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.

Meeting Notes: April 2015

We had another exciting and stimulating meeting of the Grandview Heritage Group last night, with about 20 folks in attendance.  The topics we discussed were as wide-ranging as ever.

  • Ann presented information about a film screening and an art show, both of which will be of interest to Vancouver urbanists.  At the Grunt Art Gallery right now, until May 16, is an exhibition of photographic work by Henri Robidaux called “Eraser Street”, a take-off on Fraser Street.  Also, on Friday 24th April, Julia Kwan’s documentary exploring the changes in Chinatown and called “Everything Will Be” is being shown at the Hasting Community Centre.
  • Eric presented the latest in his series of monthly “Happening In the ‘Hood” guides. We looked at a number of older buildings that have been sold recently. There was a discussion about the City’s long term plans for the north side of E.1st by Clark Drive where they have owned the block for many years now.  This led to an interesting side-bar on the effect moving St Paul’s Hospital to the East End may have on local development and traffic patterns.  The future of the Bosa Grocery building on Victoria was discussed, as was the development right opposite that site. Eric also pointed out the deterioration in the Grandview Smoke Shop “Star Weekly” sign on Commercial.  Perhaps GHG could assist in the restoration.
  • Eric also reported on his visit to a workshop by Nickel Brothers on how to move a heritage house.  The average cost to move a house off-lot is about $35,000, and trolley lines are the biggest obstacle.
  • Our 429 Geog UBC student Kevin Shackles gave us his excellent prresentation on the history (and possible future) of the corner grocery stores in residential neighbourhoods, featuring Grandview. He covered the history of small retail merchandising and then examinded the histories of several local stores.  He noted the almost universal change to Chinese owners since the War.  In addition to his presentation, Kevin has produced a 20+ page XLS spreadsheet covering the entire range of stores in residential Grandview; a fabulous resource.  He also outlined a number of future research ideas for the future. It was an excellent exercise working with Kevin this year, and I know we all wish his the very best in his continuing education and future career.
  • Jak presented the idea (suggested by many others) that thereshould be Grandview Museum/Archives component in the Britannia Renewal planning that is currently ongoing. Jak will draft a letter giving GHG’s support to the idea.
  • We briefly discussed the 2015 Century Signs campaign, and whether or not to participate in Car Free Day this year.  These two events will be discussed in detail at the May meeting.
  • We also broefly discussed the current state of the Grandview Community Plan Citizens’ Assembly, which is now getting close to formally endorsing their recommendations.  Some cynicism of the process was still expressed.  The next, possibly final, Public Roundtable event is on 5th May.

All in all, another worthwhile event from GHG!

Notes From Our October Meeting

We had another fine turn-out for our October meeting, with some new and welcome faces.

  • We began by discussing the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhood’s all-candidates meeting.  The candidates’ responses re: the Heritage Action Plan were discussed.  It was also noted that all parties other than Vision had stated their opposition to the current Grandview Community Plan process.
  • The GHG presentation (by Penny and Brice) to the Community Plan’s Citizens’ Assembly on 4th October was briefly discussed.  The CA’s next meeting is on 25th October.
  • The sale of 2185 E. 5th was next up. With an asking price of about $1.6m, it was finally sold for over $1.9m, to a developer.  We understand he will probably do an HRA with infill, similar to Jeffs Residence. We will approach the realtor for a discussion of this and similar sales.
  • Next on the agenda was Brookhouse, 1872 Parker.  This is still sitting, apparently unoccupied but with the occasional light to be seen at night. There is no fresh news but, a couple of weeks ago, James Evans suggested that perhaps the current owner was realising his asking price is too high. So, maybe there is a still a hope for a sale to someone like James and then an HRA.
  • The history of the Howe House at Lakewood & Kitchener, and our method of tackling the mystery through directories, building permits, and censuses, was described. The family was tracked from a hotel in the West End at the turn of the century to Lakewood in the 1910s, and to a farm Langley in the 1920s.
  • Bruce Macdonald presented a first cut of his new 40-minute presentation work that describes the history of Grandview in terms that are specifically designed to be useful for considering the future of our neighbourhood. Very good conversation ensued.
  • One particular point that Bruce raises is that Grandview has been cut off from its sea shore, and very recently too.  There was general agreement that we need to regain that shore in some way despite the heightened security at the Port.
  • It was noted that the next GWAC Meeting, on Monday 3rd November at Astorino’s, will be a presentation of changes to Commercial Drive from a bike-lobby group.
  • Finally, we reviewed a request from Prof. David Brownstein for us to take another of his students to perform a project this year.  Last year’s exercise did not go particularly well, but we discussed a limited-focus idea about corner stores in Grandview.  This idea will be discussed further with Prof. Brownstein.

So good, so stimulating to meet with these folks every month.  Come join us!

Scott’s and other grocery stores

As reported in the previous post, Scott’s Grocery is having a close-out sale; Steve and Esther, who have run it for more than 20 years, are retiring to Burnaby, the building has been sold, and the new owner reportedly wants to build “apartments” on the RM4-zoned site. Here’s Scott’s in Google Street View:

scotts

… and a watercolour I painted of it a couple of years ago.

73scottsgrocery

Heritage staff at City Hall are aware of the property and have “put a mark on its file” that would flag it to any potential developer making an enquiry to demolish and replace. The lot, which is 33 x 120 feet, is too small to contemplate any sort of multi-family structure, and we haven’t heard of any attempted lot assembly on that side of the street – please let us know if you hear of anybody snuffling around looking to buy up the rest of the block. Under the Heritage Action Plan, the Director of Planning would have the right to deny a development permit for heritage reasons if there is any conditional use or non-conformities involved. Anyway, that’s way off in the future, we hope.

The question is whether the new owner will eventually see the building and its grandfathered commercial use as an asset and look for a new tenant that could make it cool, as have Via Tevere at William, Monarchy Boutique at Charles, South China Trading Company at Grant and Figaro’s at 3rd – all former grocery stores. This is only a partial list of the former commercial spaces dotted along Victoria Drive, all of which ought to be retained as they contribute to the uniqueness of our ‘hood.

Heritage Vancouver has posted Scott’s on its Facebook page.

Grandview’s former grocery stores would make a fascinating subject for a research project and presentation. For example, here’s a 1960s-era city planning department photo from the City of Vancouver Archives of the McLean Grocery on McLean at Napier, showing how bleak and un-vegetated the area once was (so typical of the city’s old neighbhourhoods in that era).

1960mcleangrocer

And the more-or-less current scene, from vPike:

mcleangrocery2

Any volunteers to do the research and source photos?

Meeting Notes: February

We had another excellent meeting last night, with some new people joining us for the first time. I think they had a good tme.  Our discussions included:

  • the Green House next to the Cultch.  Michael reviewed the history of our involvement and our desire to see the building renovated rather than demolished. It was noted that the City retains responsibility for the maintenance of the structure.  Given Clr. Heather Deal’s statement last month that the City would like to see a solution that retains the building, it was agreed that MK will draft a letter to Brian Jackson, James Boldt and others confirming our interest in ensuring the building’s survival.
  • Brookhouse — further to last month’s exciting news that our friend and colleague James Evans might be interested in saving this building in a manner similar to what he did with the Jeffs Residence, it was learned that he is still in negotiations with the current owner.  It was agreed that we would give him political backing by writing another letter to the City opposing any application to demolish the building.
  • 2014 Centenary Signs — It was agree that the next exploratory walk to find houses for this year’s celebration will take place at 10:00am on Saturday 15th March (or in the event of rain, on Sunday 16th).  A small working group will meet in advance to plan routes etc.
  • Scott’s Grocery — Blair advised us that Scott’s Grocery on Victoria is about to close.  It will cease operation at the end of this month and the building has been sold to a developer who, apparently, wants to put an apartment building on the small lot. We discussed the history of attempted “block-busiting” on both sides of that block.  It was also noted that the current zoning on Scott’s lot is RM4 and therefore a small apartment building would likely be within regulations. We discussed the history of Scott’s building (1920s) and the other corner stores (now all gone) in the neighbourhood. MK will inquire at the Heritage Commission meeting on Monday if there is any support for saving the streetscape on that block.  We also discussed the possibility of a project looking at the history of the various corner stores.
  • Astorino’s — No further developments to report.
  • Student Intern Project — No further developments to report. We hope to hear back from her soon.
  • Note was taken of two upcoming events:
    • 24th February: Meeting of the Commercial Drive Action Group at Britannia Boardroom at 7:00pm to discuss the future of Commercial Drive.  Seems like this might be mostly about bike lanes.
    • 6th March: Heritage Vancouver meeting at 938 Howe to discuss heritage in the context of the current Community Plans.
  • We finished the evening in high style with another in Eric’s Heritage Mechanics and Materials series of illustrated talks.  This was Part 2 of Home Heating.  After reviewing the various fuel types he had discussed at last month’s meeting, Eric took us on a tour of fireplaces, kitchen stoves, parlour stoves, various furnaces, steam and hot water systems, radiators, kerosene heaters and various furnace and radiator control systems.  Marvelous stuff that included the observation that the introduction of furnaces had a profound effect on building design as a basement (often a raised basement in Vancouver) was a requirement for the furnace and fuel supplies.