Mailbag: Shop New West this Christmas

Here at Tenth To the Fraser, our editorial team has been kicking around ideas for localizing our Christmas celebrations this year. Our family will attempt to source most of our food locally, and I had in mind to explore local shopping opportunities as well. One of our readers is taking it one better, and plansRead More

Here at Tenth To the Fraser, our editorial team has been kicking around ideas for localizing our Christmas celebrations this year. Our family will attempt to source most of our food locally, and I had in mind to explore local shopping opportunities as well. One of our readers is taking it one better, and plans this year to do all her family Christmas shopping locally.

Hey there.  I just checked out your blog for the first time today at the suggestion of my husband, Blair Fryer [ed. note: Blair is the City of New West’s communications manager].  What a great resource for New West!  I just posted a link on my Facebook page so that all of my NW friends can check it out. 
I also wanted to tell you about something Blair and I are doing this Christmas which might be of interest to you.  We’ve decided to do all of our Christmas shopping in New West this year, purchasing as much as possible from local businesses. (The Wii for the kids might be the only exception.  Best Buy is technically in NW but doesn’t exactly qualify as a local business!)  There are so many fabulous new shops and galleries on Columbia and E. Columbia, I don’t think we will have any problem finding perfect gifts for our family members, teachers, coaches etc.  Gifts certificates for a our favourite cafes and restaurants are another option.  I’m planning to let all of our friends know about this via email and Facebook in hope that others will consider doing the same, or at least supporting some local businesses as they make their Christmas purchases.  It’s a great way to support our community, particularly during such difficult economic times.  It’s also a message to other businesses that NW is a great place to set up shop.
Congratulations again on your blog!

Rebecca Maurer

Thank you for your note Rebecca! Your email was a timely reminder for us (and our blog readers) to remember New Westminster businesses when planning our Christmas shopping this year.

In the post I wrote on Peter Julian‘s idea for a destination B.C. history museum and arts centre downtown, my co-author Jocelyn said in the comments

I vote they take over the Burr theatre and knock down an ugly next-door neighbour for the museum part. Columbia seems perpetually on the edge of greatness, perhaps this would push it over. Can’t you see Columbia as the Commercial Drive of the Fraser?

The funny thing is, while Columbia may be teetering on the edge of greatness today, once upon a time the ‘golden mile’ was the place to shop. A recent Newsleader article paints the picture:

It was the 1950s and 1960s, boom years for New Westminster’s most famous street nicknamed the “golden mile.”

Woodward’s, Eaton’s, Army and Navy and Spencers, all dominant retailers of the time, were found on the mile—actually four to six busy, crowded blocks.

It was one of the busiest retail districts in Canada, said historian Archie Miller—busier than Toronto’s Yonge Street, Vancouver’s Granville Street and Montreal’s rue Sainte-Catherine.

Think about that for a minute. Busier than Younge Street, Granville Street or rue Sainte-Catherine. Oh, New West! What a decline! And yet it is improving. More boutique businesses are opening along Columbia and in Sapperton, and many locals are hopeful that we really could be approaching the tipping point to retail greatness once more. If and when we do, it will be thanks to people like Rebecca and Blair, who look away from the generic frenzy of mall shopping and seek out unique gifts from local shopkeepers. 

Briana Tomkinson

Briana Tomkinson is a Montreal-based writer and original founder of Tenth to the Fraser. She really likes to write letters by hand.

Briana Tomkinson is a really valued member of the Tenth to the Fraser community. Interested in joining our pool of writers? Please see these submission guidelines.


  1. As newbie New West'ers, we have NO IDEA what's here! I'd love a run-down of some places to hit up (gosh, we haven't even found a drycleaner yet!)Oh, and BOO to Hon's for not delivering to Queensborough until 8pm every farking night of the week! ;-P

  2. Bree, can we open up the comments for suggestions on shops that might have some awesome gifts? I find some of these places are a little lost in terms of where they are.

    I'd like to nominate Clever Mink's Gifts on Carnarvon just a few feet from the courthouse, The Bug Lab, in their new location at the foot of 6th Ave, Lofty Living on Columbia (they are awesome on the customer service, too) and finally, Cartwright Jewellers on 6th Ave uptown. Ross and I have been trying to shop locally for everything for a long time, but there are some serious gaps in retailers and I'd love to see retailers respond to that! There is no fabric store in New West (and Walmart recently stopped carrying fabric by the metre) so good luck MAKING your gifts. There is no general craft shop to speak of and so you have to go to Micheals or Walmart for supplies (although, admittedly, the A&N has some stuff and specialized shops such as Paper Poet do exist). There is also no garden store. I'd be happy to trade one of the (off the top of my head -Dear City Hall stop approving business license applications for dollar stores, geesh) 12 dollar stores for one good fabric and craft shop and one good garden store any day. Finally (this is a long winded comment, sorry) a few years ago, I made the New Year's resolution that I do not step foot in a mall after December 1st. I have stuck to that resolution (perhaps the only one ever) and I gotta tell you, it makes shopping SO much more enjoyable!

  3. Cadeaux Gifts in Sapperton and Pedagogy Toys there also are good places for gifts.

    There is also a new Toy/Hobby shop open kind of across the street from the old Hobbycraft on Carnarvon and 6th street. I have not been there yet but I know the owner is a specialty Lego fanatic and a kite aficionado, so it is probably worth a visit.

  4. Dearheart – I think we NW’ers forget about Queensborough, and how difficult it can be to be so isolated. Interested in guest-posting on what it’s like to live there?

    on the gift locations: – I’ll second Jen’s comment on the superfluous dollar stores – there’s nothing that says “municipal decline” like plural dollar stores. (I think it was the death knell for Royal City Centre!)

    I second the Lofty Living store – I also like the furniture store on Columbia in the old Booktown outlet (is that lofty living? I don’t know their name.) I like London Drugs, to be honest, and it’s a homegrown Canadian Company founded by Brandt Louie, chancellor of SFU. I’ll second Cadeaux in Sapperton, and it’s nice to hear someone praise Cartwrights – that guy has been in NW for soooo long! We need to interview him.

    I used to like some of the 12th St. Antique stores for gifting, and now that we have chickpea (front street) who needs to go anywhere else for boutique kids stuff?

    Jen – I totally agree about the fabric and craft store.

  5. Ooh! I have another idea. Don’t forget services for gifts. I’m thinking – certificates for massage from Westcoast School of Massage Therapy on Columbia, or a mani/pedi from eclipps hair cafe on 6th in Uptown.

    I wish the anvil bookstore was still on 6th. It was pretty great – though I hear the shoe store is still there? in the same strip mall where Orange Room used to be.

    What about the children’s clothing store that used to be at the corner of 8th ave and 1st street – in a tiny old strip mall behind the canadian tire?

  6. sorry – have another idea.

    I’ve dug up some more, such as
    Champagne Taste home decor, at the foot of Royal ave where it meets Columbia/stewardson

    there’s a furniture store with a very strange name, right beside the starbucks on columbia street – it often has some neat crafty and decor items, though the new owner has turned it into mostly import furniture from india and thailand

  7. dearheart – good drycleaner is at the corner of 8th Street and 4th Ave… I can’t remember their name, but I have sent through clothes, sleeping bags,and my precious faux fur hat and all came out awesome looking at good prices.

    Champagne Tastes is hit or miss – some days its endless the stuff I want to buy and other days its really sad and dusty musty overpriced estate crap.

    Black Bond Books is still in Royal City Centre – I don’t know how it survives but its an excellent bookstore with good customer service.

    i tell ya – there are five items left on my list and do you think I can find any of them here in NW?

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