Changes On The Drive #84

August 1, 2018

I did the walk in blazing heat yesterday because the weather forecast was for even hotter today.  Finding good shade became like a little game, amply rewarded when found.

Cabrito restaurant at 2070 Commercial is having a community paella event on August 15. Sounds like tasty fun.

The new Poke 5 at 2247 Commercial gets a decent review.

The space at 2080 Commercial is still vacant but is going to be filled in  a month or so by Elephant Garden Creamery, a really popular ice cream maker. The Everloving prefers gelato, but I’m looking forward to the soft serve!

The old laundromat at 2058 Commercial which has been closed for a couple of months is still papered over now has a new sign, so perhaps a new laundromat is in the offing?

As most readers will know, First Avenue has been closed this summer for gas line laying. I’m sure it has caused problems for drivers but also for some businesses it seems.  For example, Cassia Bake, just around the corner on First has been very public with its concerns and threats to close.  I find this a bit odd as they are literally just 10 steps away from the Drive, so foot traffic cannot have been greatly affected.  They didn’t do all that well when they were in a storefront on the Drive, so who knows whether the road closure has really affected their sales.

The former Strawberry Bakery location inside Mercato Mall is still being renovated for Bench Bakehouse. The space has been vacant almost four years.

There has been a full-scale renovation at First Care Medical, which now includes an in-clinic pharmacy.

Mezcaleria at 1622 Commercial gets plaudits for its vegetarian tacos.

Merchants Workshop, 1590 Commercial, is to close August 16:  Note the successful opening of their chicken joint at 905 Commercial.  But the space will not long be vacant; it is already booked for The Ugly Dumpling; high concept Asian street food — is set for opening at the beginning of September.

Absinthe Bistro at 1260 Commercial gets a good review here for its French food.

The Sula Restaurant at 1128 has new art work on its exterior.  I winder of that is the response to the new competition for Indian food diners (see below).


There are problems at the Food Co-op at 1034 Commercial. The opening of Choices across the street has brought significant competition.  It will be a real shame for both the Drive and the cooperative movement if we lose this excellent outlet.

The new Bombay Indian restaurant is still renovating 1026 Commercial.  When it is open we will have the choice of three Indian food places on the Drive.


The old Bosa Grocery building at 956 Commercial has finally opened as a medical/fitness centre.


A month after opening, the Downlow Chicken place at 905 Commercial is still drawing line-up crowds at lunchtime. They are also still drawing publicity.  I still haven’t tried it — fried chicken is not my favourite — but I’ll get there soon, I am sure.


Vacant/closed/renovating stores on the Drive this month:  2240 Commercial (5 months vacant), 2082 (7 months), 2084 (7 months), 2086 (7 months), 2088 (7 months), 2058 (3 months), 1810 (5 months), 1812 (5 months), 1801 (19 months), Strawberry Bakery site (43 months), 1408 (4 months), 1399 (3 months), 1303 (20 months), 1268 (11 months), 1151 (7 months), 1026 (2 months).

For those interested in the development and history of retail shops, there is a very informative piece in the Guardian about the problems of British High Streets.


Previous editions of Changes on the Drive.


Changes On The Drive #83

July 1, 2018

I did the walk yesterday, enjoying the pleasantly cool and overcast day. It was a World Cup soccer day and the Drive was packed with partisans who were all noisily enjoying themselves — at least until Portugal lost when the despairing silence was deafening.

The Poke 5 franchise outlet at 2247 is now open, at least for a “soft” opening.  I wonder if that means they’ll have a special do when they formally open?



JQ Clothing boutique up at 2120 Commercial gets a good review in the Straight.

I am very surprised that the four new storefronts built over the winter (2082-2088 Commercial) are still vacant six months after the “LEASED” signs were plastered over the windows. Wonder what the issue might be?

Years ago, at 2068 Commercial, there was Sang’s which I always thought was the best Chinese delivery place in town. The building was empty for a while until another place opened, and then closed.  More recently it has been Sushiville which I haven’t yet tried but which gets a fun review in the Daily Hive this month.

I still see no work being started on what were said to be renovations to the Falconetti properties at 1810 and 1812 Commercial.

LaLa’s On The Drive at 1748 Commercial makes the George Straight’s list of Best Independent Boutiques of Commercial Drive.  One of my favourite little stores.

The former Salvation Army building just west of the Drive on First has sat empty with “SOLD” signs on it for a couple of years now.  Today I noticed that they had been replaced with “FOR SALE” signs. It would be interesting to know what happened there.

The former Strawberry Bakery location inside Mercato Mall is finally being renovated. It will soon be a Bench Bakehouse — another bakery, I assume.  It will be good to have that space filled once again after more than three and a half years.

On the southwest corner of Graveley and Commercial, what used to be the Dirty Penny pub is now Junior’s Bar & Grill.

Kalena’s Shoe Store at 1526 Commercial also makes the Straight’s boutiques list.

Black Dog Video at 1470 Commercial has 16,000 reasons for you to throw away your cares:


The former Elizabeth Bakery space on the northern half of 1399 Commercial is still empty.  However, All Basho in the other half seems to be doing a roaring trade in World Cup memorabilia. Not sure if the restaurant itself is doing any business, but it sure looks busy with hatrs and banners and whatnot stacked up on tables.

Blue Sky Clothing at 1312 Commercial makes the Straight’s list.  At 1136 Commercial, Gatley Lifestyle Store is also highly rated by the Straight.

I noted last month that the Mega Pizza location at 1110 Commercial had morphed into Hustle Pizza.  Its PR people have already gotten it some press.

Next door, made available for Italian Day, and now opened full time, is the Honest Juice Bar which has taken over the storefront at 1106 Commercial, a space that had been unhappily vacant for more than four years.


The Five Elements Cafe at 1046 Commercial is one of the best places to get Banh Mi sandwiches, according to the Hive.

Spank Clothing, 1027 Commercial, makes the Straight’s list of boutiques, as does Little Miss Vintage at 931 Commercial.

What used to be the Reef at 1026 Commercial is being refitted into an Indian Restaurant called Bombay.  Looks like it should be ready to open in a few days.

The Downlow Chicken Shack opened on 13th June at 905 Commercial,  This is the spin-off from Merchant’s Workshop, specialising in one the Workshop’s signature dishes, its Nashville Hot Chicken.  It will be cashier service but they will bring the order to your table.  First come, first served, they open at 11:30am and 9:30pm (“or until the chicken runs out”). Pre-opening reviews are here.  There are still lineups at lunchtime, I notice.

The fitness centre at 956 Commercial is just about completed.  They have put a lot of work into changing that space (used to be Bosa Foods) but I don’t find the exterior result particularly attractive.  I’m guessing it will open sometime in July.


Vacant/closed/renovating stores on the Drive this month:  2240 Commercial (4 months vacant), 2082 (6 months), 2084 (6 months), 2086 (6 months), 2088 (6 months), 2058 (2 months), 1810 (4 months), 1812 (4 months), 1801 (18 months), Strawberry Bakery site in Il Mercato (42 months), 1408 (3 months), 1399 (2 months), 1303 (20 months), 1268 (10 months), 1151 (6 months), 1026 (1 month), 956 (8 months).

Previous Changes On The Drive editions.

Mid Month Openings and Closings

June 14, 2018

Image: Downlow

The big news on the Drive right now, according to a lot of social media publicity, is the official opening of the Downlow Chicken Shack at 905 Commercial (which used to be Deserts).

This is a spinoff from the Nashville hot chicken sandwich that is a favourite at Merchants Workshop at 1590 Commercial.

The newly renovated store has 24 seats and the sandwiches start at about $12.00. They had a test run earlier in the month and were open during Italian Day where the lineups were extravagant.

Also available for Italian Day, and now opened full time, is the Honest Juice Bar which has taken over the storefront at 1106 Commercial, a space that has been sorrily vacant for more than four years.


On a sadder note, the Reef Restaurant appears to have closed.  On Italian Day, they had a sign saying it was their last day and thanking the Drive for 10 good years.

Changes On The Drive #82

June 1, 2018

A beautiful walk down the Drive yesterday; cool weather, no threat of rain, delightful.

St. Augustine’s at 2360 Commercial, gets rave reviews for its tacos.

At 2260, which has been vacant for a few months, we now have The Physio’s Shop. I assume it is a medical practice.

Across the street, 2247 Commercial is still closed, and being renovated for a Poke 5 franchise — still coming soon.

The old Bon Bon Laundry at 2058 Commercial is now papered over, so I guess it finally closed.  There had been a for lease sign on the building for months.

I still keep hearing that Falconetti’s at 1810-1812 Commercial is planning to renovate.  However, after another month, no work seems to have begun.

Mezcaleria at 1622 Commercial gets another rave review, and also gets listed in Scout’s best brunch list.

The Arriva Restaurant at 1537 Commercial seems to be getting an exterior face-lift. They have just started so I am not sure how major the changes will be at this point.

In last month’s Changes I noted the closure of Bao Down at 1408 Commercial. However, their sign about restaurants on the Drive closing notwithstanding, the same owners claim to be refurbishing the joint and relaunching as Nacho Loco, a Mexican cantina.  Right now, though, I can see no work progressing and I am calling it closed.

Elizabeth Bakery, which sublet the space at 1399 Commercial, from All Basho, has closed. I heard from someone that the restaurant thought there was a misunderstanding and was surprised to see them go. However, I was also told he was charging the bakery $5,000 a month rent for that small space, so I am not at all surprised. There is also talk that, unable to find another tenant for the sublet, All Basho is also likely to close within the next month or so.

Famoso Pizzeria at 1380 Commercial (and elsewhere) has been purchased by Frank Di Benedetto’s FDF Restaurant Brandz which also owns the Ricky’s and Fatburger chains.

Memphis Blues, 1364 Commercial, with its bright new awning, also makes the list for best tacos in town.

At 1212 Commercial, the refurbished and re-opened Havana continues to get press. 

There is another good review of Kulinarya Filipino Eatery at 1134 Commercial; this one from the Globe & Mail.

1110 Commercial is now the Hustle Pizza place, having morphed this month from Mega Pizza.


Next door, at 1106, which used to be Urban Empire until it closed almost 4 years ago, I believe I saw some work going on inside the store.  It would be great to have that space opened up again after so long.

The space at 956 Commercial, where Bosa Foods used to be, is undergoing a major renovation.  The windows are still papered over but I have caught some glimpses of the work going on inside and I suspect it will be a medical facility of some kind — perhaps a therapeutic massage place, or a large clinic.  They seem to be working on it full time, so hopefully we will get to see it soon.

Across the street, Deserts at 905 Commercial is gone after 20 years:  It is being renovated and is soon to be a chicken joint extension of Merchants Workshop.


Vacant/closed/renovating stores on the Drive this month:  2247 (2 months vacant), 2240 (3 months), 2082 (5 months), 2084 (5 months), 2086 (5 months), 2088 (5 months), 2058 (1 month), 1810 (3 months), 1812 (3 months), 1803 (17 months), former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato Mall (41 months), 1408 (2 months), 1399 (1 month), 1303 (19 months), 1268 (9 months), 1151 (5 months), 1106 (47 months), 956 (7 months), 905 (1 month).



Previous Changes on the Drive editions.

Changes On The Drive #81

May 1, 2018

I did the walk yesterday afternoon, in the brisk late Spring air with threats — but threats only — of rain. It was very pleasant.

The smoothie store at 2247 Commercial seems to have shut down. But someone is renovating it into Poke Five, coming soon:


There is word that Falconetti’s, at 1810 and 1812 Commercial is not really closed but is being renovated. However, it doesn’t look as if the work has begun yet as I walk by.

Sopra Sotto now has a sign on the building.


It looks as if Bao Down on the Drive at 1408 Commercial didn’t make it. I can’t be sure yet but it was closed at lunchtime today and there was an angry sign on the door:


That’s one to keep an eye on.

Across the street at 1441 Commercial, I am glad to see that Tatsu is back open again after its problem this time last month.

I am very pleased to note that the People’s Coop Bookstore at 1391 Commercial will be back to 6-day-a-week opening starting today, May Day!

Havana has reopened after the briefest of times renovating. They got a lot done in just a few weeks.  The new backroom (where the gallery was) is called the Flamingo Room. :  .

Image: Havana Restaurant

Across the street, along Charles and the park, there is now a lineup of rent-a-bikes.

Here is a a more pleasing review of the Kulinarya Filipino Eatery, 1134 Commercial, than I was able to manage.  Meanwhile, Megabyte Pizza at 1110 is closed for renovations.

At 1044 Commercial that used to be Rabbit & Empee, there suddenly appeared a slick western style barber shop called the Crowsnest offering pomps and fades.


Finally, the building at 956 Commercial that has been vacant since Bosa moved their store back to Victoria Drive has had the”For lease” signs removed, then had the windows carefully papered over, and now there is a small discrete sign for Heatherbrae, a developer.  I wrote them an email but didn’t hear back. I wonder what their plans are?


Vacant/closed/renovating stores on the Drive this month:  2260 Commercial (4 months vacant), 2247 (1 month), 2240 (2 months), 2082 (4 months), 2084 (4 months), 2286 (4 months), 2288 (4 months), 1810 (2 months), 1812 (2 months), 1803 (16 months), former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato Mall (40 months), 1303 (18 months), 1268 (8 months), 1151 (4 months), 1106 (46 months), 956 (7 months).


There was an interesting Business in Vancouver article this month about vacant storefronts in other Vancouver neighbourhoods.


Previous Changes on the Drive editions.

Changes On The Drive #80

April 1, 2018

I did the walk yesterday in the finest weather of the year so far; gorgeous light and warm enough to do without a jacket — marvelous!

There are no changes at the southern end of the Drive, not until the 1800-block where, to the surprise of many, Falconetti’s has closed; both the cafe and the meat store. The butcher, as Falcone Brothers, had been a fixture on the Drive since 1968.


At 1670 Commercial, The Drive Coffee Bar has started a weekly story telling series.

The Merchants Workshop at 1590 is a finalist for both Best Brunch and Best East Side restaurant in  Vancouver Magazine.

At the other end of that block, at 1500 Commercial, Sopra Sotto has finally opened.  It has received quite a bit of press; here is a preview piece from the Daily Hive from which I took this image:

Black Dog Video, at 1470 Commercial, celebrated its 22nd anniversary in March.  It may be the last video rental store in the world.

Across the street, Tatsu Sushi at 1441, which used to have a stellar reputation for its fine sushi presentations, has been slapped with a close order from Vancouver Coastal Health.  There were, it appears, a number of serious issues and I don’t know when it will reopen.


In that small retail enclave on Charles just east of the Drive, the Off Main Gallery has opened. It has an interesting backstory.


The Havana at 1212 Commercial has now closed for about three weeks for its major renovation (see Changes #78 for full details).  Here is the Daily Hive’s discussion.

The Kulinyara restaurant at 1134, has apparently begun boodle fights (yes, your guess is as good as mine).  You may recall that I wasn’t really enamoured with this place when it opened — perhaps a food fight will liven it up!

Sweet Cherubim, at 1105 Commercial, won the 2018 Organic Retailer of the Year award from the Canadian Organic Trade Association.


The Napier Greenway has a blossom tree that has opened before most of the others in the neighbourhood. It is stunningly beautiful after the gloom of winter.


The former Bosa Grocery at 956 Commercial is still vacant but the “For Lease” signs have disappeared. I wonder if that is good news?

And to complete this month, Kin Kao, at 903, is a Best Thai finalist in Vancouver Magazine.


Vacant stores on the Drive this month:  2260 Commercial (3 months vacant), 2082 (3 months), 2084 (3 months), 2086 (3 months), 2088 (3 months), 1803 (15 months), 1810 (1 month), 1812 (1 month), former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato (39 months), 1303 (17 months), 1268 (7 months), 1151 (3 months), 1108 (45 months), 1046 (3 months), 956 (6 months).



Previous editions of Changes on the Drive.

Changes On The Drive #79

March 1, 2018

I did the walk this month in that misty wetness that doesn’t quite have the guts to come straight out and rain. It was kind of miserable to be honest. But we at least start off the month with good news.

The two new storefronts (2283 and 2285 Commercial) that were created when the corner store at 8th was revamped are now both filled. One is a Mr. Greek donair shop, and next door there is a BC Currency office (still seems an odd spot for that!).


Across the street, the 77K Freeze at 2240 Commercial no longer has any signage, and was closed. But the set-up is still all there, so it is a little soon to declare it vacant.


The wonderful old Wonderbucks building at 1801 is finally for sale, along with 1656 E. 2nd which is the parking area at back. It has been vacant more than a year and I guess Lucarino Investments have given up trying to lease it out for $30,000 or so a month. Now, I guess, we have to start worrying about might happen to the place once it is bought. More retail plus three storeys of affordable rental would be good.


Prospective buyers are asked to propose a bid on both parcels, so no price is given. However, the 2018 BC Assessments total $8,109,300 with $80,069 a year in taxes.  Without a change in zoning, the current retail space (zoned C2C) could be pushed to an FSR of 3 or almost 25,000 sq.ft of space.  The back lot (currently zoned as RM-4) could add another 5,200 sq.ft.

The Penny Pub on the south-west corner of Commercial & Graveley has begun a series of weekly drag shows. I haven’t seen a decent drag show since I lived in the West Ed in the 80s.  They were always great fun!

At 1342 Commercial, Memphis Blues is currently closed “for a few weeks” for renovation.

I had not realized that part of the frontage of the new REACH clinic is actually a storefront for lease at 1151 Commercial. It is still vacant.


Vacant or closed on the Drive this month:  2260 Commercial (2 months vacant), 2082 (2 months), 2084 (2 months), 2086 (2 months), 2088 (2 months), 1803 (14 months), former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato (38 months), 1500 (15 months), 1303 (16 months), 1268 (6 months), 1151 (2 months), 1108 (44 months), 1046 (2 months), 956 (5 months).


Previous Changes on the Drive editions