Changes On The Drive #71

July 1, 2017

I did the walk yesterday morning, thinking to avoid the Canada Day crowds. Probably a good idea, but boy was it hot!

Starting as always at the southern end of the Drive, the 2200-block is really active. I notice that the endmost new storefront, 2287 Commercial, on the west side has already been occupied by a new convenience store called Express News. The other two storefronts — 2285 and 2283 — are available but not yet filled.

I am pleased to report that Sweet Greek at 2227 Commercial (see review here) seems to be doing well. They now have a full range of tables, and are offering a $6 breakfast.  Friendly people and well worth a visit.

Further down on that block, the single-storey building that has housed Universal Tech at 2211 since 1990 is now for sale. Universal is still open but it seems doubtful the building will survive much longer.

Across the street at 2270, Cabrito has a new menu that was featured this week at Scout magazine.  My own review from last March can be found here.

Also in that block, a two-bedroom apartment was for sale in the Marquee for $699,000.  It appears to have already been sold, but for those of us who haven’t been in the complex yet, the realtor offered some images.

In the 2100-block, the old two-lot Russell place is now framed up as a two-storey (or, I guess, a lofted single storey) with, perhaps, three or four storefronts on Commercial.

At 2058, the building is still for lease, but the laundry keeps operating.

Still vacant are the former Waves coffee shop at 1850 (4 months), the old Wonderbucks store at 1801 (5 months), and the storefront at 1735 Commercial (2 months).

The storefront at 1740 is also still closed (after 9 months) but it will very soon reopen as the Babylon Tea Company. They have done a nice job with new tiling on the front.

In a similar position is the old cupcake store at 1706 Commercial. the Van Classic bubble tea shop seems to be about ready to open but for now the storefront is still closed (7 months).

Dolce Amore at 1588 has reopened after their brief reno with a gelato mafia theme. I am reliably informed by the everloving that their new flavours are interesting and most of them work really well. Down the block at 1544, however, the Candy Aisle store seems to have failed, with a “For Lease” sign in the window.

Most depressing are the continued closures and vacancies at the old Strawberry Bakery site in Il Mercato (30 months), the Libra Room at 1606 (11 months), Roma at 1500 (8 months),  Charlatan at 1447 (5 months), 1303 (9 months), 1108 (38 months), and 902 Commercial (26 months).

To end on a more pleasant note, the storefront at 952 (vacant for 10 months) is still closed but there are strong indications (via a sign and work on the interior) that a new branch of Joe’s Grill is about to open.


I am often asked by readers whether the number of vacancies on the Drive has increased recently. The following is a graph of vacancies over the previous two years. Ground floor retail storefronts on Commercial Drive are counted. Major building projects (REACH, the former Russell space on 2100-block, for example) are excluded.

Of more concern, perhaps, than the overall number of vacancies are the length of time certain storefront remain vacant. The following graph (which will become a monthly staple) shows the ageing of vacancies in July 2017:


Previous Changes on The Drive editions.

Changes On the Drive #70

June 1, 2017

It was a really wet walk today!  It was so wet, even the pigeons were cowering under the pediment of the Odlin Block.


Starting down south as usual, I notice that the renovation of the old Food Shop on the corner of Commercial and Grandview highway has actually created three units rather than the two I had expected. They are numbered as 2283-2285-2287 Commercial, and a new door has been created for 2287.

The laundry at 2058 Commercial is still operating and still has a large For Lease sign.

In the 1800-block, the former Waves Coffee store at 1850 is still vacant (after 3 months), as is Wonderbucks at 1801 (4 months). One block north, 1735 Commercial is vacant, along with 1740 (8 months), 1706 Commercial (6 months) and 1706 E. 1st. I note that the “Bubble Tea coming soon” signs at 1706 Commercial are no longer there.

North of 1st, the former Strawberry Bakery site inside Il Mercato is still vacant after 29 months. Across the street, there seems no sign of encouragement at the Libra Room which has been closed now for 10 months, the ancient “Coming Soon” signs notwithstanding.  The same could be said for the Roma at 1500, closed now for 7 months. Perhaps they too are having insurance issues which is what we understand (from a comment to the last Changes post) is holding up renovations at Charlatan at 1447 Commercial. Their closure has now lasted 4 months.

The storefronts at 1303 (8 months), 1108 (37 months), 952 (9 months), and 902 (25 months) are still vacant.

On the bright side, the Tandoori Palace at 1439 has reopened after renos, and La Dolce Amore gelato emporium is closed for a few days while they complete a renovation. As reported last month, they will have a whole raft of new flavours and combinations for the re-opening.  Also now open is Bao Down at 1408. It seems to be a beer and tacos joint, though I couldn’t see a menu to confirm. Their interior walls are brightly painted throughout with Steam Whistle pilsener ads.

Choices now has opaque glass on all Drive-facing windows, blanking the view inside. Their store is nearly half a block long and this makes that whole section look unattractive and rather bleak. They need to put plants and or produce outside to create some street appeal.

Last month I mentioned that the REACH building was moving alongm but I forgot to include an image. Here it is today.


At 1011, upstairs from Penelope’s is now DAMA on the Drive, a shop and play space for the international game of Kendama.  Know what that is? Neither did I.  Here they will tell you all about it.  Good luck to them!

Further to my post last month about the lack of public clocks, I note that Carepoint Clinic has a clock in their waiting room visible from the street, and there is another on the north wall of Heather’s Salon at 2239 Commercial.


Previous editions of Changes on the Drive.

Changes on the Drive #69

May 1, 2017

May showers, eh? What started out as a not-unpleasant cool mist in the air became, by the end of my walk, a steady downpour. Oh well. Who needs a suntan when you can rust?

Right down at the southern end of the core, the old Food Stop at 2289 Commercial is being refitted. A wall has been erected onside making it into two spaces, though there is still only a single door. Could be a private office connected by a corridor at the back, I guess.

There had been some suggestion that perhaps Donald’s produce would be expanding into the Food Stop space. However, a “manager” there that I spoke with didn’t know of that plan.

The Sweet Greek at 2227 Commercial has now been open just under a month. See my review from early April. The owner has lost his big Greek beard since I was there last, but his welcome was just as warm.  This morning I had a mini baklava that was perfect, without any cloying sweetness. Nice place.


At the old Russell’s place at 2068 Commercial, the new construction continues apace.


The old laundry at 2058 now sports a large “For Lease” sign.

Meanwhile, the former Waves Coffee shop at 1850 is still vacant (2 months), as are the old Wonderbucks space at 1801 (3 months), 1740 (7 months), and 1706 Commercial (5 months), along with 1704 E. 1st.  The vacant store at 1735 Commercial is being used this month as an NDP Provincial election office. In Il Mercato, the former Strawberry Bakery spaces continues to be unoccupied after 28 months.

Three big spaces in the core of the Drive continue to flounder: The Libra Room at 1608 Commercial is still closed after 9 months, the “opening soon” signs looking a little weathered these days. Same could be said for the Roma at 1500 Commercial, with little change since the new owner signs went up last month; it has been closed for 6 months now. Across the street at 1447, the Charlatan is still closed, three months after they said they were closing for renovations; unfortunately, there is no evidence of any work being done.

While we are in this mode I might as well mention now that the Tandoori Palace at 1439 Commercial is currently closed though they were actively renovating this morning when I went by so hopefully the closure will be brief.  The “opening soon” Bao Down restaurant at 1408 is still not open (closed now for 9 months). The storefronts at 1303 (7 months), 1108 (36 months!), 952 (8 months), and 902 (24 months) are all still vacant or closed.

There are some positive signs, too.  The pub on the corner of Graveley has been rebranded as The Dirty Penny. I hear that Dolce Amore gelato is planning a sort of re-opening on or about June 1st, with new flavours and delights; can’t wait!  And the Art Gallery at 1704 Charles now has a name, it is called Nina Di Gallery.

Also, the new Rosemary Rocksalt bagel place is now open at 1350 Commercial. It is bright and airy but has the personality of a fast-food joint. I bought a half-dozen mixed bagels and will give them a try.


Finally, the REACH construction in the 1100-block seems to be racing ahead which is good news for all of us waiting for its reopening..


Previous Changes on the Drive editions.

Changes On The Drive #68

April 1, 2017

It was another beautiful day to go walking this morning as the rain stayed away, having drained itself in torrents overnight.

Staring as usual down at the southern end of the Drive, I noticed that the former Kingdom Beauty store at 2277 Commercial has been given a bright new coat of paint and looks very smart.  Peering inside, where workmen continue a major reno, it looks like it is to be a restaurant or a food store with a serving counter.


Across the street, the 77K Freeze shop is now open. That space had been vacant for over a year and a half and it is good to see it being used. I was sorely tempted to try some ice cream but I was already full from the lemon ricotta pancakes I made for breakfast.


What used to be Charley and Jean Russell’s old house and garden at 2084 Commercial is now being built upon. It looks like two storefronts are going in there.


North one block, I notice that the Barefoot Contessa clothing store at 1928 has morphed into The Precious and Few consignment outlet.  The sign calls it a “popup shop” so I don’t know if this is permanent.

The Waves Coffee shop on the corner of Third at 1858 Commercial has closed. It always seemed busy when I walked by, so this was something of a surprise.  Also still vacant are 1801 (vacant 2 months), 1740 (6 months), and 1735 (2 months).  The Bubble Tea store promised for 1706 Commercial is still not open (4 months).

In Il Mercato, the former Strawberry Bakery site still languishes in vacancy after 27 months.  Also still closed is the Libra Room at 1608. The “opening soon” signs have been there for all the 8 months it has been closed.

The MOSAIC services organization, upstairs at 1522, is moving this summer to new offices in South Vancouver. I am not sure if there will still be an office here at that time.  I wrote to them about it, but have received no response.

Caffe Roma, which has graced the corner of Grant and Commercial since 1990 seems finally to have closed. As I have catalogued in previous Changes, it changed names last year to the Grant Street Social Club and then back again to Roma, before mechanical issues with the plumbing (I am told) forced it to shut down 5 months ago. They have had “Opening Soon” signs on the windows for a few months but now there is a new sign indicating a new owner.

Just what the Drive needs is another pizza place!  I’m guessing this one won’t be competing with the by-the-slice joints but rather against Famoso, Lombardo’s and Marcello’s.

Across the street, the Charlatan at 1447 Commercial is still closed “for renovations” (2 months). However, no work seems to have been done on it so far as one can see.

The Merchant’s Oyster bar at 1590 Commercial has a new name and new menu.  It is now called Merchant’s Workshop with “experimental” menus on Mondays. I wonder if this has anything to do with the disaster that is sweeping the BC shellfish industry this year.

Next door at 1588, Dolce Amore continues to amaze.  I heard that the owner recently went to Italy for “Gelato University”.  This was a decadent late lunch yesterday …

… rhubarb pie and mascarpone gelato. Wow, seriously good stuff!

The storefront at 1408 is still not open (8 months) but they have a sign on the canopy indicating that a new restaurant — Bao Down on the Drive — really is going to open soon.

At 1376, where Bikes on the Drive had the double storefront, the shopfitting seems to be nearly complete after a 3 month vacancy, and there is a sign for Rosemary Rocksalt Bagels. Although both storefronts seem to have been re-fitted, I am still not sure if the bagel place is taking both or just one, though I tend to think it will be a single.


Still vacant are 1303 (6 months), 1104 (an astounding 35 months), 952 (7 months vacant, but with everything still in the store), and 902 (23 months).  In the last-named, it looks as if Robin’s Pharmacy has given up on expanding into the space as there is a new For Lease sign prominently displayed.

To end on positive notes:  the recently-opened and even more recently closed Ramen place at 1179 Commercial has rapidly changed into a new restaurant, Thai Basil …


… and Watermelon, of the Licorice Parlour at 1002, has opened a second store on Granville Island. Well done!


Previous Changes on the Drive editions

Changes On The Drive #67

March 1, 2017

It was a typical February/March day this morning; cool and grey — pretty good for walking!  There were very few changes this month.

South of First, there were no changes that I could see, except that The Drive Smoke Shop at 2064 is now open.

2277 (1 month), 2240 (19 months), 1801 (1 month), 1740 (5 months), and 1735 Commercial (1 month) are all still vacant.

1706 Commercial is also still vacant (3 months) with the Bubble Tea shop still not yet open. Around the corner at 1706 E. 1st, that too is vacant as the cupcake store has not yet re-opened there.

North of First, in Il Mercato Mall, the former Strawberry Bakery site is still vacant after 26 months. There are still offices for rent upstairs, too.

Nothing much has changed at 1608, the Libra Room. The place is still papered over and the Opening Soon signs are still there, but the fact is it has been closed now for 7 months.  However, upstairs, some of the apartments look like they are now tenanted.  The Roma at 1510 is also still closed, after 4 months, with Opening Soon signs garlanding the windows but no other signs of life.

The Charlatan bar at 1447 Commercial is closed, too, but this is for renovations and they will be back open “in the spring”.

Across the street, there is a lot of activity. The former Bikes On the Drive double storefront at 1376 (vacant 2 months) is being completely rebuilt inside.


So too is the Pagoda at 1408: after sitting idle for 7 months, workman are hammering away inside and I saw new appliances being delivered today — a hopeful sign.

The small store next to Renzo’s Cafe at 1303 Commercial is vacant (5 months).

Having only opened in August, the ramen restaurant at 1179 is closed once again, but signs are hopeful they will “open soon” (seems to be this month’s refrain!)

The REACH rebuild in the 1100-block is moving ahead steadily. They had the back lane closed off this morning for some heavy-duty work.


At the northern end of the Drive, 1104 (34 months), 952 (6 months), and 902 Commercial (22 months) are all still vacant. With regard to 1104, I called the agent and he tells me they are looking for $4,000 a month for that tiny store. When I suggested that might be why it had been vacant so long, he gave me the telephone equivalent of a shrug.

Finally — after all these vacant notices — I want to say that at least five businesses have “Help Wanted” signs in their windows which must be good news.


Previous Changes on the Drive editions are here.

Changes On The Drive #66

February 1, 2017

It was a glorious morning to be walking today, cold and clear and sunny. Add maybe five degrees to the temperature and I could be quite happy to spend all year like this.

As usual, we start down at the southern end.  At 2277 Commercial, Kingdom Beauty Supplies has now closed.  Not long ago they had this space plus two storefronts next door. They gave up the other spaces some months ago, and now, it seems, they have shut down altogether.



Across the street, 2240 is still vacant (after 18 months, the last part of the Marquee development to be filled). There are still signs for the “soon open” 77K Freeze store, but o sign of an opening date.

The former Russell home and woodworking shop at 2084 and 2086 Commercial was demolished yesterday and the bulldozers were there today levelling the ground. Charlie Russell built the place himself back in 1955 and it is a shame to see it go. However, once it was sold in December 2015, we knew its future was limited.  Just after the purchase, the owner put up a development sign (see Changes #52) that suggested a one-storey building was to be erected. Given they spent $3m on the lots (so we hear), a one-storey seems unlikely. Now that the land is available, I guess we will soon see.



2064 Commercial (vacant for 3 months) will soon be The Drive Smoke Shop. Opening day is again unknown.



Wonderbucks at 1801 Commercial has closed now. I wrote about this earlier in the month. The ever-loving and I took a nostalgic trip to the store a few days ago, and we were saddened by how it looked. We bought a set of dinner plates REALLY cheap and we will remember the old place whenever we dine on them.

The former tanning salon at 1740 is still vacant (4 months), and now 1735 is also vacant as Catz Hair has moved to 1280 Commercial.



The storefront at 1706 is vacant (2 months), but I guess the new bubble tea place will open at some point.

In Il Mercato, the old Strawberry Bakery space is still vacant after 25 months.  Upstairs, some offices are also still available for lease.

The Libra Room at 1608 is still closed (6 months) and no date for re-opening is given on their website. However, they have large confident “Opening Soon” signs plastered on the windows.

Kalena’s at 1526 Commercial has announced they are celebrating their 50th anniversary on the Drive. I’m sure they know better than me, but oddly, I have notes from a story in the “Highland Echo” dated July 1968 (not 1967) in which Carmen D’Onofrio announces their opening that month. They were operating out of 1800 Commercial in those days.

Roma (closed now 3 months) also has big “Opening Soon” signs. But they also have a City Stop Work order on the front door and “Lead Hazard” tape all around, so who knows?

Marcello’s Pizzeria was visited by a number of fire engines and smoke blowers the other day. Not sure what that was about, but they seem to be all OK now.

1408 Commercial is still vacant (6 months) as is the space that used to be Bikes On the Drive (1 month). In the latter case, all the signs that used to promise a Bagel House to come have disappeared.



1303 Commercial is still vacant (4 months), while 1704 Charles has become a local art gallery, probably organised by Harry Grunsky.  1280 Commercial is still vacant (10 months) but Catz Hair is moving in today.

The northern half of Joe’s Cafe seems to have been taken over by BC Dance.



1104 (33 months) and 902 Commercial (21 months) are still vacant. 952 Commercial is also vacant (5 months) but the old cafe is all still set up inside, including with soda in the vending machines.

Previous Changes on the Drive editions.

Changes On the Drive #65

January 1, 2017

When I left the house first thing this morning, the sunshine was welcome but it was a brisk and challenging environment I walked into. It seems that very few of the Drive’s building owners understand their responsibility to clear the sidewalks. It was treacherous underfoot from one end to the other today and I sincerely thank those merchants that did take the effort to shovel away the ice.

Down at the southern end, Kingdom Beauty at 2277 Commercial still has a large For Lease sign in the window. However, the space at 2245, after being vacant for more than 2 years, is now a Cashmart store. There are several of these legitimized loan sharks on the Drive now and I am not sure that is a good sign. Like Christy Clark’s house deposit scheme, they do nothing but add debt and help create a generation of debt slaves.


Across the street, at 2240, the “Leased” sign has been replaced with posters about an operation called 77K Freeze that is taking over the space. To be frank, the Help Wanted ad read more like joining a cult than running a dessert store, but what do I know?



The former convenience store at 2064 Commercial is still vacant (2 months), as is the former tanning salon at 1740 (3 months).


Back in May last year we reported the rumours that Wonderbucks is closing due to a reasonable unwillingness to pay an unreasonable monthly rent.  Now it is confirmed, both in the media and in signs at the store.



It will be a very sad day when the store closes its doors.  That space, from the Crystal Dairy days through to Wonderbucks, has been important to the community; we can only hope something interesting and Drive-friendly moves in.

Catz hair salon at 1735 Commercial announced last month that they would be moving. It is now revealed that they are moving to the former Sophie’s at 1280, opposite Grandview Park.



The former cupcake emporium at 1706 Commercial is still vacant (1 month). However, the storefront is apparently to be taken by a Bubble Tea+Lifestyle operation.

In Il Mercato, the former Strawberry Bakery space is still vacant (24 months).  Across the street, both the Libra Room at 1608 (5 months) and the Roma at Grant (2 months) are still closed with no re-opening in sight. On the other hand, Mexcaleria at 1622 has made it into Scout’s Top 25 Restaurants in the City this season.

Above the Libra Room, in the apartments, someone has left a sign in the window expressing some thoughts for the day:



1370 Commercial is still vacant (2 months), but we are awaiting the opening of a bagel shop in the space come February.

1303 (3 months), 1104 Commercial (32 months) and 1704 Charles (6 months) are still vacant. So too is 1280 Commercial (9 months) but, as mentioned above, this is where Catz Hair will be moving in February.

Choices finally seem to have completed their expansion into 1035.



Nonna’s Sandwich place at 952 Commercial is still closed (4 months) but, with some of the paper having fallen from the windows, one can see that the whole place is still set up. I wonder if they will come back?

Finally, 902 Commercial is still vacant after 20 months with the expansion of Robin’s Pharmacy as stuck as ever it seems.


Previous Changes on The Drive editions