Frances Bula header image 2

The new old corner store: Little shops in the middle of neighbourhoods see a revival

May 30th, 2013 · 45 Comments

Sometimes as a journalist, you write about things because you have to. Other times, you get to write about what you love. This is my story about the new old corner store. Many thanks to Andy Yan for generating the map and data on their locations.

(BTW, a piece of information I didn’t squeeze in here is that apparently anything that existed before 1980 as a corner store retains the right to be used for commercial uses. So potentially there are many more of these. But there are also some “except in the case of” restrictions. Would love to hear about anyone’s experience who tried to convert back to commercial and wasn’t allowed.)

A reincarnation of the corner market in Vancouver



Marla Styles and her daughter Layla come through the door of The Mighty Oak with big smiles.

“A latte today,” she says to the man behind the marble countertop. “Say hi to John, Layla.” Ms. Styles, who’s taking four-year-old Layla to a mid-morning gymnastics class nearby, spends a couple of minutes talking to owner John McClelland about what she is making later that day – broccoli soup – and which loaf of bread she should buy.



On the sidewalk patio just outside, a couple of women are having coffee at an outdoor table in the bright sunshine. A dad with a toddler in tow on a plastic wagon lines up for his caffeine hit.

All sort of normal for a Vancouver morning. Except that this particular coffee shop/grocery sits by itself among the leafy streets and elegant houses between Cambie and Main streets.

The Mighty Oak is one of an emerging wave of nouveau grocery-cafés that are taking over spaces left behind from Vancouver’s quirky history – the small convenience stores set amid houses that used to populate the older city.

“I watched too much Sesame Street and I always liked Mr. Hooper. I like that concept of having a place in the neighbourhood,” said Mr. McClelland, a former carpenter who bought the store and the house behind it several years ago, and opened the café-grocery last summer. (He had rented it previously to an organic grocery.)

In the days before zoning laws rigorously separated stores from homes, small grocery stores were regular fixtures on the corners of residential blocks. Often run by immigrant families working long hours, they attracted local kids and their parents who would buy everything from penny candy to the makings of dinner. The ethnic clusters of the day could find Italian or Portuguese specialties.

Now, places like Marche St. Georges near The Mighty Oak, Finch’s and the Wilder Snail in Strathcona, and the Cardero Bottega in the West End are upscale editions of that old idea. They are the latest version of places like Benny’s or the Union Market near Chinatown, which slowly added coffee, pizza and sandwiches to their regular grocery offerings.

They are also drawing dedicated fans.

“We love this place,” says Ms. Styles, who drops by a couple of times a week. “It’s like a little hidden gem.”

For architect Bruce Haden in Strathcona, who admires the pedal-powered bar stool for charging cellphones at the Snail across from his house, the nouveau grocers act as “social hubs” for their neighbourhoods.

City historian John Atkin says they have become centres of the community.

“If I head down to the Union Market for a coffee and sit outside, within the space of an hour, I’ve seen everybody.”

Former Vancouver director of planning Brent Toderian likes the way they draw mainly from people within walking and cycling distance, rather than car commuters, so they create a truly local meeting place.

But all three say the city’s zoning laws make it difficult to encourage those kinds of spaces.

The neighbourhood grocery stores in residential zones – which still exist in about three dozen sites in Vancouver’s older neighbourhoods – came into being at a time with no zoning regulations.

(In the early days of the city, planners tried to create small retail hubs at some intersections inside residential swaths – the remnants of those can be seen, for example, at 33rd Avenue and Mackenzie Street, in the heart of Dunbar, and at Nanaimo and Charles, on the east side.)

But in the 1950s and 1960s, two forces worked against the little neighbourhood stores.

Cars and malls encouraged people to do bigger shopping trips outside their immediate surroundings. And planners, believing it was their role to separate different activities and thinking that the small neighbourhood stores were dying, created zoning schedules that pushed all businesses onto main streets. Vancouver, with its British heritage, was even more inclined than other cities to favour the idea of the high street for all retail, said Andrew Yan, a demographer with Bing Thom Architects.

Little neighbourhood stores became “non-conforming uses.” As long as they continued operating, they were allowed to stay. But if one closed and nothing replaced it within six months, the right to run a business there was lost.

The city has dozens of odd buildings that used to be stores attached to houses behind or beside in which the shop is now residential space.

The city’s general manager of planning, Brian Jackson, says the city would like to encourage the neighbourhood stores.

“We’re all for it.”

But he also sees challenges.

“It’s more and more difficult to sustain them. When Vancouver neighbourhoods were much denser, when there were five, six, eight people in every house, then they could support this kind of store.”

And, he says, some residents are not charmed by them and do not like the smell of coffee wafting over their backyards.

But to others, that’s a misread of what is possible.

Mr. Toderian says the city is being repopulated to former densities, with laneway houses and basement suites adding new people to neighbourhoods. And, if the city puts in the right conditions for those businesses – such as no parking, so they will not draw a big, annoying commuter crowd – they can be real local assets.

“It’s just a choice that cities have. You can make sure it plays the role you think it should play.”

Mr. McClelland says businesses, not the city, should decide if they can make it.

He doubts that he could succeed with groceries alone, but the combination of café and grocery works. He had hoped for a 50/50 split. In reality, about 60 per cent of his revenue comes from the café, and the rest from sales of the limited selection of specialty pastas, sauces, cheeses and ice creams in his tastefully designed shop.

Mr. McClelland also says he has not heard a word of complaint from anyone.

“We tried to design in as many elements as possible in the store to allow people to connect. I’ve had nothing but great feedback.”

Categories: Uncategorized

  • Kenji

    Great article and topic, Frances. Little shops are vital to the liveability of a neighbourhood. When Seb’s opened on Carolina and Broadway, I could not have been more thrilled. Finally, a new business and not another dark, boarded up storefront. Finally, a great cup of coffee! Finally, a destination where people were flocking!

  • boohoo

    These are fantastic and badly missing from this City. The tunnel vision (pun intended) the City has about developing only along the arterials I do not understand.

    There is a run down corner store near my house at about 35th and Windsor. Just off the bike route. I’d love to see it re-purposed into a small shop/coffee joint/whatever. Great for community, great for building relationships…all good.

  • Grant

    It’s worth pointing out that four of your examples (the Wilder Snail, Finch’s, the Union Street Market, and Benny’s) are firmly planted in Strathcona. The formula works really well here. The reasons are complicated (zoning, demographics, density, et cetera.)

    I hope these stores take root elsewhere, since they promote walking over driving, and support local businesses over franchises or chains.

    I wish the province would (carefully) experiment with (limited) liquor sales as a means to boost this kind of business. The depanneur model works well in Quebec. The major flaw is that liquor, lottery, and cigarette sales can completely swamp a store’s function as a community hub.

  • Neal Lamontagne, Mike Klassen and I discussed the lack of corner stores last September. Followed up with Brandon Yan in January

    Conclusion, as #3 notes: booze. Also as #3 notes regs could ensure this doesn’t dominate. Make it craft beer and expensive wine only, for example. Sell milk and simple canned food: a true depanneur for depanning you in an foody emergency. Be sure to include on site cafe/beer/sandwich space for community gathering. Be sure to close up by 10pm, play no music, and bulge out the corner sidewalk as far as possible (Blackson Twist?).

  • Also taxes: commercial has to pay more than residential. Bias towards residential.

    I’d prefer zoning by transect (form) that allows multiple non-conflicting uses, and a straight land tax based on proximity to infrastructure.

  • Also that 1980 rule is the worst. There is nothing inherently better for a community about a pre-1980 corner store than a post-1980 corner store.

  • While I appreciate the nostalgia attached to the idea of a corner (non-chain) coffee shop/corner store, I think it is as difficult as it ever was to make a decent living from such a venture.

    I live in a rural village where the general store was our only economic entity. But it eventually closed due to long hours and low returns, not to mention a hold up at gunpoint. Buying a latte or an ice cream cone and sitting outside for two hours chatting with neighbours may be lovely, but it’s not enough to pay the bills.

    I think there might be a better model. A coop where you ‘buy’ the right to shop there? Several micro-businesses within the shop so the burden is shared? A neighbourhood swap of services where everyone takes on some of the work? Weekly coffee drop-ins in the basement of the local church? A coffee cart? Neighbourhood picnics in the park?

    There are a ton of ways to build community, cheaply and cheerfully. This model may not be one that every community can afford.

  • @Andrea #7 lots of good depanneur stories here Long hours is right, but many an (immigrant) small business family will do that to build wealth.

  • At 6m56s in this video on Seaside, Duany talks about live-work units and the American dream

  • Dan Cooper

    “[McClelland] doubts that he could succeed with groceries alone, but the combination of café and grocery works.”

    Certainly my observation of the site which is now “The Mighty Oak,” past which I have been biycling most weekdays now for several years. Never saw many people when it was solely a grocery, but there’s often a crowd at the outdoor tables under the new arrangement.

  • @neil21 – I agree about immigrant families willing to hustle to get ahead, live in extended family units, in closer quarters, etc. and all of businesses in your attached article are immigrant-based, in some cases serving their culture-specific communities. I admire that.

    I just can’t do the math on the ROI, especially in a market like Vancouver. I would guess building owner/operators could make their money through real estate speculation and not selling lattes and cans of organic beans?

  • B

    Vancouver Is Awesome has a photo series going on right now on corner stores. Great to see familiar places being appreciated.

  • Bill Lee

    The Andy Yan links are:
    Text and commentary
    Note his article with lots and lots of caveats on datasets.

    Direct link to the map and if you hover or click on a dot you get address and names.,49.2014,-123.0081,49.3017

    Because of the caveats, a few of this Salon’s cyclists could wander around the city doing ground confirmation. Never trust Bing or Google’s street view.
    And you might even find “ghost” or former grocery stores, now reverting back to living spaces, (e.g. Ex-Salvino Grocery and post office on Victoria Drive and Kitchener, and several ex-grocery stores south of it)
    [ Better than verification of Canada’s ‘new’ topographic “maps” printed any day or hour without ground verification. They are the results of combining 7 datasets: national roads, agricultural data, etc. where mapped buildings show up on top of roads because of data inaccuracies. And they have lost about 400 differentiating mapping features from the old paper sets. ]

    There was a small district like the mention of McKenzie Heights village on 16th Avenue a block west from Lord Byng. They were converted to condos in the late 1980s.
    (see Edgemont Village in North Vancouver for a crowded, successful version from the 1950s era, hidden away unless you take the #246 or #232 Queens Avenue bus.)

    Other little Vancouver villages are at 53rd and Knight, the intersections of 12th and Clark, 35th, 41st, 49th along Clark, now turned in to Knight Street south of 14th Avenue.

    22nd Avenue East has a village at Rupert and another at Renfrew and 22nd. The latter’s Chula Vista grocery store had four Japanese neighbour stores until recently.

    But it has all gone to the 3 big chains that control 90 percent of grocery purchases, have large parking lots, loyalty cards pricing and ways to make people come back for the overpriced foods and dry goods they purvey.

    I wonder what will happen when the Safeway chain is sold to one of the others.
    Victoria used to interfere during grocery strikes, will they break up oligopolies that are bad for customers.
    What is the point of giving vegetable money bonuses if it goes mainlhy to the big expensive chains.

    Many such small grocery stores were near schools, sometimes on both sides, selling penny candy to children, and pop and crisps and cigarettes to high school students. Michael Kluckner in chapter 13 of his “Vanishing Vancouver” (2012) book laments some of their passing.
    He mentions the Venables Grocery near Lakewood Street that was found to be selling drugs later.

    I remember reading an old StatCan study of such corner stores, finding that they made no money, were run for long hours by families who only got a “good will” payment of about $10,000 when they sold out, having “lived off the store shelves” during that time.

    Many stores ran on a ‘slate’ offering credit to many families. People became tied to the store where their credit was. I heard about the Kerrisdale Grocery working that way and people upset they were tied to one store because they hadn’t paid off their slate.
    The Everbest (many names) Grocery at Venables east side of Commercial grocery when it was closed for condos on Commercial Drive had many goodwill stories in the local paper about the credit they extended people and the variety of foods and vegetable they sold over late hours.

    Sometimes the operators were forced out by landlords and had to go to work for someone else for the first time in their lives [ York grocery]

    The new corner groceries/general stores, ones with coffee shops mentioned in article is one approach to creating a working store.

    The Ng’s children had entered university and were ready to get out when they sold the Columbia Grocery on Hawkes in Strathcona that became the “Wilder Snail” ( It has free bike pumps, small parts and patch kits for cyclists near the bike routes)

    I remember reading an old report (not Tom Mcinnes, “The oriental question in Vancouver” (Prof. Patricia Roy will know from her many studies of Vancouver)) that a survey in 1926 (when Vancouver only went south to 16th Avenue), that the Japanese owned most of the taxis licences, most of the brothels and most of the grocery stores. [Weil you know what happened in 1942]

    As Andy Yan and Frances Bula note, there are many places that were groceries, but were taken out of inventory because of city policies. I know of a dozen or more.

    The Red and White chain used to have small meat departments in their stores too and were much preferred to the early Safeways. Kluckner notes a small butcher on the west side of the Kerridale Grocery.

    Groceries had living quarters at the back and upstairs, sometimes a dozen suites in a multi-story frame building above. So the closure of groceries or the displacement of grocery stores removed some rental suites.

    They were also the target of late night robberies because of their long, late hours, and ready cash registers.
    The small grocery on the opposite side of the Victoria Drive Grocery at William Street was one that finally shut down after a violent robbery.
    Victoria Drive Grocery became the anagramic Dr. Vigari gallery and craft furniture and arts store, and is now the very good Via Tevere Pizza.

    And what about the signs? Many were put up by CocaCola or Kik, or Pepsi or other drink with rondels on each end and store name in middle. If there were old marketing receipts for the signs, they might tell a story.

    Mikado on Hastings at Heatley used to have Kendo and Judo equipment.
    Kayz Grocery at 22nd and 3918 Victoria Drove has Table Tennis sales too.
    Dundas Grocery has honey

    Don’t forget the “Blue Laws”. The 1906 Lord’s Day Act closed most large stoes and markets on Sunday allowing such essential goods in small stores to be sold. ( See R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd for a landmark decision by Supreme Court of Canada where in 1982 the Court struck down the Lord’s Day Act for violating section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. )
    Add that even up to January 1937 when The Privy Council ruled invalid provincial laws regulating the marketing of tree fruits and vegetables that had the effect (intended) of stifling Chinese farmers. Ladner farmers Chung Chuck and Mah Lai had appealed to the Supreme Court.

    In April 19, 1958, Chuck Davis notes “Professional baseball tickets were sold on Sunday for the first time in Vancouver, at Capilano Stadium. On April 28 the Supreme Court of Canada would uphold B.C.’s approval of a Vancouver City Charter bylaw amendment permitting Sunday sports. Newspapers called it the end of the biggest public issue of the decade.”
    See the Vancouver Charter (1953) sections 206A and 206B
    And Susan Swift’s short study, “Sunday Shopping: A Legislative and Judicial History Current issue paper. Authors, Ontario. Legislative Research Service, 1991”
    Similar French text at

    Kootenay Loop Market made a fortune selling higher-priced goods and open on Sunday, next to the busiest bus terminus out of downtown, and their cousins 2 blocks east in Burnaby did the same thing.
    Peter Wilson of the Sun did a wonderful satire column on the cultural shows there.

    Sunday used to be quiet and non-shopping.
    Work weeks were 6 days, and then five and a half days, so large shopping was fitted in on the Saturday half-day. Otherwise the local horse-drawn vegetable truck and the milkman delivered food to homes.
    “Phone to Morrow for your ice/fuel/coal today” Morrow Coal and Ice. Tel: PA 5141, as Rafe Mair recalls nostalgically. Morrow Ice were on Station Street at Industrial Avenue. Run by Mildred Morrow of Kitsilano, they delivered anthracite coal to add to your wood supply for the furnace or stove, as well as ice blocks.

    Corner groceries were important for those gaps and things not pulled from the backyard victory gardens or the preserves shelf in the pantry or basement.
    There would only be one car if that, and that was taken to work. Groceries were schlepped in buggies and baby carriages.
    There were few fridges and many iceboxes, so shopping was done more often than once a week at the corner store. You can still see, in older houses, two small square holes in exterior kitchen walls leading to and from the icebox to outside, ice one on top and the warm air going out the bottom vent.

    It was a different time and life when they semi-flourished.

    ===== “dépanneur” =====
    And the term “dépanneur” used in this salon’s discussion reveals some ex-Montrealers where both the anglo and the franco word is dépanneur (from the French verb dépanner, meaning “to help out of difficulty” or “to troubleshoot”; often shortened to “dep” [ breakdown? ]), a Canadian French term designing some convenience stores and used mainly in the province of Quebec (although, some Franco-Ontarians and Acadians in the provinces of Ontario and New Brunswick may sometimes also refer to this term). Mordecai Richler called his London local off-licence his “dépanneur.”
    See the nostalgic photos link at the bottom of the Wiki page on “dépanneur”, some mentioned in Neil21’s comments above.

    Épicerie Granger sign on 16th and Heather was only you were in a French district in Vancouver. And there is another small collection of shops and workshops that might be called a village.

  • Bill Lee

    @boohoo #2
    Blekko or Google William’s Grocery 959 E 35th Avenue, Vancouver and lots of directories show up, but little else.
    You could go to and search the history.

    But go and have an ice cream there (Summer is coming, one day) and watch the street traffic. Windsor and 35th will get lotto tickets, some cigarette purchases and small items. But the area has large homes with all the food storage they need. Cars on the streets in the evening show that few walk, few shop other than large stores or the collection at nearby 41st and Victoria or Teng’s Market at 34th.
    It’s in the Gray’s Park neighbourhood, the site of recent complaints of city neglect.
    Might it have been part of the track circle when trams turned around at 33rd?

  • Everyman

    @Bill lee 14
    I’m having a hard time picturing the Mackenzie Village you refer to west of Lord Byng on 16th. Are you confusing it with the Mackenzie Village at 33rd and Mackenzie (which is still there)?

    The Mighty Oak is a beautiful little store with very nice owners. Sadly that kind of engaged citizenry could ill afford to purchase in that neighbourhood today.

  • @Bill Lee – Wow! Your comments are fascinating. Thank you for including such rich details. Are you a historian/researcher by vocation or avocation??

  • rf

    @ Everyman
    He’s comparing the little cluster that used to be at 16th and Camosun to what is currently in Mackenzie Heights.

    I went to elementary school right there in the 80’s. I can’t say I recall it every being much more than a very crappy little corner store. There was a store that sold Jade art that I don’t know if I ever saw a person or an ‘open’ sign in.

    It was hardly a gem. In fact….as I get older, I look back and suspect it was likely a bunch of money laundering/drug money fronts.

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    … the city’s zoning laws make it difficult to encourage those kinds of spaces.

    The subtext for that line should be:

    But [the city’s outmoded zoning practice] has not been able to crush them either.

    I would add to the list of corner stores the small chain supermarket run by managers that get involved supporting community events.

    In Mount Pleasant I’m thinking about the IGA on Main & 15th and the Buy-Low at the Kingsgate Mall.

    Both are tall-building redevelopment sites in the [really bad corporately drawn] neighbourhood plan. If they come on stream, then redevelopment may well have the effect of breaking what is becoming a trend in local retail and service.

    However, if we manage to turn the corner and move towards planning at the neighbourhood scale then we may be able to add oxygen to this movement with incremental intensification that builds on places that already work.

    At the neighbourhood scale 100 building sites with 3 units each are better than 1 building site with 300 units in total.

  • boohoo


    Yes, as is it is not much…but as it’s already zoned, it has potential. I walk my dog in that area most nights, the car traffic is quite light, but so is the ped traffic. No bikes to speak of, they’re all up on 37th.

    But, aside from 7-11 and Duffins, it’s the only walkable game in town–I wish it were more.

  • The viability of the massive food emporiums, Urban Fare, Metro-town’s Save-on-Foods etc., is dependent on long haul trucking.

    Has anyone related the demise of the corner store to the Massey Tunnel and the I5.

    The collapse of the Skagit River bridge may yet be the distant clarion heralding its reinvention.

    Port Mann 2 is an example of highway overreach. It’s ugliness (lame copy of an international design without understanding local climatic implications. Heating the cables: can it get more absurd?) portends the demise of the inter provincial and inter state high way system.

    Ergo, re-emerge the ALR, local food and the corner store: zoning will follow.

    The struggle has a long way to go. Monsanto is pushing GMO into every corner of the world and every corner is pushing back.

    Inevitability will prevail . . .

  • Ned

    Roger #21
    I’m not sure if you came across the new direction the EU is going in terms of “Monsanto” type agribusiness. The new EU configuration is basically the new dictatorship in Europe. Their equivalent of the “Food Administration Agency” that we have her in North America is basically imposing ALL farmers to register their seeds, crops, etc like you would register a copyright. Putting those farmers with less resources and $$ cash… out of business, basically bankrupting local agriculture in less fortunate European countries. MONSANTO is one of the consultants for this project…
    Go figure.

  • gman

    This is an interesting video on the Chinese truck farmers,its kind of long but relating to your comment on Monsanto he makes a very telling comment on the reason their farming practices changed after the war.At about 17 minutes in.

  • Ah…the good old days. Growing up near 41st and Dunbar in the ’60’s we had Mr. Pyatt’s store (think of Alf’s on Coronation Street before it became a mini-mart) and the Blue Moon Confectionery. We also had a Royalite, a Pay ‘n’ Save, a Shell and a Home Oil gas station. There was the Quick Hardware, a Safeway and a Bank of Nova Scotia. A few other small business too (Trim’s five and dime comes to mind). There were 2 pharmacies (Nightingale, where I had my first job at 11 as a delivery boy, and Morans), two bakeries and two barber shops. All with in a three block area. As an earlier poster suggested, this little village could survive then as most people walked to the store and carried their groceries home. The Royalite and Home Oil were the first casualties, then a Mac’s Milk opened and the Safeway expanded both in size and in hours. Some businesses expanded as other contracted, but as cars became more prevalent, shoppers could go to Kerrisdale or Oakridge to shop. Slowly the village disappeared. There are still shops at that corner but nothing like the ‘good old days’. The corner shop disappeared as malls, chains, and big box stores expanded.

    Now I live in East Fraserlands and the closest store is up the hill at Champlain Mall. We’d love to have a corner store in our neighbourhood but the economics don’t favour it. Hopefully when the new River District becomes populated we’ll have a ‘High Street’ with shops and other amenities. Maybe by then I will have gone full circle and returned to my childhood village. I can only hope.

  • Bill Lee

    You can do your own dataset work. Andy Yan of BTAworks in his article (link above) gave all the sources.
    You and I might be able to afford ARCGIS, (the Microsoft of Mapping software these days), but a grid of data names and locations can be put on Google maps and the like quite easily with ordinary well-known techniques.
    The Data

    Data set details:
    Business licence (XML)
    Business licence (XLS) Excel spreadsheet (XLS)
    Business licence (CSV) CSV format

    Data catalogue : Business licence
    Data currency comments : The extract on this website is updated daily

    Data set descripition: Under Licence By-Law No.4450, a valid business licence is required in order to operate a business in the City of Vancouver. A business licence can be obtained from the City’s Licence Office and is valid for the remainder of the calendar year unless stated otherwise.
    There may be a very small percentage of City of Vancouver addresses that do not have latitude and longitude information available.

    Attributes: Licence RSN, Licence Number, Licence Revision Number, Business Name, Business Trade Name, Status, Issued Date, Expired Date, Business Type, Business Sub Type, Unit, Unit Type, House, Street, City, Province, Country, Postal Code, Latitude, Longitude, Local Area, Number of Employees, Fee Paid.

  • brilliant

    I find it ironic that its easier for a developer to plop a highrise in the midst of single family homes than it is for an entrepreneur to put in a small neighbourhood coffee shop.

  • G. deAuxerre

    #26 Ironic? We have a severe housing crisis. We do not have a coffee shop crisis.

    You decry multi-housing in low density areas of SFDs surrounded by large lawns?

    We recommend you find a new handle.

  • G. deAuxerre

    Ask any commercial realtor. One the biggest killers of local shops is the arrival of a nearby Shoppers or a London Drugs. These are now small-scale department stores that sell al the convenience items a corner store carries, but for a few cents lower.

    Because the pharmacy-plus is now one-stop, in the mind of consumers, it is (a) more convenient and (b) cheaper.

    The only way a local is going to survive is that people support them, buy actually going in and purchasing. Even a few dollars a week. You can’t get all your shopping done there, but its critical to contribute. For example, buy all you dairy from the local shop.

    Sure it may be priced a little higher because they don’t handle bulk, but it keeps the shop alive. Convenience comes with a small cost.

    I get a groan when people moan about the closing of a local store, then I find out they only used it like a vending machine, to buy smokes, snacks and lotto tix.

  • Terry M

    GdeA @28
    You forgot to add Whole Foods for overpriced, BS organics in the groceries category; Chapters in booksellers; Pay Cash stores and of course Scotiabank, Bank of Montreal, TD Bank, HSBC… The usual hooligans.

  • Kenji


    Which is why it is important for the small store (like I know what I am talking about) to have a focus or specialty. Maybe they are a coffee shop with a little bit of groceries, or have hard-to-find minor luxuries like local honey or the best beignet in town, or great first name basis service, or something.

    I cannot find it in my heart to condemn people for looking for great deals at these large and boring chains. The small guy, not being able to compete on price or advertising, has to find the edge somewhere else, really hunt for it, build it up.

  • brilliant

    @G. DeAuxerre 26-nice to see someone show up with the usual passel of cliches pulled from Gordon Price’s fanny pack. Explain to us all how the rampant development of the last few years has helped to make housing affordable. I’m sure we’re all agog to hear your plan to build our way to affordability.

  • Higgins

    brilliant #31
    I would love to hear that explanation G.DeAuxerre!

  • Cheezwiz

    brilliant #31 & Higgins #32

    I’d love to hear it too! Condos condos everywhere, but no affordable housing options for most people in Vancouver.

  • Bill Lee

    @boohoo // May 30, 2013 at 1:46 pm #2
    Quoting boohoo
    “These are fantastic and badly
    missing from this City. The tunnel
    vision (pun intended) the City has
    about developing only along the
    arterials I do not understand.
    There is a run down corner store
    near my house at about 35th and
    Windsor. Just off the bike route.
    I’d love to see it re-purposed
    into a small shop/coffee
    joint/whatever. Great for
    community, great for building
    relationships…all good.”

    Looking for something else, while sitting in the NorthWest history section of the Central Library, I chanced to look up 959 East 35th Avenue, and find that, in 1950
    877 East 35th was Deluxe Meat Mkt Fr 3014
    [St. Catherines and Sommerville Intersect]
    959 East 35th was Esme Groc FR 4324
    also Hoshowsky, W same phone number
    And part of this 3 store “village….
    at 985 East 35th Jim’s Book Store.

    Which is in keeping with Madame Bula’s latest piece in Vancouver Magazine “Where is Vancouver’s Big Bookstore?: Can we really claim international standing when we can’t even support a decent destination bookstore?” By Frances Bula published Jun 1, 2013 or better, instead of 6 short pages to click through. as a single page.

  • Bill Lee

    Home > Report on Business > Industry News > Property Report
    PHOTO A bustling Loblaws has grown up at the bottom of a boutique seven-storey condo development at Queen and Portland streets in Toronto. Increasingly, developers are trying to make grocery stores part of their mixed-use developments right from the beginning – rather than an afterthought. (Jennifer Roberts for The Globe and Mail)

    Mixed-use Developments

    What sells condos? Grocery stores
    by BEVERLEY SMITH, The Globe and Mail
    Published Monday, Jun. 10 2013, 4:04 PM EDT

    Across Vancouver, mixed-use development – especially ones with specialty food markets or full-service grocery stores on the ground level – are popping up like mushrooms after a spring rain.

    Condo purchasers want a new kind of lifestyle – one of convenience. As living space shifts downtown, municipalities are shedding old zoning models in which homes were placed in one spot, retail in another, industry in yet another, and everyone drove from one to the other. In Toronto, the movement is ramping up. In Vancouver, where space is at a premium, it’s rampant.
    [ more 1400 words ]

  • Bill Lee

    re: #14
    Quote: “But [money] has all gone to the 3 big chains that control 90 percent of grocery purchases, have large parking lots, loyalty cards pricing and ways to make people come back for the overpriced foods and dry goods they purvey.
    I wonder what will happen when the Safeway chain is sold to one of the others.” EndQuote

    And it has happened and rumoured in the business press over six months ago, but not to one of the others (yet. Sobeys is in the Loblaw target one day when it gets into trouble)
    Sobeys to buy Safeway in $5.8-billion deal
    by Steve Ladurantaye, The Globe and Mail
    Published Wednesday, Jun. 12 2013, 4:32 PM EDT

    “Canada’s second-largest grocery chain Sobeys Inc. is going on a shopping spree, spending $5.8-billion to take over Canada Safeway Ltd.”
    “The deal adds 213 stores to the Sobeys chain, which already owns or franchises 1,300 stores under various banners including [Eastern] IGA, Foodland and FreshCo. Combined, the two chains will have annual revenues of approximately $24-billion.”
    …”A recent survey by Royal Bank of Canada found the average Canadian shopper spends $411 a month on groceries, and a third of respondents said rising food prices have had a “significant” effect on their finances.
    More than half of those surveyed – 57 per cent – said they are comparison shopping for food items more than before; 41 per cent said they are sticking more closely to a budget than before and indulging less in impulse purchases.”

    Sobeys has the eastern IGA (stands for Independent Grocers association, at one time a central buyer), (Western IGA is mainly the HY Louie (London drugs, etc. chain), Victoria based Thrifty food chain or 29 stores, 3 stores under Sobeys in the Peace River. The Empire movie chain (now closed on Granville Street) is theirs too.
    Will they do the right thing and improve the horrible labour contract that they forced on the Local 1518 UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers union)?

  • Bill Lee

    But as the CBC news notes, Sobey’s taking over Safeways may not bode well for smaller groceries.

    But Ernie Skinner, who owns two small grocery stores in Victoria, says he worries the deal means he won’t have any choice when it comes to purchasing his products wholesale.

    “I’m concerned that we’re going to end up with a food distribution system that’s much like the oil industry in Canada… there is no competition,” Skinner said.

    Ernie Skinner has been in grocery business 60 years and was half of the Thrifty food chain. Now he runs “Market on Yates” and Market on Millstream” in Victoria.
    His long career and leadership in the industry prompted the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers to honour him recently with a Life Membership designation.

  • Bill Lee

    Overwaitea goes to top of grocery list
    Grocer’s stock went up Wednesday with the news of Sobeys’ purchase of Canada Safeway
    Vancouver Sun
    By Gary Lamphier, Postmedia News June 15, 2013

    …”Since Safeway is a major part of the UGI (United
    Grocers Inc.) buying group along with Overwaitea and
    Metro, this deal effectively increases the purchasing
    costs for the remaining members,”
    observes CIBC retail
    analyst Perry Caicco, in a report issued shortly after
    Sobeys unveiled its long-sought deal for Canada Safeway.

    “It is not impossible that a few minutes after the
    (Sobeys) announcement, Overwaitea got on the phone and
    started a bidding process for their assets,” he adds. “We
    would remind observers that when Sobeys bought Oshawa
    Group in November of 1997, Loblaw bought Provigo seven
    days later.”

    Several other analysts also expect offers for
    Overwaitea to emerge soon, whether the bids are actively
    solicited by Pattison or not.

  • peakie

    Life & Death of Grandview’s Corner Grocery Stores

    IN an earlier post,
    we had described the presentation to GHG of the work created by our UBC student intern, Kevin Shackles, on the history, decline, and future of corner stores in Grandview, and their relationship to the development of retail business in the 20th century.

    Kevin’s excellent illustrated thesis can now be viewed as a pdf file.

    It is full of interesting analysis, photographs, and histories of specific corner stores in our neighbourhood. We hope you find it as interesting and valuable as we have.

  • peakie

    Burnaby corner store closes after 52 years
    Vancouver, BC, Canada / (CKNW AM) AM980
    Simon Little July 26, 2015 03:53 pm
    Picture at

    It’s the end of an era and a sign of a changing city.
    This weekend, after 52 years in business Lloyd Lee is retiring and closing up shop at Burnaby’s “Hilltop Grocery” on Douglas Road for the last time.
    It’s a small, green building, a ‘corner store’ of the type we so rarely see any more.
    A place for kids to get five-cent candies, and serves as a community hub.
    Lee says he’s watched generations grow up, and he says they always come back to visit.
    “When they grow up, and they move away, and they have children – when they come back they bring the children and visit and always stop here and say “hey, this is my favourite store.”
    Lee says the new owner plans to tear the shop down.
    He says he’ll miss it and the customers who have been stopping by for one last visit.
    Lee says he’ll be cleaning out the shop this week, leaving one last chance for anyone who wants to say goodbye.

    Also see the ” Andrews on Eighth” 279 East 8th Street (at St. Andrews Avenue), North Vancouver, built as a grocery with rooms on top in 1912.
    It is now taken over from being a penny candy store to being a coffee shop in the middle of suburban houses around Victoria Park, and as a base for a catering company.

    While the picture above in the North Shore news shows blue siding, the recent Google street view (with reflection of the Google Photo mapping car in the windows reflection) shows a more contemporary red and yellow colouring “a coat of Strathcona red paint trimmed with Victorian peridot and Edwardian buff accents.on front,” (with an earlier dated side view showing the light blue paint)

  • peakie

    And to go to the Parker Street Cafe at 985 Windemere, (9 am to 4 pm) a few blocks from the Adanac Bike route. Pancake wafffles and good coffee. They have sandwich boards on First Avenue when open.
    It used to be W. F Fife’s Store groceries and meat.
    The cafee is associated with the Ethical Coffee shop on Marine Drive in North Vancouver
    Last of the old remnants of the grouping of Windemere Meat Market, later cafe at 1004, Windemere Hardware which turned into later Frank’s Barber Shop and at 1008 Tommy’s Shoe Renu.
    North of this at 799 Windemere Market stil and there was another on 3115 East Georgia Market and Meats. All were around until the early 60s.

  • peakie

    Flashback Friday: The rise and fall of the corner store
    Fast disappearing from Richmond’s landscape is the family-run convenience store. by Matthew Hoekstra
    Richmond News October 9, 2015 12:57 PM
    – See more at:

    For decades, a long narrow building on No. 3 Road drew a steady stream of sweet-toothed children and cigarette-seeking adults. Until its recent closure, Hugh’s Market was one of Richmond’s last independent corner stores from another time.

    “Hugh’s was my corner store,” said Lori Foster, who grew up not far from the market at No.3 and Blundell roads. “It was a candy store for me.”
    Corner storeThe former Hugh’s corner store.

    Throughout her years at Ferris elementary school in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Foster would frequent Hugh’s for its bulk candy, Lik-m-aid Fun Dip, gumballs and tween magazines chockablock with David Cassidy photos. Sometimes, she’d pick up grocery items for her family.

    Chain stores have since cornered much of the market. Gas stations and their attached convenience stores have also moved in on corner store turf, as have supermarkets with near round-the-clock hours.

    Richmond still has corner stores — a new flower-focused one is moving into the Hugh’s building — but fast disappearing are the original family-run markets that found fortune in kids’ allowances. There was Ed, Fung and King. K Y Market, too. Hanging on today is Gene’s Food Market on No. 2 Road and Danny’s on Francis Road, although its original owners have since moved on.

    Beyond candy and smokes, the ordinary-looking stores served as neighbourhood… [ MORE ]

  • peakie

    Riley Park neighbourhood is rallying to save a local corner store
    The Simi Sara Show December 08, 2015 02:02 pm

    Owners of the Le Marche St. George, Pascal Roy and Janaki Larsen, are putting up a fight to keep their corner store open. Besides being able to purchase groceries, Le Marche St. George is also a French cafe and a gathering place that attracts many young families from the neighbourhood.

    While speaking on the Simi Sara Show, Roy stated that the problem began when a neighbor called the city complaining of strollers and toys on the sidewalk.

    “The city inspector had to come and it opened a can of worms. Apparently they gave us an outdoor seating license that they weren’t supposed to give us so now on Friday, they are coming and they will remove our outdoor seating license and our ability to serve food,” said Roy.

    Twitter text
    Please help Le March¦ St.George and other Neighbourhood Grocery
    Stores Survive!
    Posted by Le Marche St. George on Tuesday, December 8, 2015

    The restrictions would effectively close Le Marche St. George as they would no longer be able to generate enough revenue to remain open. There is currently an online petition circulating to urge the city to reconsider its decision.

    Listen to Simi’s interview with Pascal Roy, owner of Le Marche St. George:

  • peakie

    Marche St. Georges (and others) may be permitted.

    See the April Meeting of council

    The good news is that in this instance, the City did back down on
    their plans. Voices of reason and common sense prevailed. Changes to the
    zoning regulations that govern Neighbourhood Grocery Stores have been included in a Policy Report that was referred to a future Public Hearing by Council (April 5, 2016 is the next available date for a Public Hearing).

    The staff policy report notes that there are “19 neighbourhood grocery stores operating in single-family and duplex zones and 18 in multi-family apartment zones”; these establishments would also be covered by the zoning change:

    The basic overview of the proposed zoning change is as follows:

    The proposed change will look at restricting indoor and outdoor seating to a maximum of 16 spaces. An open question is whether 16 spaces are enough. Should a more realistic limit be in the 20-25 seat range in order to accommodate summer peak hours?
    It is important the get the details right in order to avoid future
    conflicts with bylaw officers; the 16 seat limit might just be a little
    shy of realistic needs of a corner store and café.

  • anthonyilke

    But there are also some except in the case of” restrictions. Would love
    to hear about anyone’s experience who tried to convert back to
    commercial and wasn’t allowed.