Be Excellent to Each Other

In 2009 I jumped at the chance to contribute to Tenth to the Fraser. The site’s mission – to connect New Westminsterites to one another online – was something I could get behind. When the site’s founders moved to Montreal to pursue an opportunity they couldn’t refuse, I decided to keep Tenth going.

Together with Johanna, a talented local graphic artist I’d partnered with on many paying gigs over the years, we launched the print edition of Tenth to the Fraser. We published seven bi-monthly editions along with frequent online-only content. The issues were compact and well-received.

I am still grateful at the generosity of many writers, artists, photographers, editors, and distributors who helped keep it going by writing for free or cheap, and to the subscribers and advertisers who put cash in the bank so we could pay the printing bills. In the end, though, we weren’t able to sustain it. In April 2017, we made the decision to shutter the business-side of stuff and discontinue the print magazine.

For just over a year, Tenth has sat more or less dormant while I worked out what to do with it, and how to make space for it in my life. The longer it has sat, the bigger a mental load it has become. I think Tenth still has value; people still read Tenth online and they still access the social channels.  After a lot of thought, I’ve decided it needs a new format and a new volunteer keeper.

So now, along comes Carly. Or rather, @theregoesCarly.

You may have seen her online, at the farmers market, or out pedestrian-ing in our fine City. I’m super pumped to be handing the reins over to Carly Fryer for another reimagined Tenth that will reflect where New West is now, and what people want to see from the … I don’t know… institution? that Tenth to the Fraser has been.  She could use help, so get in touch if you’re into it.

I’m still around in the community and you might see me pop up on Tenth as a contributor from time to time. If you know me, we’re probably already connected online, but you can find me on Twitter or Instagram if you don’t. Thanks for being a part of this with me. Stick around for the next chapter and please make Carly feel welcome.

~jen out

 

 

Stop. Hammer Time.

(Who doesn’t want to be able to start a post that way?) 

Join the Spare Parts Adventure Society at Hammer Time! A Pop-Up Fundraiser on April 27, 2018 at 7:30 at New Westminster’s River Market. Tickets are $20 per person and all money raised go directly to helping the Spare Parts Adventure Society bring more pop-up playground events to New Westminster’s parks and events.

The fundraiser includes a building contest where everybody is invited to use spare parts and their imaginations and creativity to build something exciting. Parents often remark that their kids have a load of fun building and creating at Spare Parts Adventure pop-up playground, so now everybody will have the chance. The best creations will win prizes such as a Steel & Oak gift pack and swag from Patterson Brands.

There is also a silent auction with over 20 incredible items generously donated by local companies such as Wild Rice, The Wine Factory, and Cartwright Jewelers. And if you like theatre and live entertainment, come out and bid on packages from Massey Theatre, Bard On The Beach, Out On Screen, and the Vancouver Symphony.

Dedicated to offering children and youth access to free child-driven educational opportunities, Spare Parts Adventure holds workshops and day activities where kids build their own playgrounds using raw materials such as rope, tarps, pvc pipe, wood, tires, or anything that enables a child’s imagination to flourish. Since 2016 Spare Parts Adventure has put on workshops for youth in various New Westminster neighbourhoods, helping them to develop self-reliance by taking risks and experience active play in barrier-free environments while developing their problem solving and teamwork skills.

Tickets are $20 per person and are available through Eventbrite — search for “Hammer Time” at eventbrite.com. More information about Spare Parts Adventure can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sparepartsadventure/ 

 

The New West Pho Scene

I know right now everyone is talking cookies and tofurkey, eggnog and chocolate, but I’ve got another kind of winter warmer on my mind – pho. Pho is food I crave basically anytime I’m feeling a cold coming on, or anytime it is raining or grey (so basically October to March here on the West Coast, unless you are the Winter of 2016/2017 and then you were nothing but sunny and ice-freakin’-cold so same-same, really). I know ramen is all the rage, but as far as I can tell, ramen has not taken hold of New West the way pho has.

What you like about pho is probably different than what I like about pho, so your results will almost assuredly vary from me. For me, it’s about the broth, primarily, but also about how well assembled all the bits are, and what the noodles are like. If you’re not familiar with pho, it is a Vietnamese noodle soup. It is typically made with beef broth, though a few restaurants have been introducing vegetarian versions. In New West, there is also V Cafe on the corner of Carnarvon and 8th Street, and I haven’t included them here because it’s really hard to compare a vegetarian version of pho with the beef broth version. But, the V Cafe is definitely worth a stop in as their daily specials are usually an awesome price and their menu is more than just vegetarian pho.

If you’re a pho-novice or have never tried it, Vincent and Mikey Kha, a father-son duo who own a pho restaurant give you a good primer of what goes into pho and how to eat it, plus a little note on pronunciation (which is why I didn’t call this post the “New West Pho-Down” despite that being a really incredible pun opportunity).

Pho is also typically cheap, hot, and fresh, with a special emphasis on the cheap part. I once considered making pho at home, but I cannot duplicate the quality you’ll get at even the crappiest restaurant for the price you typically pay, because of the work required and the long list of ingredients you need. Campbell’s recently came out with pho broth, but it’s somewhat telling that if you Google that, you will get next to no results returned that aren’t generated from Campbell’s themselves.

For “science” for this Pho Tour, I ordered the same thing from each restaurant as best as I was able (small pho tai which is pho with rare beef steak in it, with ham and shrimp salad rolls, and tea), and I also consistently went at lunch. I applied a $ to $$$ rating based on what my bill was, rather than give you the specific bill amount, since that will change over time anyway.

The TL; DR winner here in New West is Saigon Ivy, but read on for the details of the five restaurants I tried.

Saigon Ivy, at 520 6th Street in Uptown New West is my clear winner. They have the best service of all five restaurants I visited, and their broth had the most robust flavours. It was salty without being too salty, and had the most depth. Their salad rolls come with both ham and shrimp and were nicely moist and their peanut sauce was the best of the bunch They also came in as one of the cheaper restaurants. The bowl size was ample. $$

Pho Chung Nam is uptown as well, located at 522 Sixth Avenue. They had a pretty robust menu of other things besides pho, so they do a very brisk lunch business and they’ve been around for ages. Service is great. Their salad rolls are just prawn, and they only offer their pho as a one size. It is piping hot, and comes out really fast, and the tea never stops. $$

Pho Chan is over on the east side, in Royal Square Mall at 800 McBride Boulevard. Downsides for me are that their salad rolls don’t have ham, just shrimp, and the restaurant is set up so that you can’t not watch TV, usually set to cooking shows.Pluses: the staff are friendly and service is decent. Plus, they use a deeper style of spoon than the typical white plastic pho spoon, which I liked. Their broth was nothing to write home about, but didn’t offend either, and that’s basically the entire restaurant’s review – nothing to rave about, but nothing bad. Pricing was slightly higher than I expected for what I got, but I didn’t feel it was out of line: $$$.

Pho Pho You is the newest pho restaurant here in town, located downtown at 441 Columbia Street. I’d heard a lot of buzz about them when I visited, and I walked away a bit disappointed. Their pricing was good, and their broth was decent, but they were out of basil – an essential ingredient in pho – which was surprising. The rare beef steak was cut way too thick so it was hard to eat or even pull apart and there were waaaayyyy too many onions in the bowl. And, despite being the only person in the restaurant, I had to ask three times to get my tea refilled. $$

Pho Maxima was once my favourite, back when it was located on Edmonds and Canada Way, but has fallen far down the list, though the food is still pretty decent. Now located on the west side at 822 20th Street, it’s not the easiest to get to via transit. Unfortunately, the parking lot is a nightmare because of the other tenants in the strip mall (a preschool and a daycare and a pizza joint who will come out and yell at you if you park in front of their shop despite nothing being marked) and the restaurant is probably the coldest room I’ve ever sat in – most likely from the plywood door. They need some physical improvements badly to their space and it really ruined what used to be a reliable experience for me. They were less expensive than the others I went to, but the the food wasn’t great enough that it made it easy to overlook everything else. $

 

 

 

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Analog After Dark / Pop Up Vinyl Shop Returns

On Saturday, November 18th from 6:30-11:00 pm, record labels, collectors, and vinyl lovers from across Metro Vancouver will gather in New Westminster for an evening of music, beer, community and of course crate digging.

First launched by Steel & Oak Brewing Co. and the Arts Council of New West in the fall of 2016, the third edition of Analog will take place in the River Market food hall at 810 Quayside Drive from 6:30-11:00 pm. Select River Market food hall vendors will be open for the evening with vinyl sales from 6:30 pm onwards.

“Our last event was a huge success and we’ve managed to build a community of vinyl enthusiasts eager to support local labels, shops and collectors.” says Steel & Oak co-owner Jorden Foss. “The vibe in the spring was electric and people loved spending an afternoon browsing for records, while also enjoying some amazing music, good food and beer. They’re definitely going to like what we’re doing with the after dark concept.”

Adding to the evening of vinyl shopping and sipping craft beer, the Arts Council of New West is collaborating with local electronic music night organizers Social Medium to program a lineup of vinyl DJs playing a range of hip-hop and electro through to house and techno with live video mixing and visuals from local artist and DJ Mutes Ito.

In addition to popular returning vendors Scrape Records, Music Madhouse & Northern Electric are a handful of collectors, new recruits Highlife Records, and internationally recognized electronic music labels Hybridity Music, Pacific Rhythm and Mood Hut.

“We’re super excited for the event! It’s fun working together with our friends at Steel & Oak and Social Medium to bring an innovative event like Analog built around the arts that is a bit out of the ordinary from what people might expect of New West.” says Stephen O’Shea of the Arts Council. “We’re always looking for ways to surprise people and do something creative that they might not have seen before.”

New for this event is a limited edition S&O beer called High Fidelity, brewed especially for the event. “We wanted to have some fun with the after dark concept and think people are going to really dig what we’ve put together.”

Analog: Pop Up Vinyl Shop hits River Market at 810 Quayside Drive, November 18th 6:30-11pm. Register here. 

Ten Reasons to Shop at Royal City Gogos’ Craft Fair

  1. Come for the vibe – there is great fun. It’s a chance to meet your neighbours, chat with your friends, and compare purchases with strangers.
  2. Be inspired by the imagination and creativity of the artisans. They will tell you about their inspiration for the items, their pleasure in creating them and how they were made. You’ll have story to tell about meeting the artisan.
  3. There’s food! Savoury finger foods on Friday night, pastries on Saturday and BBQ hotdogs on Sunday for Family Day.
  4. Shatter your generational stereotypes about what a senior craft sale would include. Support their activism as feminists, artisans and AIDS advocates.
  5. Listen to the stories about African grandmothers who are caring for children orphaned by the AIDS and their struggle to feed, clothe, and send the orphans to school.
  6. Understand the solidarity between Canadian and African grandmothers in caring for the future hope of Africa.
  7. Learn about the profound effect the money raised from the sale will have for the millions of orphaned children connected to community-based projects funded by the Stephen Lewis Foundation.
  8. On Sunday you should come back with your kids. Children can create at the imagination station, decorate and devour homemade cookies, do a little shopping for specially-priced family gifts with the help of the New West Youth Ambassadors as personal shoppers. Meanwhile you can do some serious craft shopping on your own.
  9. Shop locally. Why drive downtown when you can shop for artisanal quality products close to home? Unifor, 326 12th Street has easy, free parking, free admission, and is wheel-chair accessible.
  10. Enjoy feeling good about buying meaningful handcrafted items and giving back to others at the same time.

 

See royalcitygogos.org for more details.

 

Neighbourhood Economic Development

A friend recently posted online about a new store opening in Sapperton and was a bit dismayed it is going to be “another pharmacy”.

I share her concern to a degree, because I’ve watched excellent businesses in Sapperton shutter their shops due to a lack of walk-by traffic. Almost all businesses on the sleepy east end of E. Columbia Street are destination businesses such as vacuum repair, a karate dojo, specialized veterinarian surgery, home brewing supplies. There are few reasons to stroll this section with a retail mind now. Recently, the Bloom Bloom Room has rejigged her business to operate out of a warehouse rather than a more expensive retail space, and Cadeaux closed entirely, its signature pink building sold to a team of dermatologists who are, for the time being, holding it. I do frequent quite a few of the businesses in the neighbourhood, but that’s because I would be a customer of theirs no matter where they went. For example, I learn karate at the Hawkes Martial Arts dojo, I buy my home brewing supplies from Curtis at Barley’s Homebrewing.

A few of the people who commented on my friend’s post suggested the City should make rules about what sorts of business can rent empty store fronts, but the truth is, aside from a few regulated types of businesses like gun shops, cannabis dispensaries, childcare spaces, breweries, and apparently arcades that serve alcohol, the City has little jurisdiction over who gets to rent spaces. The main decider is the property owner and they are governed mostly by zoning.

“The extent of the City’s control over types of businesses locating here is via land use regulations and zoning,” said Blair Fryer, Director of Economic Development for the City of New Westminster when I reached out for clarification.

“The business referred to in the Facebook conversation is consistent with the zoning on this street,” he continues. “It is actually not a pharmacy per say but a ‘health service centre’ which, given the significant expansion underway at Royal Columbian Hospital, is not out of place in this area of the City.” For further info on C-3 zoning, including a list of the variety of businesses that could locate in this stretch of E Columbia, check out the City’s website (C-3 zoning info starts on page 16).

Show Me the Money

High turnover of product would be required to make a vinyl shop successful, right?

I also regularly hear that leasing costs are simply too high. But are they? Jolene Foreman, a commercial real estate agent and owner of CPS Realty says the rates are what the market will bear. “Commercial rents are calculated based on several different factors including, but not limited to: local and surrounding market rents, BC Assessment rates, location and use of units. Depending on how the current market is going [currently very HOT], landlords may wish to hold on to units. Thus keeping them vacant, offering to lease at above market rates or offering for short term leases only.  This gives the landlords more flexibility and reduces lost opportunity costs should the market continue to rise. For landlords it’s an investment business. In some situations, there may be a cost savings to keep a unit vacant while waiting for the market to rise.”

The Economic Development office at the City agrees. “We hear this too and if we went by the anecdotes rents are ‘too high’ everywhere,” says Fryer. “In fact, New West’s retail lease rates are competitive in the region (see Street Front Lease Rates on page 2 of this Cushman Wakefield report fromQ4 2016). Also, lease rates are set by property owners and while property values across Metro Vancouver are increasing, there are mechanisms in place that municipalities use to ensure business property taxes aren’t increased at a similar rate.”

BC Assessment (BCA) is responsible for determining a property’s assessed value which is used along with the City’s property tax rate for Business Class property to calculate the tax levy for 2017. Each year when the City sets property tax rates, they are restricted to having one tax rate for each property classification – there are nine classifications set by BCA. As part of their annual tax setting process, the City reviews the average market shift in each property class and then adjusts the tax rates to eliminate market changes.

“All municipalities do the same in order to ensure property tax revenues are stable and not subject to market swings,” says Fryer. “It provide a little more certainty for property owners regarding their annual property tax bill. So for 2017, the City reduced its business property tax rate in order to eliminate the average market shift of 12.1%.”

Great Business Ideas That Don’t Happen

In theory, people are going to buy a wedding dress only once. But, they also buy lunch, bridesmaid dresses and giftware.

One of the businesses I’d like to see in sleepy little Sapperton is a produce store, something like Langley Farmers Market on Kingsway just into Burnaby, or like a Kin’s where the focus is on produce but where you can also grab other essentials like eggs, milk, or tofu. There was a produce place, once, in what is now Royal City Physio (if you’ve ever wondered why their door looks like one of those automatic doors, that’s why!) but again, it comes back to this: there was not enough support to keep that business open. People choose to buy their produce at Save-On, Safeway, Superstore, or Walmart or even through delivery services like Spud.ca. Despite having free parking and decent prices, that produce shop shuttered its doors and a barbeque restaurant/organic shop gave it a go for a few months before the space was converted to the physiotherapy office.

The types of businesses in this neighbourhood aren’t necessarily for me (I haven’t needed physio for years, fortunately, and my pets haven’t needed eye surgery, thank goodness) but these are important parts of the local economy that shouldn’t be overlooked. We’ve all heard the lament of the bridal district in downtown New Westminster, right? All types of business are important in New Westminster, even if you never see yourself patronizing that business. I am never going to buy another wedding dress, but I see the bridal shop value to downtown New West in terms of economic spinoff, for example.

“A dynamic local economy includes a variety of businesses and services that create employment opportunities, provide services and create economic spin-off,” says Fryer.

Kendra Johnston from the Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Association echoes Fryer’s comments. “We understand how the bridal shops and other destination shopping businesses don’t necessarily serve local community, they do however create plenty of spinoff that supports other businesses locals find more appealing. The destination shopping of Downtown New West’s bridal shops have kept many other businesses going over the years and have been an overall positive in terms of economic development growth for our business community. As the population here grows and demand for other businesses increases, we will see different shops and restaurants open, those that will likely be more appealing to local residents.”

Business *Is* Booming in New West, but Change is Hard

In 2016, there were 609 active home based business licenses and a total of 2701 business licenses attached to a New Westminster street address (i.e. physically located in New West). If you subtract 609 from 2701 that leaves 2092 licensed “brick and mortar businesses” with New Westminster addresses. In a city with a population sitting at around 70,000 with only 15 square kilometres, these numbers seem robust to me. (Thank you to the Economic Development office for providing me the numbers.) They may not be all the businesses I want them to be, but frankly, they’re pretty good and increasing year over year.

Will I ever see a bagel shop in New West?

So, how can residents advocate for the types of businesses they want to open? One really simple way is to reach out to the businesses you love in other communities (LOOKING AT YOU, SOLLY’S BAGELS) and tell them New West is great and welcoming and needs them. Remind them a few times. Send emails and suggestions to their social media. Talk favourably about them to everyone you know. Encourage others to do the same.

Another way is to join committees. The Economic Development Advisory Committee is a standing committee at the City of New West. Take action and apply to be a member. Join your local residents’ association as well and talk about businesses in the area you live in. Get people talking about it.

“This is a popular topic of discussion at business roundtables we attended with the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce recently,” said Fryer. “New Westminster is a great place to invest and start a business. It’s important that business owners help spread that message to their peers and, in areas that aren’t served by a formal business improvement association, consider organizing together to help shape the future of their business district. As for getting a business started, the economic development section of the city website is good resource. We are constantly updating and adding new information that can provide assistance to entrepreneurs on decisions around where to locate along with local economic trends.”