders from Livia‘s take-out window, but that was as close to a “crowd” as I saw anywhere.  At least we don’t have whole blocks with boarded-over storefronts like some parts of downtown this week. I sure hope we don’t get to that point.

I was surprised that the community parklet outside Prado‘s had been removed. I was also a bit annoyed because I really needed to sit down about then.

I was also surprised by some of the stores that were open.  Hard to imagine that selling expensive doo-dads for the home is an essential service at this time, for example.

 

Vacancies on the Drive this month:  2272 Commercial (vacant 9 months), 2223 (13 months), 2137 (2 months), 1752 (2 months), 1740 (8 months), 1608 (3 months), 1303 (6 months), 1012 (6 months), 1003 (2 months), 935 (2 months).

Obviously none of the “opening soon” businesses have opened and it is too soon to tell how many of our stores will not survive the “temporary” closure. So, I have simply updated last month’s lost of vacancies.

 

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.


Changes on The Drive #103

March 1, 2020

Yesterday was the most beautiful sunny day, but the wind was keen.  Still, it was good to be out and most folks on the Drive seemed to be enjoying the light.

The big marijuana store run by Pain Management Co at 2137 Commercial seems to be closed.

 

Kishimoto at 2054 Commercial makes it to the Daily Hive list of best sushi places in Vancouver, with high praise for chef Akira Kishimoto.  It is the only one of our many sushi restaurants to make it to the list.

Prado at 1938 Commercial gets a mention in chef Brett Turner’s culinary tour of Vancouver.

As suggested last month, the Starbucks at 1752 is now closed.

 

The Babylon Tea Co. at 1740 Commercial has been closed now for seven months but, just like the old cafe at 2277, all the store’s specialised equipment and fixtures are still in place. That just seems odd.

At 1622 Commercial, the margaritas at La Mezcaleria make it to Daily Hive’s Best of Vancouver list.

The Ugly Dumpling, 1590 Commercial, began hosting “midnight feasts” last month and the event carries on into March:

“Japanese guest chef Nanako Uehara will be cooking classic dishes from the popular Netflix series, Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, as we screen episodes at the restaurant. Nanako is visiting us from her family’s restaurant in Nagano, Japan. The event will be held each Monday nights from 10pm to 12am, February 24 through March 23, with regular service ending early. Each week will feature dishes from different episodes, and diners can expect things like ‘Tonjiru’ (pork, miso & vegetable soup), ‘Tan-Ramen’, and Ham Katsu, and New Year’s soba.”

Sounds like fun.

The recently opened Bar Corso, 1566 Commercial, gets a good little review in Daily Hive‘s Five New Restaurants To Try.

I have only just realised that the Pizza Castle place at 1110 Commercial is actually the Pizza Castle and Indian Curry place and it is entirely vegan.  How did I miss that?

 

The Five Elements Cafe at 1046 is no more. It has been closed for a couple of months for “renovations”.  However, it is now revealed that the same owners will be re-opening as The Lunch Lady, with a menu based on a famous Vietnamese food stall.  The project gets a detailed review in Scout.

Image: Scout magazine

 

I have previously reported on the closing of High Fidelity Hair Salon at 1003 Commercial.

Andy’s German Bakehouse at 935 Commercial has closed, and the innards have been stripped.  Andy’s — under various owners — has been a mainstay at this end of the Drive.  In fact, they just recently celebrated their 60th year of business. Shame to see it go so suddenly.

The Downlow Chicken Shack at 905 Commercial gets its regular share of applause in Scout.

To celebrate its five year anniversary, there is a fine feature in Scout Magazine on Kin Kao at 903 Commercial.

 

Vacancies on the Drive this month:  2272 Commercial (vacant 8 months), 2223 (12 months), 2137 (1 month), 1752 (1 month), 1740 (7 months), 1608 (2 months), 1303 (5 months), 1012 (5 months), 1003 (1 month), 935 (1 month).

We have had a definite uptick in vacancies this month.  A temporary blip, we can all hope.