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


  • 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.

Changes On The Drive #97

September 1, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


Previous editions of Changes On the Drive.

Changes On The Drive #96

August 1, 2019

It was just a perfect summer’s day stroll down the Drive yesterday with the heat of the bright sunshine complemented by a good fresh breeze.  It was a midweek lunch hour, and the Drive wasn’t so busy as to be uncomfortable. Notwithstanding the lazy weather, there have been a number of changes on the street this month, but we end up, once again, at our lowest vacancy number for several years..

The Sweet Greek restaurant at 2277 Commercial is still closed after the change of management noted last month. It looked desolate through the windows yesterday so I am reluctantly calling this one vacant.


Cafe Deux Soleils at 2096 Commercial gets a nice call out as one of the best and cheapest brunches in town. It was during a poetry slam in the last millenium when I was last there. No idea why it took so long, but I went yesterday for brunch and it was great.


There is good news on the Falcone front.  The restaurant at 1812 may already be open, it certainly looked ready as I walked by yesterday. the 1810 storefront was completely covered up, so it was impossible to tell if that is equally ready to re-emerge.  Good news anyway.

La Grotta at 1791 Commercial is celebrating 40 years of service on the Drive,

The Babylon Tea Company at 1740 Commercial was closed as I walked by. it was closed the last time i looked, too, and there is an accumulation of mail on the doorstep.  Maybe just closed for holidays so I am reluctant to call it vacant yet.

The anticipated Bar Corso at 1544 Commercial is still not yet open.

One of the last surviving stores of its type, Black Dog Video at 1470 Commercial gets a CBC story.

The space next door to Renzo’s, 1303 Commercial, seems to be being taken over by the Green Party, in anticipation of the fall election, I guess.

Whatever extra space was previously available at the REACH Clinic, 1045 Commercial, is now to be occupied by a new Provincial Health Care hub. “The facilities are intended to take stress off of hospital ERs while providing patients with same-day access to doctors and nurses.”


Story on the Eastside Food Co-op at 1034 Commercial has turned its fortune on it head. Last year, there were fears it would have to close; now, it is reporting great results and even talking about a possible expansion. Great news for a great organization.

The Absinthe Bistro, which used to be at 1260 Commercial, has now moved and opened at 952 Commercial.


Vacancies on the Drive this month:  2277 Commercial (1 month vacant), 2223 (5 months), 1840 (6 months), 1810 (17 months), 1735 (10 months), 1544 (2 months), 1260 (1 month).

The future of retail?  See the massive anticipated growth in “autonomous check out” in retail stores:



Previous Changes On The Drive editions.

Changes On The Drive #95

July 1, 2019

Boy it was hot walking the Drive yesterday. Thank goodness I remembered my hat!

Not a lot of changes this month.  However, we remain at only 8 vacancies on the Drive. Two of those vacancies are former cannabis dispensaries which, I assume, are still struggling with the licensing process, two others are the linked Falcone storefronts which may or may not be being renovated (it is hard to tell), and a further two are scheduled to reopen imminently.

The Sweet Greek, a place I have praised before, has a sign saying that new management has taken over.  Fingers crossed that it doesn’t lose its charm.


The new-to-us Grounds for Coffee, which opened last month at 2088 Commercial, gets a long and glowing review in the Vancouver Sun.  However, they have had to give up their idea of not accepting cash.


As suggested last month, My Sister’s Closet has now formally taken over the 1828 Commercial storefront.


The BBQ Chicken place at 1678 Commercial seems to be getting a makeover. It was looking pretty run down.


The southernmost storefront of the Kalena group, 1544 Commercial, which most recently failed as a fancy candy store, is soon to be a bar, the Corso.  I’m not sure when it will open.


Sopra Sotto at 1510 Commercial has opened a branch in Burnaby.

The owners of the recently opened Harbour Oyster Bar at 1408 Commercial are revealed to be Ari Demosten and Alex Kytiazis, previously known from their controversial and now-closed Escobar Restaurant on Fraser.

Finally, 952 Commercial (which used to be Joe’s Grill) is still closed but will soon reopen as the new location for Absinthe Bistro, currently at 1260 Commercial.


Vacancies on the Drive this month:  2223 Commercial (4 months vacant), 1840 (5 months), 1812 (16 months), 1810 (16 months), 1735 (9 months), 1544 (1 month), 1303 (2 months), 952 (9 months).

Previous Changes on The Drive editions.

Changes On The Drive #94

June 1, 2019

What a glorious day yesterday to take a walk on the Drive.  Hot sunshine, smiles on people’s faces, packed patios; hard to beat.

The most important change this month is the fall in the number of vacant or closed storefronts.  There are just 7, the lowest number since September 2014. And because we have actually added quite a number of storefronts since that earlier date, this is the lowest percentage of closed stores for an even longer time.

The easiest of the changes on the Drive to see this month are the four crosswalks freshly painted with the colours of the Italian flag. These are the payoff that Fortis (working with the BIA) has offered in exchange for the disruption they caused last year as they upgraded their facilities along First Avenue. In the meanwhile, ten or more local businesses are suing the gas company for loss of revenue during last year’s work.  This is the one at 4th Avenue.


Loku Japanese restaurant has now opened at the 2280 storefront in the Marquee.


The double storefronts at 2088 Commercial have been vacant for 16 months, so it is good to see them now open as Grounds For Coffee‘s new location. Apparently famous in Point Grey for their handmade cinnamon buns, this latest in our most recent upsurge of coffee/baked goods establishments, is aiming to make them their marketing difference.

Right next door, at 2080. the Elephant Garden Creamery makes it to Daily Hive’s Must Try Ice Cream list.  (Personally, I am amazed and somewhat affronted that they did not include Dolce Amore on their list!)

At 1961 Commercial, the old Coastal Food Market, operating there since 1969, seems to have morphed into ShopRite2:

It was good to see workmen inside 1810 and 1812 but they are, still, closed after 15 months.  However, the space at 1706 wasn’t left idle for long; it is now the home of Dive In Desserts. I have a feeling they will do a lot better than the previous tenants.


The previously vacant storefront at 1409 Commercial has been taken over by a Cell Doctor company:


Memphis Blues at 1342 Commercial gets a good mention in Hive’s best nacho spots list.

The Canucks Auction store that has briefly been at 1303 Commercial has moved to 1726 Commercial, an upstairs office, leaving this space vacant once again.

The storefront part of the REACH Clinic at 1151 Commercial is now occupied, on a temporary basis, by the Multicultural Family Centre.


Back in Changes #89 in January this year, I mentioned the confusion over the name of the operation at 1110 Commercial. Finally, we have a Grand Opening of the Pizza Castle & Indian Curry house.


Vacancies on the Drive this month:  2223 Commercial (3 months vacant), 1840 (4 months), 1812 (15 months), 1810 (15 months), 1735 (8 months), 1303 (1 month), 952 (8 months).


Previous editions of Changes On the Drive.

Changes On The Drive #93

May 1, 2019

I did the walk yesterday in beautiful bright sunshine. For a mid-week mid-morning, the Drive was pleasantly lively.  There were few changes in the storefronts this month.

JamJar Restaurant has moved into the space at 2290 Commercial. I believe it is officially opening today.  The new tenants at JamJar’s previous address, 2280, have not yet moved in.

My Sister’s Closet is due to open today at 1830 Commercial, having moved from 1151 Commercial.

It is wonderful indeed to see the old Crystal Dairy/Wonderbucks space at 1801 Commercial filled with activity again after a closure of more than 2 years.  Blaine McNamee and his Rufus Guitar and Drums got a good write-up at the CBC.


Sake Mako at 1414 Commercial has a new awning, I believe.


Meanwhile next door, at 1408, the new Harbour Oyster Bar, seems to be having a soft opening, even though I am sure I read it was not opening until next week.  Either way, I welcome them to the the Drive and wish them good fortune.


The Daily Hive has a fine feature on Rosemary Rocksalt bagels at 1350 Commercial.

The space at 1151 in the REACH building is now vacant;  My Sister’s Closet has moved to 1830 Commercial. I wonder if REACH will rent it out again or whether it will become part of the clinic?

As I mentioned at the beginning, there were few changes this month.


Vacancies on the Drive this month:  2223 Commercial (2 months vacant), 2086 (16 months), 2088 (16 months), 1840 (3 months), 1812 (14 months), 1810 (14 months), 1735 (7 months), 1706 (3 months), 1409 (8 months), 952 (7 months).


Previous Changes on The Drive editions.

Changes On The Drive #92

April 1, 2019

I took advantage of Saturday’s gorgeous spring weather to do the walk. The Drive was busy, noisy, revelling in the sleeveless warmth, every patio seat filled.

It is all change in the Marquee storefronts.  Relish Burgers at 2990 Commercial has closed. The lease has been picked up by Fadi Eid, owner of the Jamjar restaurant currently at 2280 Commercial.  Jamjar will close at 2280 on April 30th and reopen at 2290 the following day.  Later in May, 2280 will become the new location for Sushi Loku which is currently located on East Broadway.


Across the street, after 5 months sitting vacant, 2235 Commercial is now Vape Street …


… while 2223 Commercial is closed “for renovations until further notice.”


The Saloniki Restaurant, long resident at 1815 Commercial has morphed into the Park Drive.

There is work being done at the Falcone storefronts at 1810 and 1812 Commercial. They look far from ready to re-open, but it is good to see some activity there after more than a full year’s closure..

Fortunato Bruzzese’s glorious La Grotta del Formaggio at 1791 Commercial has been selected as the place to get the Best Sandwich in Metro Vancouver by the Vancouver Sun.

Source: Vancouver Sun


Meanwhile, Pulp Fiction bookstore has completed its move from 1830 Commercial to 1744 Commercial, a much bigger space.


At 1622, La Mezcaleria is the only Commercial Drive joint in Scout’s list of Best Brunches in the City. I happen to think there are some decent brunches available all up and down the Drive, but this one is pretty good.

The former Bao Down at 1408 Commercial is still not open, but they have a new awning that announces the imminent arrival of Harbour Oyster Bar.

The new Livia Bakery & Cafe at 1395 Commercial continues to attract good press. It was packed from end to end when I walked by on Saturday.

The northern four blocks of Commercial to Venables were unchanged this month.


Vacancies on the Drive this month:  2290 Commercial (1 month vacant), 2086 (vacant 15 months), 2088 (15 months), 1840 (2 months), 1830 (1 month), 1812 (13 months), 1810 (13 months), 1801 (27 months), 1735 (6 months), 1706 (2 months), 1409 (7 months), 1408 (12 months), 952 (6 months).


Previous Changes on the Drive editions.

Changes On The Drive #91

March 1, 2019

I did my passeggiata yesterday in a mix of winter and spring weather, taking many rests along the way.

Starting as usual at the southern end of my boundary, the Jamjar Restaurant at 2280 Commercial gets a good review in the Daily Hive’s list of Best Lebanese Restaurants.

2155 Commercial, an upstairs space by the Commercial Bowling Lanes, used to be a dance academy but has now morphed into an archery school under the name Lykopis Archery. I suspect the change was made a couple of months ago but I just noticed it today. It is currently being renovated.

The Cafe Deux Soleils at 2096 Commercial has been a fixture for almost 25 years. It continues to be packed an is now rated as one of the best Kid Friendly Restaurants in Vancouver by the Daily Hive.

The final vacant double-width 1800 sq.ft. spot in the new-ish storefronts at 2088 is to be taken up with a second location for the Kits-based Grounds For Coffee, well known for their cinnamon buns.  Don’t know the opening date yet.  According to an interview in the Straight, the owner Dan Hilton likes the new space: “This is a great space. You’ve got windows in the front and back, beautiful trees in front of us, and light coming in everywhere.”

Almost next door, at 2080, the Elephant Garden Creamery gets a rave review for its ice cream and their variety of unusual flavours. I can finally attest to the quality myself. The shop is bright, clean, and very friendly. I tasted a few flavours — all delicious — and came away with a pint of mango coconut sticky rice. It was truly wonderful.

The Smoke Shop at 1840 Commercial, with its displays of expensive glass bongs and similar, has closed.

The Pulp Fiction bookstore at 1830 Commercial is said to be doubling in size by moving to 1744 Commercial in the next month or so.

Earlier last month I heard a rumour from a trusted correspondent that Rufus Drums & Guitars has purchased the old Wonderbucks building at 1801 Commercial. They are currently on W. 10th but I was told they would move to the Drive in April. It seemed like an expensive development play just for a retail store, but seems to be true.

There is a long history of musical instrument stores on the Drive, going back to the 1910s. This will be a very welcome addition to that list.

The process for “legalizing” the cannabis store, the KushKlub, at 1735 Commercial seems to be moving forward as slowly as these things tend to do.


Meanwhile, the Bubble Tea Lifestyle space at 1706 seems to have closed. I never actually saw anyone in there for the months it has been open.

The new bakery-cafe (we have so many now) in Il Mercato Mall, the Bench Bakehouse, gets a great review from I Live in East Vancouver.

I wrote last month about the intimate theatre experience available tonight and on Sunday at the Drive Coffee Bar at 1670 Commercial.

At 1590 Commercial, the Ugly Dumpling gets a detailed review in the Asian Pacific Post.

Sopra Sotto at 1510 Commercial is the only restaurant in our slice of the Drive to make it into the Daily Hive‘s Best 15 Italian Restaurants in Vancouver.

The Charlatan bar-restaurant at 1447 Commercial is improving and expanding their outdoor patio.

At 1399 Commercial, the new Livia Bakery & Cafe continues to get good press. Here is a good review of the cafe and a profile of Claire Livia Lassam, the owner.

There is a profile of Andrew Hounslow, chef at Havana, in the Vancouver Sun.

Last month, I reported that the “pop-up boutique” at 1206 Commercial ha closed.  That was a mistake as I still see it in operation every once in a while over the last few weeks.


Vacancies on the Drive this month:  2235 Commercial (5 months vacant), 2086 (14 months),  2088 (14 months), 1840 (1 month), 1812 (12 months), 1810 (12 months), 1801 (26 months), 1744 (4 months), 1735 (5 months), 1706 (1 month), 1409 (6 months), 1408 (11 months), 952 (5 months).

Larger Trends in Retail

This massive increase in dollar stores, especially in poorer neighbourhoods, is called “alarming” in this report.

Meanwhile, retail bankruptcies continue to affect main street.


Previous Changes on the Drive editions.

Changes On The Drive #90

February 1, 2019

I did the walk yesterday on a cool and grey but pleasant day, just ahead of the mini-version of a polar vortex that we are expecting this weekend.

Harambe, the Ethiopian restaurant at 2149 Commercial, gets an excellent review at

I noticed no storefront changes south of First.

The Bench bakery and cafe in Il Mercato Mall has finally opened, and seems to be quite popular. However, I still think it is odd to have a coffee shop in the same building as Tim’s.


Along the street at 1399 Commercial, the new Livia Bakery and Cafe is also open — we have a glut of fine pastry shops now.


The “pop-up” boutique that operated briefly at 1206 doesn’t seem to have returned, so I am calling this space vacant now.

What used to be Stanley Nails Spa at 1182 Commercial now seems to be called Chi Lash & Brow. Not sure if that is new or whether I missed it earlier.


In what I seem to think is another change of name, what used to be the Honest Juice Bar is now called Wilder Juice.

At 905 Commercial, the very popular Downlow Chicken Shack, which closed for a week for revamping, has reopened with new items on the menu, like this monster…

Image: courtesy DL Chicken


Vacancies on the Drive this month:  2235 Commercial (4 months vacant), 2086 (13 months), 2088 (13 months), 1810 (11 months), 1812 (11 months), 1801 (25 months), 1744 (3 months), 1735 (4 months), 1409 (5 months), 1408 (10 months), 1206 (1 month), 952 (4 months).


Previous editions of Changes on the Drive.

Changes On The Drive #89

January 1, 2019

It was a glorious winter when I did the walk on Sunday; the sunshine was a real pleasure after so much rain.

As foreshadowed last month, the storefront at 2240 has been taken over by Pet Pantry, food and supplies. So now we have at least three pet supply stores within the core of the Drive.


Again as forecast last month, La Pache Pizza has move into the new storefront at 2082 Commercial.


Unfortunately, there still seems to be no progress at Falconetti’s, 1810-1810 Commercial.  The space is looking more desolate by the month.

Frateli Bakery at 1795 Commercial, and Andy’s Herman Bakehaus at 935 are both included in ILiveInEastVancouver’s list of favourite bakeries.

The Ugly Dumpling at 1590 Commercial and Sopra Sotto at 1510 were both given Honourable Mentions in the Vancouver Sun‘s Best New Restaurants of 2018.

The very-soon-to-be-open Livia bakery/cafe at 1399 Commercial is already sparkling up that block with its new white paint job and chic awning.  I suspect they are just days away from opening.


Next door to them, at 1397 Commercial, we say hello to Alpine Sport & Spine clinic, and gooddbye to a chunk of the Drive’s history.


In 1951, Nels Beaton, a Canadian veteran, opened a chiropratic clinic at 1704 E. 1st. In December 1953, Nels — who liked to wear bowties — moved his office to 1678 Commercial.  From the mid-1950s Nels Beaton was a civic leader of Grandview, chairing at various times the Chamber of Commerce, the Community Association, and the Van East Lions. His office, later shared with his son, moved to 1661 then 1321 and finally to 1397 Commercial in 1983.  For the last few years, the office has operated under the shingle of Beaton and Jeager. Now, only Jeager’s name is on the door and the Drive is without a Beaton for the first time in 67 years.

Rosemary Rocksalt at 1350 Commercial was one of only two local spots to make it onto the Daily Hive‘s list of Best Comfort Food Destinations:, there are so many more!  The other entry by the way was the DL Chicken Shack at 905 Commercial, which still gets lineups most lunchtimes.

Confirming last month’s news, Canuck Auctions at 1303 Commercial now sports a very permanent-looking sign.


Pacific Poke at 1268 has finally opened!


The storefront at 1206 Commercial which was vacant with the disappearance of Dandelion Kids has been taken over by a Pop Up Shop for a “plant-based boutique“.


What was Hustle Pizza at 1110 Commercial is now either Pizza Castle or Pizza on the Go ddepending on which sign you look at.


Finally, the renovation at Joe’s Grill at 952 Commercial doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so I now show it as vacant.


Vacancies on the Drive this month:  2235 Commercial (3 months vacant), 2086 (12 months), 2088 (12 months), 1812 (10 months), 1810 (10 months), 1801 (24 months), 1744 (2 months), 1735 (3 months), the bakery space in Il Mercato (48 months), 1409 (4 months), 1408 (9 months), 952 (3 months).

There has been a substantial fall in the amount of vacant space on the Drive this month as several projects, anticipated for months, have come to fruition.

Urbanologists and community activists bemoan the retail vacancy rate in Vancouver and Metro but the situation is so much worse in the UK.  In this article, it is claimed that a full quarter of shop space in England and Wales was lost between the financial crash of 2008 and 2015.

Some years ago I wrote a few pieces about the decline of the mall in America.  Seems as if this decline has not yet ended.


Previous Changes on the Drive edition.

Changes on The Drive #88

December 1, 2018

It has been a weird week for weather, with terrific rainfalls and spring-like temperatures. I managed to dodge most of the raindrops doing the walk yesterday morning.

The storefront at 2240 Commercial is still vacant, but there is at least a notice that Pet Pantry will be opening soon.

The new-ish storefront at 2082 Commercial is also still vacant, but is now signed to be La Pacche Pizza soon.

Image: Cannibal Cafe, Instagram

Both the Cannibal Cafe at 1818 Commercial and the Storm Crow Tavern at 1305 Commercial get rave reviews for their boozy milkshakes of all things!

As foreshadowed last month, Escents at 1744 Commercial has closed and the space is vacant. The shop had been open on the Drive for almost two decades.

At 1714 Commercial, Mintage gets a great review (“one of the best places you’ll find vintage clothing in East Vancouver”) in a list of the best thrift stores in the city.

The new-to-be bakery in Il Mercarto continues to scream from posters that it is opening soon but, from cracks in the paper that cover the windows, it looks like they are still down to the concrete inside.

Also at Il Mercato, the Tim Hortons has been closed for a week or so while it gets a full-on renovation.  The counterspace seems to have stayed in the same place, but the seating has been rearranged and all the back splashes have been replaced.


The Libra Room at 1608 Commercial gets a good call out in The Daily Hive as “the only place in Vancouver where you’ll find live music seven nights a week.”

The christmas trees have arrived at Home Hardware on the corner of Commercial & Graveley, filling the air with their festival aroma. I look forward to that every year.

Sopra Sotto at 1510 Commercial gets an interesting review of its charcuterie offerings in Vancouver Weekly.

The former Al Basho and Elizabeth Bakery space at 1399 Commercial is still undergoing a major renovation to become Livia, opening soon.

The storefront at 1303 Commercial has been listed as vacant for almost two years. The owner told me a long time ago that they were looking for an arts-based renter. For much of the past year, the space has been used by a friend of the owner to store some items. Now it seems to have been cleaned up, though barely filled, and there is a sign for Canucks Auctions.

As suggested a couple of months ago (in Changes #86), Dandelion Kids at 1206 Commercial has now closed and the space is vacant.

As mentioned last month, My Sister’s Closet has taken over the REACH storefront at 1151 Commercial.  I think it is a short-run thing, so we’ll have to see what happen after Christmas.

The renovation at Joe’s Grill at 952 Commercial is obviously more extensive than originally thought as they are still not open.

The thoroughly dependable, rarely mentioned, and definitely non-trendy Sunrise Pizza & Steak House at 949 Commercial gets a good review in an article on late-night pizza joints.

Kin Kao, at 903 Commercial, gets a good review in the Daily Hive’s list of the best Thai noodle houses.


Vacancies on the Drive this month:  2235 Commercial (2 months vacant), 2240 (9 months), 2082 (11 months), 2086 (11  months), 2088 (11 months), 1812 (9 months), 1810 (9 months), 1801 (23 months), 1744 (1 month), 1745 (2 months), the bakery space in Il Mercato (47 months), 1409 (3 months), 1408 (8 months), 1399 (4 months), 1268 (15 months), 1206 (1 month).


For those interested in the future of retail, here is an interesting article about how certain large corporations who make much of their living from impulse buyers are hoping to deal with the growth of online shopping.


Previous editions of the Changes.