Changes on The Drive #75

November 1, 2017

I did the walk yesterday which, I have to declare for my own taste, was the best weather day of the entire year so far: bright blue skies, sun enough for sunglasses, cool walking temperature — just fabulous.

The two new storefronts at the very south end of the west side before the Cut (2243 and 2245 Commercial) are still vacant. However, one of them, probably 2285, will soon become, according to a sign, “a Greek donair store”.

At 2277, the Sweet Greek restaurant — which seems to have enjoyed good success since it opened this summer — is closing briefly from today for renovations.

Construction at the new building on the east side (2080-2088) seems to be nearing completion. I have not yet included the four new storefronts in the “vacancy” list but all indications are they will be ready for occupancy this year.

 

The former Waves  coffee shop at 1858 is becoming Spade, a beer and snacks place by the owner of Prado.

As of this month, it is still under renovation.

Across the street, at 1819 Commercial, the former Thai restaurant has now morphed into the Tikka House, an Indian place — a welcome addition to the neighbourhood.

 

At 1735 Commercial, we seem to have gained a new cannabis dispensary. This one is called KushKlub and I could not tell if it is open yet. The space had been vacant for six months.

 

The oft-mentioned Bamboo Tea Company store at 1740 still have the “Opening Soon” sign out. However it looks complete and there was a lady in there as I walked by so I looked in. They will open, she says, next week or the week after.  I wonder if they are awaiting a tea delivery?

A long time ago, when the Cassia Cupcakes store closed at 1796 Commercial, they said they would be reopening around the corner at 1706 E. 1st. I am sure they didn’t expect it to take so long, but they are finally up and running as the Cassia Bake Shop and Cafe.  I wish them well!

 

The Candy Aisle at 1544 seems to have failed, finally.  A couple of months ago I noted a For Lease sign on the window; now that, and all the candy, is no more.

There seems to be work going on at the former Roma at 1500 Commercial, but it is still definitely closed right now.

Long time resident of the Drive, Turks at 1276 got a small review in VanMag this month. I wrote my own brief review earlier this summer.  Stormcrow at 1303 also got some press.

Another long-time business (28 years), Tio Pepe’s at 1134 has closed. It is soon to be a Filipino place called Kulinarya, opening after renovations, with a very interesting menu.

Choices painted their  CD wall white with black window trim, installed a new entrance, and had their official opening. It would be so much better if they could fix the barrenness of their block.

 

REACH is still not quite open. It looks as if the finishing touches are being put in place, but they are still not operational. The history of this build, the backstory concerning the type of medical delivery they will offer in the future, and the comings and goings of Board members as a result, will make a great book.

 

After more than two years of vacancy, the space at 902 Commercial has been renovated and taken over by a store called Your Open Closet.  They offer “body positive undergarments for all genders”.  Sounds like a great business for the Drive!

 

Vacant or closed on the Drive this month:  2285 (5 months), 2283 (5 months), 1858 (8 months), 1801 (10 months), 1740 (13 months), former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato (34 months), 1544 (1 month), 1500 (11 months), 1303 (12 months), 1268 (2 months), 1134 (1 month), 1108 (41 months), 956 (1 month).

Previous Changes On the Drive editions.

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Changes On the Drive #74

October 1, 2017

Today was a gorgeous morning, bright and cool; just perfect for my first real exercise in a month.

The building at 2211 has had a For Sale sign showing for three months now, though Universal Technologies is still chugging along.

The construction work on the eastside of the 2000-block seems close to completion. Four separate storefronts can now be clearly discerned, along with a second storey running the full length.

At 2058, the “For Lease” sign has gone, and the Bon Bon Laundry is still operating.

The renovation of 1928 Commercial has been completed in record time. It is now open as Ollie Quinn, optometrist. They also advertize itself as a “community workspace” though I don’t really know what that means at this point.

 

The former Waves coffee shop at 1858 has had a new white paint job on the exterior. However, the windows are still papered over and so what this is going to become is still a mystery to me. An equal mystery is why the Babylon Tea Shop at 1740 is till “Opening Soon” when it appears to have been ready for two months. Odd that.

I have seen a lot of work going on in both the former Roma Restaurant, and the Libra Room, though both are still closed at this point.  [Update:  I am advised that Libra Room is actually open]. However, after an 8 month closure, the Charlatan at 1447 had its soft re-opening yesterday and seemed ready and eager for business this morning as I strolled by.

The Havana Restaurant/Theatre/Art Gallery complex at 1224 Commercial with its ever-popular patio is in the process of being sold to a Vancouver company that owns Belgard Kitchen, Postmark Brewing, and Vancouver Urban Winery. It is not expected that many changes will be made once the ownership agreement is completed in November.

The new REACH Medical and Dental construction at 1117 is almost complete. There is some hope that it will re-open by the end of October.

The next ten days will see the final demise of Bosa Grocery on Commercial Drive. Their rebuilt store on Victoria officially opens next Friday. They have already started allowing the inventory on the Drive to be depleted and the manager expects it to be empty perhaps three or four days after the new place opens. He mentioned that the biggest problem they had with being on the Drive was parking availability. He has no idea what might go into the space although he did mention that a group of physiotherapists had shown some interest. He was concerned for the future of Joe’s Grill next door as they will lose the foot traffic that Bosa has attracted.

Finally, there is an unconfirmed rumour that Robin’s Pharmacy at 908 Commercial is either sold or looking for a buyer.

 

Closures and vacancies on Commercial this month include: 2283 (4 months), 2285 (4 months), 1858 (7 months), 1801 (9 months), 1740 (12 months), 1735 (5 months), the former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato (33 months), 1606 (14 months), 1500 (11 months), 1303 (12 months), 1268 (2 months), 1108 (41 months), and 902 (29 months).

Previous Changes On the Drive editions.


Changes On The Drive #73

September 1, 2017

I had a medical appointment at 7 this morning so, when that was done, and after a lazy breakfast, I was able to complete my walk on the Drive in the coolness of the early morning. It was very pleasant and all finished by 9.

The building at 2211 Commercial is still for sale, and that at 2058 is still for lease, though Universal Technologies and the Bon Bon Laundry respectively are still operating.

Kokopelli Hair at 2048-2052 Commercial is celebrating its twentieth anniversary on the Drive. Well done to them!

The Precious and Few consignment store at 1928 seems to have bit the dust. There were workman inside today apparently beginning a full renovation.

Olivieri’s, the First Ravioli Store, at 1900 Commercial has been sold and is now Easy Shop.

I notice that the old “First Ravioli” signs are still on the windows, so there is some continuity, and it looks to be the same inside as I recall. I believe I saw the lady who used to run this working in Bosa last week. Meanwhile, the old Waves coffee shop at 11858 is still vacant, and both the “For Lease” and “Leased” signs have disappeared.

I learn from a correspondent that the Mediterranean Food store at 1842 Commercial has changed hands. Jack Elmasu, the owner for more than 40 years, is staying on for a while to train the new owners in the business. My correspondent was also gracious enough to forward me this interesting article about the store and Jack Elmasu from 2011.

The Babylon Tea Shop at 1740 is still not open. It has appeared to be ready for more than a month, but “Opening Soon” is still the situation.

Mezcaleria at 1622 has new menus, it is reported.

The Libra Room is still very much closed and shuttered. However, I noticed this month (perhaps I missed them before), signs on the windows saying “Now hiring for all positions”. Is that a hopeful sign?

City Bistro at 1268 has closed already. The “opening soon” sign was up longer than the restaurant itself.

I never got to eat there. I tried to go with a Hungarian friend a few weeks ago but they were unexpectedly closed on a Thursday night.

Finally, it seems that this is the last month for Bosa on the Drive. They are planning to move back to their newly rebuilt premises on Victoria at the end of the month. It will be a real shame to lose them off the Drive.

Closures and vacancies on Commercial this month include: 2283 (3 months), 2285 (3 months), 1928 (1 month), 1801 (8 months), 1740 (11 months), 1735 (4 months), the former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato Mall (32 months), 1606 (13 months), 1500 (10 months), 1447 (7 months), 1303 (11 months), 1268 (1 month), 1108 (40 months), and 902 (28 months).

Previous Changes on The Drive editions.


Changes On The Drive #72

August 1, 2017

Another hot day — what we have come to expect!

Things at the south end seem settled at this time, with virtually no changes. Two of the three new storefronts at 2283-2289 Commercial are vacant (2 months), but the new convenience store seems busy enough.

At 2080, now that the framing is completed, it is possible to discern 4 storefronts in a two-storey building. Of course, the storefronts needn’t be used only as stand-alones; there are plenty of possible configurations. We’ll soon find out, I am sure.

The Bon Bon Laundry at 2058 is still operating, and the “for lease” sign is still there.

At 1858, the former Waves Coffee Shop now has a “Leased” sign. It’s been vacant for 5 months but maybe not for much longer.

At 1740, Babylon Tea has still not opened but seems barely days away now. This has been vacant for 10 months.

Thankfully, the ExBubbleTea shop at 1706 Commercial has finally opened.

In last month’s Changes I noted that the Candy Aisle had a “for lease” sign in the window. Today I see the sign has disappeared and the store is still open. Changed their minds, perhaps?

I understand that MOSAIC has now moved out of its offices upstairs in the Liquor Store building. That will be quite a space to fill.

I have now visited the Boa Down restaurant at 1408 Commercial.  My review is here.   I also spent some time at Turks at 1276, which I reported here.  I also went to the first day at the new Joe’s Grill.

There is, finally, some heavy work going on at Charlatan; I saw them jack-hammering the floor before the windows were carefully papered over. It has been sitting there with no activity for some months, so it is good to see some action.

Ar 1111 Commercial, the tat shop that used to be called Adorned is now calling itself Arcane Body Arts. The style of the art work on the name banner is very different from what was there before, and so I am guessing this was a change in management.

Previously, it looked like this:

Unfortunately, there has been no change in behaviour at Choices since I wrote about the Barrenness of Choices.

Vacant storefronts on Commercial as of the end of July 2017 include 2283 (2 months), 2285 (2 months), 1858 (5 months), 1801 (7 months), 1740 (10 months), 1735 (3 months), the former Strawberry bakery in Il Mercato (31 months), the Libra Room at 1606 (12 months), the Roma at 1500 (9 months), the Charlatan at 1447 (6 months), 13o3 (10 months), 1108 (39 months), and 902 (27 months).

I wrote  more about vacancies here.

 

This edition of the Changes on the Drive completes six full years of monthly reviews. I look forward to doing them each month and I hope to carry on with them for a long while for the historical record. Included below is my third annual survey of businesses on the Drive.

The definitions for the survey are: (a) all storefronts between south side Venables and north side E. 7th Avenue; (b) ground floor retail space only; (c) fronting Commercial Drive only; (d) exclude government and similar offices (5 storefronts).

Previous Changes on the Drive editions.


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.

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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.