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


  • VAP, 2098 Commercial


  • Cash Mart, 2245 Commercial

Dollar Stores

  • Dollar Store, 1983 Commercial

Book Stores

  • Pulp Fiction, 1744 Commercial


  • 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


  • 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.


Changes On The Drive #102

February 1, 2020

The weather forecast suggested a lull in the torrential rain yesterday lunchtime — they were wrong and I almost had to swim up and down the Drive!

Once again, there is very little change on the southern half of the Drive.  However, at 2277 Commercial — the former Sweet Greek — there is a sign saying “Karmins Bake House Cafe. Coming soon.”  I had mentioned in Changes #100 that all the tables and equipment were still in place even though Sweet Geek had been closed for about five months at that time. I guess that Karmins could simply change the sign and the menu and start up.


Prado at 1938 Commercial is on Daily Hive‘s best place to take a Tinder date list.

There is a For Lease sign on the Starbucks at 1752 Commercial. Not sure what that portends.


The Harbour Oyster Bar at 1408 Commercial gets a shout out review in the Daily Hive, and the Livia bakery and cafe at 1339 Commercial is expanding its hours, opening for dinner Thursdays through Sunday.

Stormcrow at 1305 Commercial also made it on to the Tinder date list.

Havana Restaurant and Theatre at 1212 Commercial is offering a dinner-and-theatre package starting this month. Sounds like a worthwhile collaboration.

As forecast last month, the Tamam To Go Palestinian restaurant at 1108 Commercial is now open. I’m looking forward to trying it very soon.


The Five Elements at 1046 Commercial is still closed for renovations.

The Little Earth children’s consignment store at 1020 Commercial was closed for a period this month. Renovations were required to fix water damage from a burst pipe. I am glad to see they are back up and running again.

The always popular Downlow Chicken Shack, 905 Commercial, is now open seven days a week.


Vacancies On The Drive This Month:  2277 Commercial (7 months vacant), 2223 (11 months), 1740 (6 months), 1608 (1 month), 1303 (4 months), 1012 (4 months)


There is a move in some cities to restrict and even ban “dollar stores”.  I personally think the stated reasons for these bans are absurd.


Changes On The Drive #101

January 1, 2020

There were a couple of times I thought I might drown during the walk yesterday in torrential rain. But I managed to get through it with a couple of stops to dry out on the way.

I saw no changes on the southern half of my walk. However, according to a commercial website suggested to me by a regular correspondent, both the Cabrito Restaurant at 2270 Commercial and the Dollar Grocers vegetable market at 2210 are for sale at $226,000 and $150,000 respectively.


Change is a bit more active north of First.

By the time you read this, I understand that the Libra Room at 1608 Commercial will be closed for goodTheir website doesn’t mention the closure, but also has no music dates shown after the New Year.  One unconfirmed rumour has it that the space will become a Greek restaurant.  Sad to lose such an important live music venue.

On the other hand, by the time you read this, Bar Corso at 1566 Commercial may well be open. It finally looks ready for prime time.

The Ugly Dumpling at 1590 Commercial and its owners get a good write up in Scout.

Livia, 1339 Commercial, made it to the Best New Restaurant of 2019 list.

Oca Pastaficio at 1260 Commercial is now open.  It specialises in hand-made pasta and is run by Greg Dilabio and Adam Pegg who both have long resumes of delivering great food in Vancouver.


I am told by another regular correspondent that the store at 1108 Commercial — the home of Urban Empire for so many years, and more recently the less successful juice bar called Wilder — is soon to be the home of Tamam To Go, a branch of the Palestinian restaurant on Hastings. That will be worth watching.

The Five Elements at 1046 Commercial is currently closed for major renovations and due to reopen in January. However, I noticed earlier this week that there was a Stop Work order on the door because they do not have a permit for the renovations.  Hope that doesn’t delay them too long.

The former and much-missed Skylight Cafe at 1012 Commercial is soon to reopen as a Japanese fried chicken place called Mogu. They used to operate a food truck.  It will be interesting to see how it does opposite the always-packed Downlow Chicken Shack.

The commercial website that I mentioned near the beginning of this piece also shows the Bump n’Grind coffee shop at 916 Commercial for sale at $129,000. [Update 1/1: owners says not for sale]


Vacancies On The Drive This Month:  2277 Commercial (6 months vacant), 2223 (10 months), 1740 (5 months), 1303 (3 months), 1108 (5 months), 1012 (3 months).


So, we finish the year with the lowest number of vacancies on the Drive since September 2014.


Changes On The Drive #100

December 1, 2019

It was a very brisk day for walking yesterday.  I’m glad it was overcast because that probably kept it a few degrees above freezing.

The situation at 2277 Commercial, the former Sweet Greek, is still something of a mystery. Yet another month closed, but all the equipment, tables, etc, still in place.  Odd.

Kishimoto Restaurtant, 2054 Commercial, gets an interesting review. Must try this place soon.

At 1859 Commercial, the former Tikka House has new owners and is now called Zazie.  According to a very pleasant English lady I spoke with, they have been open three weeks and the new owners are all from Bombay.  I hope they do well.


A couple of months ago, I noted that a tattoo parlour had opened up at 1840 Commercial, but last month I was sure it was vacant again.  However, Next Tattoo now has a sign and seems to be doing well.


La Grotta del Formaggio at 1791 Commercial gets a really nice shout out from a local chef.

After a break of more than a year, the KushKlub cannabis store is back open at 1735 Commercial.


Mezcaleria at 1622 Commercial gets rave reviews for the Queso Fundido in the Hive’s list of Best Fondue in Vancouver.

What used to be Hirado Sushi at 1431 Commercial has now become Hina Ramen.

Harbour Oyster Bar at 1408 Commercial is now offering an all day brunch menu.

The Stormcrow Tavern at 1305 is now sporting an octopus on the roof (You can’t make this stuff up!)


At 1260 Commercial, the store is still closed but there is now a sign announcing that Oca “pastifico” will be opening shortly.

1206 Commercial, which has been a “plant based boutique” for a while, has become the Make Merry Party House.  Not sure what that is exactly; maybe just a Christmas thing?


Vacancies On The Drive This Month:  2277 Commercial (5 months vacant), 2223 (9 months), 1740 (4 months), 1544 (6 months), 1303 (2 months), 1260 (5 months), 1128 (4 months), 1012 (2 months).


This is the 100th monthly edition of Changes on The Drive, a series that has gone on for more than eight years.  I hope it is still useful.

Changes On The Drive #99

November 1, 2019

It was a spectacular fall day yesterday when I did the walk; bright and sunny, with just enough of a chill to make it interesting.

The old Sweet Greek at 2277 Commercial has been closed for a few months now.  Today, I noticed the signage had come down but the interior, with tables and chairs etc., is still as it was. Along the block, 2223 is also still closed but there is work going on inside to refit, and the development permit confirms that it will still be a cannabis store when it reopens.

At 2001 Commercial, the Gough Hair Salon has closed, replaced by the Van Fade Barber Shop.


The Hive this week has given us “the ultimate list of good coffee shops” in Vancouver.  Only two of the Drive’s many great coffee shops made it to the list: Prado at 1938 Commercial, and Spade, at 1858.  I suspect there will be lots of disagreements about this by devotees on the Drive.


1840 Commercial, which was very briefly a tattoo parlour, looks vacant again.

At 1544 Commercial, Bar Corso is still not open; and from the sign on the door it doesn’t seem close:


Sopra Sotto at 1510 Commercial and Marcello’s at 1404 Commercial both make it to the Best Pasta in Vancouver list at Dished.

According to Flare, the best brunch on the Drive is at Livia Bakery, 1399 Commercial.  The prices are a bit steep for my taste.  For about the same price you can get a very decent brunch and a beer at The Dime, 1565 Commercial.  A different style, no doubt, and not so chic. But I don’t eat brunch to be chic. Do you?

You may recall that Fets at 1230 Commercial were controversially raided some while ago and had $40,000 of whiskey seized (see my reports here, here, here, and here.)   The restaurant is now headed to BC Supreme Court to try and get recovery of their property.

I noticed on the walk yesterday, that the Havana Theatre now has its own door. I’m not sure if I missed it before.


Now that the Federal election is over, and the Greens have moved out of their campaign office, 1303 Commercial is vacant again.

There is a very interesting article by the CBC about vegan tattooing, featuring Arcane Body Arts at 1111 Commercial.

The Five Elements Cafe at 1046 Commercial is closed for renovations.  It is suggested they will reopen in December of January.


The following note is from their website:

“Five Elements would like to Thank everyone for your love and support in the past years. As of October 26 , 2019 Our restaurant will be closing for renovations. We will be reopen in Mid December or early January with new exciting menu. We looking forward to this new facelift and changes Victoria and Five Elements family like to wish you all a very happy time with your love ones and enjoy this year’s Halloween and have a fun time in the lost souls parade this year.  Just a heads up we will be having a bar serving Vietnamese beer, wine and cocktail plus lots of seafood on the menu with A new noodle soup everyday for lunch we try bring favourites from the north to the south of Vietnam and at dinner we will be serving lots of Authentic Vietnam dishes plus on the weekends we Will having A chef’s creative menu. Its ever challenging for my me, my son and his chefs to bring the authentic traditional Vietnamese with a healthy concept in mind “less sodium and minimize to use any msg in our menu but still to achieved the tastes thats we all craving for”. We might disappoint some regulars with not having their favourite item from the old menu … Bon Appetite everyone.”


Movie actress Alicia Silverstone has given Raise Vegan magazine a list of her favourite began spots in VancouverEternal Abundance at 1025 Commercial makes the list as a vegan cafe and grocer.

We went for dinner this week at Absinthe Bistro, 962 Commercial.  My review is here.


Vacancies On The Drive This Month:  2277 Commercial (4 months vacant), 2223 (8 months), 1840 (1 month), 1740 (3 months), 1735 (13 months), 1544 (5 months), 1303 (1 month), 1260 (4 months), 1012 (1 month).


Previous editions of Changes On The Drive.

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.