Category Archives: Shopping

Shop owner and brew enthusiast, Curtis Van Marck

Barley’s Homebrewing Supplies a welcome addition to Sapperton

There is a significant amount of excitement at my house these days because no longer will my husband have to head to Vancouver to pick up beer making supplies (one of the better known and more popular suppliers in the region has set up shop on Hastings, just east of Main) to knock off a batch of basement brew. Even more exciting is that just-opened-today local business, Barley’s Homebrewing Supplies,  has opted to find space in Sapperton – within walking distance of our house. This bodes well for those doh! moments in home brewing when you realize you have the wrong kind of yeast or not enough hops, or not enough growlers to bottle the batch (although judging from the glass collection under my stairs, that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon).

Home brewing has become pretty huge in our house lately. Ross and his friends have started out big, choosing to go all-grain right off the bat, meaning, they are actually boiling up the grains rather than mixing extracts up. It’s akin to starting with grapes when you make wine rather than buying a kit with powders or extracts you mix together. Purists argue it is better beer, and also more controllable or customizable. Once every few weeks, our basement and laundry room are transformed into full-on nano brewery, and I suspect it is only a matter of time before more permanent brewing installations will be suggested for that empty corner of the basement.

Today I popped into Barley’s Homebrewing Supplies to see what owner Curtis Van Marck, had to offer on his first official day in business. Curtis hails from Edmonton by way of East Van, and chose New Westminster as the location for his business because of a large home brewing population in the suburbs, and because of its proximity to the Skytrain. And while I can’t imagine personally hauling 16 pounds of grains to or on the train, the proximity to a Modo car sharing car at Sapperton station is definitely attractive for those who opt not to own their own car.

Van Marck has lined his shop (located at 101-455 E Columbia Street) with tubs of grains, a variety of yeasts, and assorted other supplies like sanitizer, bottle racks, bungs, carboys, and mash tuns. Don’t know what any of that is? It’s okay to ask. On his site Curtis offers some advice and how-to’s to get you going, in-store, he offers the supplies and gear to make it happen (plus a shelf for us wine drinkers and wannabe wine brewers, though that’s not the focus of the shop). Fun feature? A bike powered grain mill.

While inventory is still trickling in, he is now up and running every day except Tuesdays (breaking rank on the long standing closed-on-Mondays-New-Westminster-ism that drives me bonkers) and maintains the following hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays: 10-6, Thursdays he is open later to accomodate those that plan ahead for weekend brews from 10-8, and Sundays 11-5.

You can find Barley’s online, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

(If you are into homebrewing in New West, you can also check out the Brew Westminster Google Group (you need to ask to join to cut down on spammers) and use #brewwestminster on Twitter.)


The shops I wish we had in New West

If New West's fairy godmother offered to fast-track a few new shops, here's what I'd wish for ... (Photo: suttonhoo on Flickr)

If New West’s fairy godmother offered to fast-track a few new shops, here’s what I’d wish for … (Photo: suttonhoo on Flickr)

I have many favourite boutiques and restaurants in New West, and it seems to me there are more opening all the time. But if I had a fairy godmother who would fast-track a few new businesses for me, here is what I would wish for:

A truly great coffee shop
New West does not lack for coffee shops, but it does lack for great coffee. A JJ Bean would be awesome, or better yet, something like Raw Canvas in Yaletown, which combines great coffee with a great creative space (and turns into a wine bar / lounge at night!). I want it down on Columbia Street, which just seems like the right place for a cool cafe.

An indoor play space for kids (that is also comfortable for parents)
While restaurants and cafes with adjacent play areas are popular in other parts of the city (Kinder Cafe in Coquitlam, Rocky Mountain Flatbread on Main, Cafe Deux Soleils on Commercial), there isn’t anything in New West or nearby. There are also large indoor active play areas, Koko’s Activity Centre in Port Moody, Crash Crawly’s in Coquitlam and Jungle Jac’s in Pitt Meadows, but all of these are awful for parents – and far away to boot. I would love to see a fun place where kids can play on a rainy day and parents can sit in a comfortable chair and chat with each other over good quality coffee and snacks. Bonus points if the food is healthier / more interesting than just hot dogs and pizza. I had thought that the space where Dynamic Health and Fitness is now in Royal City Centre would have made a great large indoor play space, but River Market would be another good bet for a mid-sized space. A restaurant with a small play area could be done anytime by any of our existing restaurants. Yes, it’s fewer tables, but you wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve overheard local parents (mostly moms) pining for such a space in New West.

A hip greasy spoon diner
Back when Will and I lived downtown (years ago!), we’d often head out to The Templeton for a hearty, hip breakfast on Granville St. This weekend when we were considering where to go in New West for breakfast, there was nowhere that quite fit the bill: independents like the Coming Home Cafe and The Hideout Cafe were likely to be closed (it was Remembrance Day) and we were left with various chain restaurants or the greasiest of greasy spoons (cheap, but no atmosphere and mediocre food). We ended up at The Boathouse for brunch, which was good in its own way, but we spent the meal daydreaming about what a great Columbia St. eatery would be like. Re-Up/Fathom sometimes has brunch on the weekends, and it is very good. Maybe the owners could be convinced to open a breakfast joint on Columbia next?

A brew pub
Last night Twitter erupted in disappointment when word got out that Brown’s Social House would be the pub tenant at the Brewery District in Sapperton. New West has a nascent craft beer community, including some intrepid home-brewers, and a local brew pub was on their wish list. I’m sure Brown’s will become a popular destination for a certain type of night out, but for now Hops remains the beer geek’s pub of choice in New West. But if there are any brew pub entrepreneurs out there reading this: Sapperton wants YOU.

A gift shop for men
We’ve got Brick and Mortar Living, Lofty Living, Cadeaux and Sonse Design (among others) where you can find a lovely little something for a woman, but men are much harder to shop for. I’d love to see someone open a Brick and Mortar-style boutique with little things for men to covet and women to gift. Ideally it would tap into the Art of Manliness movement – most men’s gift stores I’ve seen are full of unimaginative, uninspired garbage. In my opinion, this sort of store would do well on Columbia St., to tap into the wedding market and give brides something really nice to buy for their husbands, or grooms to select for their groomsmen.

An independent toy store
Yes, we had one of those (two if you count the oddly named & situated Kids Kloset), but since Pedagogy Toys closed, there’s been nowhere to go locally to buy gifts for kids. I love shopping at toy stores, and I would love to see someone give an independent toy store another go. I think a toy store would do well uptown. There are lots of parents and grandparents out and about during the day, heading to Moody Park and the Library, and I could see a lot of walk-by traffic from folks in the area to do banking, grocery shopping or other errands. A toy store in the vein of the Village Toy Shop in Port Moody would be perfect.

A neighbourhood coffee shop on 12th St
Poor, poor 12th St. It has struggled for so long and is in quite the slump right now. The hill really limits how far people will walk the street, especially without a chain of awesomeness to draw you up, one store at a time. Amber’s Choice is a nice cafe at the top of the hill, but if you’re around 6th Ave or below, it’s a long way to hike for a coffee and a muffin. John Ashdown’s old cafe, Village Coffee Lounge, was in a perfect spot for neighbourhood customers, and as a resident of the West End I certainly feel its absence. I’d love to see more tightly clustered retail on 12th St., particularly around the nexus of 12th St and 6th Ave, anchored by a great community cafe.

A large mixed-use development at 22nd St. SkyTrain
Here’s the biggest item on my wish list. I want to see 22nd St. SkyTrain station built up. Last year, three of the five or six houses immediately next to the SkyTrain were up for sale at the same time, and I was holding my breath hoping a developer would buy them – alas, not how that story turned out. Still, I think a smaller-scale Plaza 88 ‘Shops at New West Station’-type development would be great there. The proximity to downtown on the SkyTrain is awesome from that station, just 25 minutes to Waterfront and less than 20 to the edge of downtown. The price per square foot vs. travel time to downtown work would be ideal for many folks. Plus, it would provide some walkable and useful businesses for the existing local residents in the area – and potentially lift the fortunes of some of the 20th St businesses as well (which suffer from the same issues as 12th St).

There’s more of course. I’d love to see more wearable street fashion, not just bridal, and more of a visible arts presence. I miss having an art supply store on the street (years ago Full Spectrum Art Supply bowed to the bridal market and turned into Paper Poet, a wedding invitation & papercraft store), and I often wish for an independent bookstore of the type I enjoy in La Conner, WA (The Next Chapter, check it out if you are ever in the area. Fireplace, comfy chairs, decent coffee and an expertly curated selection of titles).

But that’s me. What would you like to see?


Key to the City

I was at the Dublin the other day, having a snack with a friend (okay, and maybe a beverage). We got our bill, and it was 20% off. Later in the week, I was checking out a new chair at Red Brick and realized I would get an extra 10% off if I went for it. I decided to stop by the British Store for some sweets and a tea on my way home, and got 10% off my sweets.

How was I getting all these discounts? I have a Key to the City. No, not some giant, oversized, pretend key, but the hyperlocal New Westminster – specific key tag system put together by Tourism New Westminster. There are over 40 businesses who participate in this program, offering buy one get one discounts, percentages off, and other deals on goods, services, food, places to stay, and things to do just by flashing a key tag right before you buy.

The program continues until the end of April 2013 and there are about 250 key tags left available to buy for just $10 each (you can buy them right from Tourism New Westminster or at participating locations) but we have a keytag to give away for free! Comment on this post about how you’d use a Key to the City, and we will draw one lucky commenter at random, Friday November 9th at 3pm PST.



Local gift ideas for Valentine’s Day in New Westminster

For a long time I thought Valentine’s Day was nothing but a Hallmark holiday artificially inflating the price of roses and chocolates. My preschooler changed my mind. My son loves all holidays and celebrations and to him, having a day to celebrate the people in your life who you love is a wonderful thing. It reminded me that you can take the Hallmark out of the holiday, and when you do, it can be a lovely way to take time out to show the people that matter to you that they are important in your life.

For those of you who are still looking for something to do with your sweetie on Valentine’s Day, here are my local picks:

Take a romantic walk
New West has a number of lovely places for a stroll. If the weather is fine (or if you’ve got a big umbrella to share), I’d recommend taking a ramble through the Queen’s Park boulevards to admire the heritage homes or along the Quay boardwalk to admire the river view.

Enjoy an experiential gift
Chocolates, flowers and jewelry can be lovely, but happiness has more to do with what you do than what you consume. Buy tickets to a show at Massey Theatre or the Bernie Legge, spring for a couples’ cooking lesson at Wild Rice, or support your partner in developing new skills in sewing, dancing, archery, swordplay, art or other interests.

Indulge in a spa treatment
Phoenix Wellness is a lovely spot to go for a facial or mani-pedi. For massages, I’ve heard good things about Shine on 12th St as well. I haven’t tried any of the other spas in town, but there are many to choose from.

Hire a pro to take some couples’ shots
When one of you is always holding the camera, it’s hard to get a good photo of the two of you together. There are a lot of talented photographers who work locally in New Westminster, and a ton of great spots for photo shoots. I’d suggest Tipperary Park, the Quay Boardwalk and downtown as a starting point, but the people who do a lot of photography here all have their favourite buildings and lookout points that are good for a picture.

Go out for a nice meal
The classic Valentine’s Day activity. Wild Rice has a special prix-fixe dinner for Valentine’s Day. Taverna Greka has good food and a great view of the Fraser, and if you’re looking for something a little different, Tamarind Hill‘s Malaysian cuisine is a tasty treat. If you’re going out tonight for an early Valentine’s Day treat, Karmavore is hosting a vegan mingler at their shop on Columbia St.

Stay in and cocoon
Order in and curl up to watch a romantic movie together. Okonomi Sushi delivers their delicious fresh sushi, Yianni’s will do pick up (their Greek-style roast lamb is superb), and Spring Garden has tasty, fresh Chinese fare. If you’re cooking, I’d suggest Queens Park Meat Market for quality meat and a butcher’s expertise, River Market’s Crab Shop for fresh fish and delicious make-at-home crab cakes, and Sapperton’s Bella Cakes for a sweet treat. Pick up a bottle of wine from the experts at Quayside Wine Cellar or go really local with Pacific Breeze‘s wonderful made-in-New West wines (I recommend their GSM blend and their Killer Cab if you like red wine).

Buy something special
For her: a unique necklace or earrings from Cadeaux on East Columbia or Tiny Finery in River Market, a guilt-free faux-leather handbag from Karmavore, pearls from The Urban Gypsy, or something for the home from Lofty Living, Red Brick or Sonse Home Design. If you’re buying flowers, I’d recommend a bouquet or potted plant from KJM Urban Gardens or one of the unique arrangements from Queen’s Park Florist.

For him: A classic pair of quality leather shoes from Copps, a fine bottle of whisky, or a copy of New Westminster author JJ Lee’s book Measure of a Man. If your man is a gamer, a new game from Board Game Warriors or a vintage console platformer from Press Start on 12th St could be just the ticket. If he likes RC toys, you can find a good selection of remote control helicopters and airplanes at SN Hobbies on 12th St and RC cars and trucks at Team 1 Hobbies on East Columbia. High-end pocketknives and similar accessories can be found at DS Tactical on 12th St and Westley Military Surplus on Front St.

What else would you recommend for a romantic Valentine’s Day gift in New Westminster?


Sonse Home Design

Sonse Home Design is a store that offers so much tucked into a small space. It’s lovely having a shop open in uptown New Westminster that offers what she offers – from small gifts to furniture to art and accessories. Proprietor Joanne also has everything beautifully displayed and has an incredible eye for emerging trends. We’ve written about Sonse Home Design before, back when it had just opened. I stopped by yesterday to finish off my Christmas shopping, and Joanne had just what I needed. I picked up three amazing Skeem candles (Peach Velvet – oh my!) that will burn for 50 hours (oh my again!) to add to some stockings, and I found a number of gifts that Santa could put under my tree. This beautiful stand up clock, for example:

Beautiful stand up clock

Beautiful stand up clock

My shopping partner fell for a beautiful hot pink picture frame and a corkscrew with a vintage faucet handle. My son was pretty in love with blue cushions with a great zig zag pattern. It was busy (yay for shopping local) or I would have stayed to chat with Joanne some more. Sonse offers the frosting every home needs. Make plans to stop in at Sonse – they probably have what you are looking for! Right now almost everything is on sale for the holidays.

They are online and also on Twitter and Facebook, or call at 604-522-3377.

Here’s a gallery:


The Hungry Hound appeals to Sapperton pet lovers

Inside the Hungry Hound

Inside the Hungry Hound

Everyone has their shopping weakness, and mine is a well stocked pet boutique. Not the kind selling doggie strollers and puppy sweaters – although my pit bull does look cute in pink – but a place with knowledgeable staff, natural foods, and well-made equipment and toys.

I meant to pop into Sapperton’s The Hungry Hound and simply take a look around, but I walked out with armfuls of stuff, a three-figure receipt, and absolutely no buyer’s remorse.

The Hungry Hound is a small store, managed by knowledgeable staff who have backgrounds in grooming, training and handling. They clearly love animals and are invested in their products. Every customer gets personalized attention and service, along with cookies and cuddles for any furry counterparts.

The store stocks only high-quality items for dogs, cats, birds and bunnies. The store is limited by its size so selection is not overwhelming but everything in stock is clearly chosen with care. The toys are reputable, durable brands like Tuffy’s, Chuckit!, West Paw and Kong. Food and treats include corn-free, wheat-free, whole food and single-protein options – just the thing for scrupulous pet owners or dogs with special dietary needs.

I spotted several local companies and specialty items, including supplements, training gear and medical equipment. Again, it’s a small store so it can’t be everything for everyone, but the selection covers the basics and the staff will work with you to find the right product, whether that means bringing your dog into the store for a fitting, returning a used item, or placing a special order.

Chica enjoys her new dinosaur toy from The Hungry Hound

Chica enjoys her new dinosaur toy from The Hungry Hound

When I learned about the buy-one-get-one and other sales for the holiday season, I abandoned my chitchat and started scooping up ChuckIts, bully sticks, and dehydrated sweet potatoes. At 50% off I even succumbed to a massive Tuffy dinosaur as an early Christmas present for my resident four-legger (you’re welcome, Chica).

Sapperton residents are faithful to The Hungry Hound, and it’s easy to see the appeal. It’s great for the pet guardian, especially one looking for good deals this time of year. It would also be an excellent resource if you’re shopping for a pet fanatic but not sure where to start. Either way, the folks at The Hungry Hound will hook you up.

The Hungry Hound
102 – 455 East Columbia
New Westminster, BC


Cadeaux Gifts: Impressive selection, quality finds, and reasonable prices



I have been known to make late night trips to large chain stores to buy necessities. Diapers, toilet paper, or an air freshener to mask the aroma from the ‘treat’ my kids left in the backseat and I still can’t find. Desperation and ‘open-till-midnight’ hours have forced my hand once or twice, but when it comes to gift giving I prefer to spend my time and money on a unique item selected from a unique shop.

I enjoy the process of Christmas shopping in particular. I meticulously make a list of recipients. I jot down a few items I have heard them mention, a bracelet perhaps, or a few words to describe them and their style such as conservative, flirty, and even impossible! I feel prepared; armed and ready to purchase thoughtful gifts. I used to head downtown, in the hopes I would find success amidst the plethora of boutique shops. I am ashamed to admit that I previously overlooked New West as a suitable shopping destination.

Now that I have lived in New West, and more importantly shopped here, I have become very attached to a few impressive boutique shops that rival and surpass many I have seen downtown!

One shop that never ceases to impress and entice me is Cadeaux Gifts in Sapperton. It is “a trendy boutique and gift store providing the best in essential indulgences” and is easily one of the Lower Mainland’s best-kept secrets.

They incorporate an ‘everything for everybody’ element into the shop and carry an extensive mix of unique items. There are home embellishments from entry mats to clocks; luxurious bath and beauty indulgences for head-to-toe pampering; stunning holiday decorations; and fashion must haves like handbags, scarves, and a jewelry collection to tempt every taste and style. This is just the proverbial tip-of-the-iceberg too. I have devoted many mornings to a leisurely stroll through the store, and I always find something new to gift or covet for myself.

While chatting with the shop’s owner and staff, I have learned that many of the irresistible items I have eyed (and drooled) over so many times are made by local companies and artisans. One local artist they seemed particularly proud to highlight is Karen Telio and her stunning collection of jewelry. Her pieces range from bold to subtle, trendy to traditional, and every adjective in between. It’s no exaggeration to say you could easily check a few special women off your shopping list after a glance in this jewelry cabinet (which is just one of many!)

Though I think more than any particular artisan, product, or display, what impresses me most is the affordability and quality of the items. As a mother of two, and a new homeowner, my pockets seem painfully less deep this year. I have yet to feel overwhelmed by sticker shock while perusing Cadeaux’s collection, and have always been impressed by the quality of items. While most of the store is stocked with unique and eye-catching goodies, I did see a few items that I have seen carried downtown at other boutiques. The difference being that Cadeaux isn’t competing with several similar boutiques on the street and is able to offer us many of the same items found downtown at significantly lower prices.

Impressive selection, reasonable prices, and quality items! What more can you ask for? How about impeccable customer service? The staff at Cadeaux always welcomes you with a smile, offers help without being pushy, and really listen to what you want and need. It’s like having a personal shopper at your side. In fact, they are so invested in your shopping experience being fun, stress free and successful that they actually offer personal shopping assistance. Their website boasts “Give us a call and book your own personal shopping session. Our staff will happily talk you through our store, and find the best gifts for the special people on your list, and make your shopping experience that much happier!”

Its cliché, but I dare you to shop Cadeaux and leave with nothing! Make sure to give yourself ample time to dawdle, sample, try on, and enjoy the shops bounty. Better yet, plan your introductory shopping trip for Thursday, December 8, 2011 from 5pm to 9pm. Cadeaux is hosting a ‘Christmas Shopping Spectacular’ and donating 10% of the evening’s proceeds to the Music Program of New Westminster Secondary School. The donation will help up-and-coming student musicians with their trip to the national, invitation-only MusicFest Canada festival in Ottawa this spring.

Shopping Cadeaux means supporting our neighborhood’s economy, a New Westminster shop, local artisans and entrepreneurs, and budding talent from our community. On top of that, you walk away with unique, quality gifts and maybe even a few new things to add to your own wish list.

You can find Cadeaux at 467 E. Columbia St. in Sapperton. The store is open Monday – Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday from 12-5pm.

Here’s a gallery with some photos of their store.


Piccolo Gifts brings the world to Sapperton


Nesting dolls on the shelf at Piccolo. Photo: April Fahr.

Nesting dolls on the shelf at Piccolo. Photo: April Fahr.

Piccolo World Gifts is a small Sapperton storefront with a global worldview. Inside, you’ll find an assortment of bright, beautiful, and sometimes random treasures from around the world. It’s interesting enough on its own, but chatting with store owner Nancy Patrick brings a whole new appreciation to her collection.

Patrick is a highly accomplished business consultant with two PhDs and an impressive resume. Her travels have taken her around the world and she’s always managed to combine her business travel with exploration into other cultures’ art, artifacts, and collectibles. She sources her inventory directly from its country of origin and displays it by region, with each section flanked by artwork and coffee table books for context.

Stamps displayed at Piccolo World Gifts. Photo: April Fahr.

Stamps displayed at Piccolo World Gifts. Photo: April Fahr.

Committed to making exotic items accessible, Patrick works to keep prices reasonable and enjoys working one-on-one with customers to find a unique gift, whatever their price point. If you are shopping for anyone who’s known a home outside Canada, you’ll find something here that will resonate with them: ceramics, masks, sculpture, pottery, jewellery, accessories, and art abound from China, the Carribbean, Russia, Europe and a dozen other diverse regions.

Piccolo has one of the most comprehensive stamp and coin inventories around, whether you have a serious collector on your shopping list or (like me) you just enjoy the stunning presentation of the mounted collections.

Curios from Australia and the South Pacific. Photo: April Fahr.

Curios from Australia and the South Pacific. Photo: April Fahr.

Take advantage of the current holiday sales with 20-50% off items in-store, or combine your shopping trip with a visit to the in-store Piccolo Tea House, open December 2.

You can find Piccolo World Gifts at 420 East Columbia Street. The store is open Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 6pm.



Shopping locally this Christmas is a gift to the Royal City

Presents around a Christmas tree.

Presents around a Christmas tree.

As the Christmas shopping season arrives with Black Friday in the US, I can’t think of anything more ridiculous than camping outside of a store in order to buy stuff. Except for shooting, trampling or pepper-spraying your fellow shoppers in order to get at said stuff, of which there were many reported instances this year.

In reaction to the frenzy, the Vancouver-based magazine Adbusters has created Occupy Christmas. It builds on the magazine’s long-running campaign, Buy Nothing Day, a day of rest from consumerism, as well as Occupy Wall Street, which the magazine also started.

Despite the recent controversial Occupy camps in various cities, including Vancouver, Occupy Christmas isn’t about setting up tents at the mall or harassing shoppers, or even, as the Retail Council of BC alleges in a recent CBC story, putting elves, er, retail workers out of a job. It’s about using your resources to “make the conscious decision to fuel your own local economy” during the holidays, and to “really become a part of the holiday spirit.”

In other words, supporting and giving back to your community while you celebrate what I like to call “Non-denominational gift-giving holiday!” So this year, I’m Occupying Christmas, here in New Westminster.

My holiday round usually starts with making greeting cards, and luckily, the best little paper shop around is Paper Poet (665 Columbia Street). They’ve got stamps, papercraft supplies, envelopes and loads of ideas for projects.

If you’re enthusiastic about crafts, but like me, suck at it, there are plenty of places to support others who are talented at making and growing things. Such as the Royal City Winter Market on December 3 and the River Market Holiday Show on December 10, 11, 17, and 18. The Van Dop Gallery, always amazing, is especially sparkly at Christmas (local jewellery, hint, hint to my honey).

For other gifts and decor, there’s a whole slew of local gift shops like Cadeaux, Red Brick, and Lofty Living. I wouldn’t turn down something vintage from Mid-Century Modern Home either! And for kids, Pedagogy Toys has lots of toys and books that encourage creativity, not battery use.

Presents don’t have to be stuff either – the older I get, the less stuff I want or need, so experiences make great presents. A class at the Circus School is good for all ages, or a wine club membership at Pacific Breeze for the over-19s. Then there are gift certificates for local restaurants or perhaps a ticket to a Christmas concert at the Massey. And if anyone wants to get me a ReUp BBQ Founders Crew membership to help crowdsource the funding for a New West location, the moaning you hear will be of pure bacon-filled happiness.

Which reminds me of another important part of Occupy Christmas – giving back locally and generously. From donating non-perishables to the local food bank at the Hyack Christmas Parade on December 19 to sponsoring a family in need to making a Christmas gift bag for a homeless person, there are many ways to help someone in the community have a brighter Christmas.

For me, Christmas isn’t about a bunch of obligatory presents. (Actually, it’s about 90% about the food!) You can think about what you’re shopping for and where the dollars go, and still enjoy Christmas with those you love. Doesn’t that sound sane? Then it must be crazy.

Christine Rowlands is a writer and editor in New Westminster. Her articles have appeared in alive and Momentum and she regularly writes reviews for Yelp. Her least favourite place in the world is Metrotown in December. 


The smile’s in the aisle: Thrifty Foods comes to New West

The new Thrifty's. Photo: Erin Jeffery.

The new Thrifty's. Photo: Erin Jeffery.

I have a confession. I have a Thrifty Foods problem. I grew up in Mill Bay BC (home of one of the first Thrifty Foods) so it holds a special place in my heart. I dream about the cheese scones and I wax philosophically about the marinated meats. It’s grocery nirvana. The first time I brought my husband home to the island, I told him we HAD to go to Thrifty Foods.

“Its just a grocery store, “ he said, “ I hate grocery stores”

“Not this one”, I smugged, “It’s special. It’s the happiest place on earth…it’s the Disney of grocery stores!”

He was not impressed. But he did like the scones.

As I was waiting to cross the street to check out the new store that opened today in Sapperton, I excitedly texted the aforementioned husband.

“The new Thrifty’s in Sapperton is open 24 hours seven days a week! HOORAY!”

“Oh great”, he responded “ I’ll never see you again”.

Islanders are passionate about Thrifty’s. Its a community grocery store that is more locally and sustainably focused than other big grocery chains. The outer perimeter of the store is filled with BC produce, local artisan baked goods and sweets, ocean wise seafood and, of course, Island Farms dairy products (yum). Grocery items in the centre of the store range from well known brands to locally canned preserves to Thrifty’s own label. Price wise, they are comparable on most things, but they do tend to be a bit higher priced for butcher items. The quality and selection is beyond compare. Think Whole foods without the big price tag.

Have I mentioned the scones?

The best thing for me about Thrifty’s has always been its staff. They are almost freakishly friendly.. Today, I had a cookie handed to me by one of the managers from my ‘hometown store’ who just came over to help. He had a friendly smile and nod (and cookie) for everyone who passed his way, chatting with them about the new store and how happy they were to be in New Westminster. I later was in the cereal aisle looking for oatmeal when out of nowhere, a helpful Thrifty-er explained the multiples pricing structure. Then thanked me for hanging out at their new store.

I think they might put something in the cookies…

I do wish that the outer perimeter was a bit wider to allow for carts and strollers to navigate through easier. The grocery aisles were nice and wide, but I did get in a traffic jam at the scones…they really are that good. I’d also recommend walking or taking the train if possible. Not only is it better for our planet, but the parking lot underneath the store is $5 an hour for parking. They do validate, but it’s still a bit steep. And with only one machine to pay for parking at, it can also get a wee bit busy.

All in all, I think this store is going to be a great addition to the New Westminster community. They already have scads of events coming up partnering with the Royal Columbia Hospital Foundation, and the store is sure to be a welcome addition to an area that doesn’t have many grocery stores in easy access.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…I hear a scone calling my name…


New home decor store Sonse Home Design opens in Uptown New West

Sonse Home Design.

Sonse Home Design.

I heard about Sonse Home Design from Sheila Keenan whom I follow on Twitter (she writes a great blog about shopping locally in New West) a week or so ago. Promptly forgot about it, but caught a glimpse of Sonse today as I exited London Drugs and decided I’d better check it out before I forgot again!

It just opened a few weeks ago and the place looks amazing. Walking in, I experienced an immediate feeling of calm, sensed friendly energy and was drawn into her colourful and thoughtful staging. Joanne greeted me with a warm smile and friendly conversation.

We got to talking, and it turns out this is Joanne’s first foray into the retail rat race, but she’s got over 15 years of decorating experience in the television industry so she’s well equipped with design chops and her enthusiasm and knowledge shines through during our conversation. Clearly she’s a great resource, not to mention has a talented eye for the aesthetic, and offers staging, redecorating, room planning and holiday decorating services to support her retail location at 544 6th Street.

Sonse (pronounced son-say) is full of beautiful finds. Having just redecorated my home office in a cottage shabby shic style attempt, I was on the lookout for a few knick knacks and I hit the jackpot here! My budget is pretty weak, but I found some pretty seashells and may go back for gorgeous patterned wallpaper which I’ll frame as an inexpensive art option.

I’m glad I stopped by. Oh – and she’s been a New West resident for more than five years and couldn’t imagine opening a storefront anywhere else! Happy to support local shopping!

Find Sonse Home Design on Twitter or Facebook, or call 604-522-3377.


Emilio’s Deli a friendly, family-run ‘be yourself’ kind of deli

Tony Sr. is proud that his son Niko wants to help serve the public and Niko is amazed at all the nice people on the Waterfront in New Westminster. Photo: Ken Wilkinson

Tony Sr. is proud that his son Niko wants to help serve the public and Niko is amazed at all the nice people on the Waterfront in New Westminster. Photo: Ken Wilkinson

With summer beginning, families are starting to enjoy Downtown New Westminster and the Waterfront and exploring the River Market. A very friendly family at Emilio’s Deli is really making people smile, reintroducing them to the Market and starting to introduce themselves. People smell the fresh variety of cheeses and meats, but the also see and hear the friendly father and his sons getting to know people.

Tony Sr. is a very warm-hearted man with a wide range of interesting experiences in his life. He’s watched and learned from his family through his entire life about delis and cooking and has always enjoyed it. Tony “loves the public” and wanted to find a way to show and enjoy what he’s learned and create what he calls a “family-oriented, be yourself kind of deli” for people to enjoy and for him to enjoy as well. With that great spirit he’s worked together with Donald’s and the River Market to create Emilio’s Deli (named after Tony Sr.’s father Emilio), so the legacy of his father could live on through Tony and his sons.

Tony Sr., along with his sons Niko and Tony Jr. are building a fresh and diverse variety of meats and cheeses for the public to enjoy. The whole family wants people to tell them what they enjoy and they are having fun together working towards their goal. One thing that Tony Sr. knew people liked were “nice, fresh and hefty sandwiches made individually for people.” To make them best, Tony hasn’t got a list of sandwiches. He meets people and finds out directly from each person individually and makes them what they want for a great price.

As well as Tony Sr., Tony Jr. and Niko are a key part of Emilio’s Deli. Niko is a young man learning quickly and enjoys working with his dad. Niko loves the Waterfront in New Westminster because he is “amazed at the good people around here – everyone is so nice.” People are very special to Niko, so working with his Dad and meeting all the nice people is making him excited. He has many ideas about how to help more people enjoy Emilio’s Deli and so Niko and Tony Jr. work constantly with their Dad to learn about the meats and cheeses and find out what people want. Along with Tony and the boys, Tony Sr.’s girlfriend Roberta also likes to help out when she can to enjoy people.

The boys help people understand and enjoy the variety of flavors Emilio’s offer and they also are learning about the unique combinations of meats and cheeses that different people enjoy. Together the whole family wants people to come down to Emilio’s to meet them and enjoy the food. The family is smiling because “people are starting to phone for party trays,” “sandwich platters are on the way” and want to thank all the people for their great support. “Specials are on the way!” according to the whole family.

Emilio’s Deli is easy to find. They’re just inside the door of Donald’s Market. They want to work together to help and enjoy all the new vendors starting up now or coming soon to the River Market. As Tony Sr. puts it, he “enjoys everyone and enjoys watching them enjoy the great stuff he provides at the deli” and as Niko says, he wants people to “Give us a chance and you be the Judge.” Emilio’s Deli is a yummy and friendly place for people to enjoy the waterfront and explore the many new and tasty combinations of meats, cheeses and sandwiches. Tony and his family help the personality of the waterfront emerge in a new way, while helping the great family spirit of New Westminster live on as it has for 150 years.


Beyond bridal boutiques and payday loans: re-envisioning downtown

Copp's Shoes on Columbia St. Photo: Dennis Sylvester Hurd.

Copp's Shoes on Columbia St. Photo: Dennis Sylvester Hurd.

Downtown New Westminster has it going on.

Well, it could have it going on if it could once again capture the vitality of its once historic past. From an urban planning perspective you could not wish for a better template; you’ve got history, great public transit, a waterfront, shopping, density. So what happened, why did the city turn its back on the downtown?

New Westminster did what almost every North American city did in the post-war era; it decided to re-invent the wheel. How many cities had a perfectly good urban core and decided a shopping mall in the suburbs was the way to go? We don’t even have a suburb, yet that didn’t stop us from building a huge mall just 1 km up the hill. While probably bustling with stores when it first opened, it is hardly an example of a thriving mall as we’d like to see it. The mall is tired, lacks interesting merchants, and doesn’t have the convenient access of SkyTrain, which is a must these days. It did not help that the mall lost its last anchor tenant with the closure of Woodwards. Uptown is probably not quite the gem urban planners had envisioned, but let’s leave that for another post.

So what else contributed to the demise of the downtown? Like with many cities, the decline of public transit combined with the introduction of the personal automobile changed the way people live. With a car you could now live in one city, work in another, and go shopping in yet another. Before the TransCanada Highway was built to the north of the city, Columbia Street was essentially the commercial hub for all residents east of the Fraser River. People would come here from as far away as Chilliwack on the interurban railway. With the construction of the highway and the discontinuation of the interurban line, Columbia Street’s importance as a retail destination was delivered another blow. No longer did you have to pass through New Westminster on your way from A to B.

So how does it look for the future of New Westminster’s downtown? People are once again moving to New Westminster, realizing the potential of living in the geographic center of the Lower Mainland. And they are moving to the downtown to be close to transit and other amenities. Certainly they deserve more than a couple blocks of bridal boutiques and payday loan shops. The city must promote the downtown not only as a place to live, but as a place to shop, and a place to work. More people moving downtown will bring more diversity in terms of shopping and employment opportunities. The building of the Civic Centre and (slow) emergence of the River Market are good examples. Companies may look to New Westminster as a location to open up their head offices. We need all levels of employment to once again make the downtown vibrant.

New Westminster is not a large city. It can support both a vibrant downtown and a thriving uptown. At the moment however, it seems like the downtown has the momentum in its favour.


Aroka Vintage a treasury for unique decor

This is a guest post by Neal Michael, who lives with his wife in the ever-changing downtown area of New West. His favourite things about New West include running through the different neighbourhoods each weekend, the boardwalk, the market, the architecture and his neighbours.

Inside Aroka Vintage.

Inside Aroka Vintage.

Tucked back off Columbia Street, sharing a cozy retail space with quirky Arundel Mansion is Aroka Vintage, a recently opened vintage décor wedding shop. Owned and run by Dawna Graham, a resident of New West, Aroka specializes in the sale and rental of niche décor items and dresses.

Not sure what qualifies as niche décor? Think ornate tea cups and saucers, glass dessert cups, finely decorated china, pewter candle sticks, brass clocks, lamps and more. It’s like stepping into a beautifully curated antique shop minus the dust.

Graham started the business to fill the niche for an increased demand of vintage décor items for weddings and other functions. Having previously owned a home décor business, she witnessed the move away from impersonal, cookie-cutter decorating to a focus on the unique, intimate and classic. Though a long-time collector and self-confessed market junkie, Graham spent just under a year and half to source and select her offerings from all over western Canada. Her extensive selection focuses on what she calls ‘true’ vintage or

More vintage goodness inside Aroka

More vintage goodness inside Aroka

pieces from pre-1970’s. Those pieces that have a story, not an Ikea stamp on them.

Though her shop would easily be at home in a more trendy area of the lower mainland, Graham cited New West as an ideal location for a number of reasons. “I live in New West, my grandfather is in the museum, my grandmother is buried in Fraser cemetery and the architecture. New Westminster was a natural fit.” Anyway, Aroka would be out of place in a newer commercial space. The plank floor, large glass frontage and rear windows all help showcase Graham’s collection.

Whether soon to be married or not, pop by Aroka Vintage for a look at Graham’s beautifully curated selection of vintage items. Who knows, you may just find a reason to get married.

Aroka Vintage is located at 42 Begbie Street. To reach the store, call 778-397-7999.


New West Wednesday: Unique boutiques

Thinking about the coming blog posts I’m preparing about Aroka Vintage and Red Brick gets me wondering about what undiscovered little shops around New West I may have missed. This week, let’s share a little love with the shopkeepers of New West. Share your picks for great local boutique shopping in the comments, via Twitter or on Facebook. Gotta love a good excuse to go shopping!


A Girl’s guide to preparing for the Army & Navy Shoe Sale

This year's Army & Navy shoe sale starts Wednesday, April 27 at 8 a.m. Handout photo.

This year's Army & Navy shoe sale starts Wednesday, April 27 at 8 a.m. Handout photo.

The Army & Navy Shoe Sale is always a sure sign of spring. It brings back memories of our annual shopping excursions to the New West store when I was a kid. When my sister and I were young, Mom started the tradition of annual shoe shopping, just us girls, wide eyed at the rows upon rows of shoes, so many options it was overwhelming.

We had to learn the best strategies early on. With that many shoppers and that many shoes you can’t just walk in and leisurely browse! So here are a few tips to navigate the sale, from one shoe-shopper to another.

  • You’ve gotta line up. Bring coffee, dress for the weather and get there a bit early. This way you can size up your fellow shoppers and get into the spirit of the sale.
  • Know what you are looking for. Do you need sandals for a summer wedding? Pumps for work? It’s overwhelming when you first get in there, wall to wall people, and way too many shoes to count. Survey what you’ve got before you go and have an idea of what you need/want this season.
  • If you see something you like, grab it! Get your hands on the right size and pick up whatever looks good. You can find a corner later and cull through your finds to make the final decision.
  • Put on each pair and walk around for a while, we all know that we won’t wear them if they hurt no matter how pretty they are.
  • Bring a friend. It’s an extra pair of arms to carry your finds, and extra pair of eyes to bring you back down to earth.

One last thing, be patient and polite. No need to elbow your way through: remember, shoe karma is the best kind!

This year’s Army & Navy shoe sale starts Wednesday, April 27 at 8 a.m. Army & Navy is also launching a “Shoes in the City” photo contest this week on their Facebook page where you can win VIP passes to the sale.

What are your tips for navigating the annual A&N Shoe Sale?



Fresh fish, bread, gelato and *coffee* coming soon to River Market

Toby Barazzuol's poem "She slipped softly from a summer stream, as seamless as a summer's dream" is displayed on the north side of River Market in huge lettering. You can see it from the SkyTrain and from the pedestrian overpass linking the quay and Hyack Square. Photo: River Market.

Toby Barazzuol's poem "She slipped softly from a summer stream, as seamless as a summer's dream" is displayed on the north side of River Market in huge lettering. You can see it from the SkyTrain and from the pedestrian overpass linking the quay and Hyack Square. Photo: River Market.

The $5-million reno of the dilapidated old Quay is unquestionably beautiful. But since the shiny new River Market opened with much fanfare last November, many New Westminster folk whocame to see the new building were disappointed to find only a grocery store, a circus school and a lot of empty storefronts. Others (like me) were more willing to give River Market some time to find its feet.

People expected a short hiatus and a basic cosmetic reno, but River Market needed more than fresh paint and a bit of spackle. The building needed a lot of TLC, sure, but more importantly, it needed purpose. It wasn’t enough to just fill space. River Market’s mix of tenants needed to be strong enough to draw not only Quaysiders ambling by for a cup of coffee in the morning, but also lure new shoppers from (gasp!) outside New Westminster’s borders.

Since the initial opening, a few more shops have opened up. Great Wall Tea has cultivated a base of loyal customers returning regularly for a cuppa. Pedagogy Toys pulled up stakes from Sapperton and reopened in a fresh, larger space across from Vancouver Circus School, with kids’ classes in neighbouring Bloom Art Studio. Tiny Goods opened up and began selling artisan chocolates, wildberry jams and other locally made products (Disclosure: I’ve signed on to help launch Tiny).

But a lot of empty storefronts remained. And the questions continued. Would there be another cold beer & wine store? What happened to the florist? Is there any hot food? And most frequently asked of all, “Why can’t I get a cup of coffee?!”

Well, I’m happy to say River Market’s got some welcome news: coffee is coming, and a lot more too.

First let’s talk about the coffee. The Gallo brothers of Yaletown Gelato & Espresso Bar have signed on to open a location within River Market. I’ve sampled a few Yaletown Gelato flavours, and it is wonderful stuff. They will have a full-service espresso bar, as well as a variety of flavours of gelato, made on site with fresh fruit and other quality ingredients. Mmmm, gelato affogato.

Also newly announced:

  • The Crab Shop, selling fresh wild seafood and shellfish, plus fish ‘n chips to eat on site. Owner Marcel Gregori catches local crab himself.
  • A bakery featuring breads, sweets, and homemade comfort foods inspired by Spanish flavours, run by husband-and-wife team Alfonso Fernandez and Katia Mayo.
  • The Paddlewheeler Pub Liquor Store will reopen within River Market, selling beer, wine & spirits

While those tenants have now confirmed they’re coming to River Market, they have yet to design & outfit their spaces. River Market shoppers will have to be patient a little while longer for them to finish that work, but it’s good to have something specific to look forward to.

There are other shops that are close to opening, now and over the next few weeks:

  • Donald’s Deli opened this week, bringing sliced meat & cheese to Donald’s Market
  • Orlando’s Catering is close to finishing renovations, and will offer banquet and reception space up to 300 guests for weddings and corporate events (the largest capacity in New Westminster)
  • Fraser River Bike Tours & Rentals will offer bike rentals, guided tours and field trips within downtown New Westminster
  • Make Kitchen will produce takeaway meals, sauces, spreads and other delicacies right on site, as well as offering catering and cooking classes
  • And my personal favourite, Crepe Des Amis is aiming to open in April with a selection of fresh-made sweet and savoury whole wheat crepes, sweet apple cider and frozen yoghurt

It’s a relief to hear that so many great shops are coming to River Market, and like everyone else in New Westminster, I can’t wait to see them all open! This is only the beginning, and I’m sure we’ll soon see much more at River Market.


Great Wall Tea packs a lot of taste in a tiny space

Great Wall Tea

Great Wall Tea stores their loose-leaf teas in round tins attached to the wall with magnets. On the tin of each lid is an image of a teacup and saucer. Photo: Will Tomkinson.

Tucked away next to the escalators inside River Market, Great Wall Tea packs a lot of taste into a tiny space. While initially I was disappointed not to have a coffee shop open at the Quay, the silver lining is that this has encouraged me to expand my hot drink habits and try tea instead.

Great Wall has so many varieties of loose-leaf tea that it’s hard to know what to taste. I’ve liked everything I’ve tried so far, from the vanilla-infused Cream Earl Gray to the Ginger Rooibos. Plus, they will blend together different teas upon request. I’ve become a fan of a Chamomile-Lavender blend that my favourite Yaletown tea shop O-Cha has dubbed “Sereni-tea.” So soothing with a little honey. Plus, in my last visit I made the welcome discovery that Great Wall Tea is also set up to make tea lattes! I didn’t notice before that they had a milk steamer in the corner. The lovely women who run the shop recommended I try their twist on a London Fog that uses the Cream Earl Gray, and I intend to do just that on my next visit.

At launch there were only a few places to sit and sip, but River Market has now added more tables and benches in the sunny area at the heart of the space earmarked for food vendors, expanding the seating area beyond the barstools and low chairs immediately next to the shop. Plus, public wifi is coming to River Market (hopefully by the end of March, according to Community Services Manager Julie Ramirez), which will make the market a more attractive place for those of us who like a little Twitter with our tea.

Great Wall Tea Company on Urbanspoon

Like everyone else who used to frequent the New Westminster Quay before the renovations, I am eager to see the new River Market busy again with cafes, shops and people. Although there are only a few tenants open for business (Donald’s Market, Great Wall Tea, Tiny (disclosure: I have been hired to help launch the store), Pedagogy Toys, Bloom Art Studio and Vancouver Circus School, I am glad to see that they are all quality businesses who share a passion for what they do and for our community.

Great Wall tea is located inside River Market, at 810 Quayside Drive, New Westminster.

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Buy local this Christmas: Here’s where to shop in New Westminster

This is a guest post by Sheila Keenan, a local blogger who has committed to shopping only in New Westminster for one year. She is chronicling her experiences on her blog, My Year of Shopping Locally. If you have some local shopping tips for Sheila (and the rest of us!) please share your suggestions in the comments!

Presents around a Christmas tree.

Presents around a Christmas tree.

I like Christmas presents that get used up or used often. My husband just brought up the Christmas decorations from our crawl space and somehow we’ve become the kind of people who have 13 Rubbermaid containers full of them. (13!) Trying to find room for everything made me realize how cluttered our house is getting, so I’m not into giving or receiving gifts that are just going to take up more space.  Since I’ve committed to shopping locally for a year, I’m also interested in finding gifts that are made as locally as possible. Here are some of the places I will be doing my Christmas shopping this year.

Van Dop Gallery 421 Richmond Street

I wasn’t sure how the gallery would fit with my “use it up or use it often” philosophy, but it’s hosting  “Spirit of the Season” open houses every weekend before Christmas, so the gallery is full of lots of extra goodies, like soap and candles. Besides, I think art does get “used” often—if it’s in your home, you get to enjoy it every day.
It was my first time visiting the gallery. I think I have been hesitant to go because I thought art must equal expensive, but I found a wide range of prices.
There’s also a wide range of things to look at, from silver-plated salad servers with a Tsimshian First Nations design to the bright and colourful art of Grant Leier to charming “tinsel” ornaments. I went through each room twice and I’m glad I did because I saw many things I hadn’t spotted on my first go-round. I’m planning to return next Saturday too, when three jewellers, including Joanna Lovett, will be in attendance.

Queen’s Park Florist 619 Carnarvon St.

I was so pleased to find out Queen’s Park Florist is offering workshops this Christmas season. I’d like to do the Christmas garland one. There are also workshops to create a Christmas planter, flower arrangement and wreath centrepiece, which would all make lovely gifts. Cost is $40, which includes materials. Register by Dec. 1.

Black Bond Books at Royal City Centre 610 Sixth St.

Books are always on my Christmas shopping list. Black Bond Books is one of the few remaining independent book stores left in the Lower Mainland. Their New West store has a regional section with some New Westminster titles such as Royal City: A Photographic History of New Westminster, 1858–1960 by Jim Wolf and The Life and Destruction of Saint Mary’s Hospital by New Westminster author and city councillor Jaimie McEvoy. There weren’t any copies of A New Westminster Album: Glimpses of the City as it Was by local historians Gavin Hainsworth and Katherine Freund-Hainsworth in the store when I visited, but it is a title they also usually carry.

Giving an experience is a good way to ensure your gift doesn’t end up collecting dust in a corner.

Pacific Breeze Winery 6-320 Stewardson Way

Pacific Breeze Winery has intriguing sounding “Private Tasting” packages that start at $25 per person for a minimum of four people. Contact Meaghan Spencer at ( 604) 880-0582 or by e-mail at for information on how to book. The winery also has a wine club and sells gift baskets.

Paddlewheeler Riverboat Tours #139 – 810 Quayside Drive (east side of Fraser River Discovery Centre)

I used to work at an office on the Quay and I loved watching the river from my window. There was always something interesting going on—barges going by, tugboats pulling endlessly long log booms, seals splashing around during fish runs. This year, I’m planning to take my family on a river boat tour so we can get a view of the Fraser while actually on the Fraser. There are several Christmas season cruises available and the 2011 schedule is already posted online if you are interested in purchasing a gift certificate for someone to use later.

There are many unique boutiques in New West, which Tenth to the Fraser has explored before , but here are two more worth visiting.

Essence Home Decor Suite 118 – 960 Quayside Drive (next to Inn at the Quay)

Owner Lorna Stewart has stocked her store with many local and Canadian items, including crackers from Gone Crackers and Edible Gardens oils, vinegars and spreads, along with a good selection of Olde World Fudge products. There’s also funky jewellery by Canadian designers like Anne Marie Chagnon of Montreal and Canadian-made handbags.

Fraser River Discovery Centre 788 Quayside Drive

The Fraser River Discovery Centre has a small, but well curated gift shop that includes many local and Canadian-made items including art, jewellery (cool glass rings!), candles and Bramies soft leather baby and toddler shoes. Celina Strachan, FRDC’s Operations Assistant, said her goal is to eventually have most of the items in the store be from artisans who live along the Fraser River.


The New Westminster Quay Market is Dead. Long live River Market!

The grand opening of Donald's Market drew a big crowd. Photo: Briana Tomkinson

The grand opening of Donald's Market drew a big crowd. Photo: Briana Tomkinson

Today was the big reveal of Donald’s Market at River Market. Wow, can you believe that it was back in April that we finally learned who the New West River Market grocer tenant was? “Who would it be?” we all asked after months of guessing and deduction and mercelessly prodding River Market owener, Mark Shieh. But he wouldn’t say. Like Chuck Norris being interrogated by ex-soviet uranium smugglers, he vowed never to reveal the secret…. until finally, on March 31, he did.

And now, on the first day of snow at the beginning of the great winter of 2010/2011, more than half way through November, we can all see what Mark and his team from River Market have been building. I had my preconceptions: It would be small. It would be overpriced. Everything would be a little too crunchy, a little too righteous – a little too trendy for me and the gal I go with.

Donald's produce is great quality, good prices and reasonable selection. Photo: Briana Tomkinson

Donald's produce is great quality, good prices and reasonable selection. Photo: Briana Tomkinson

But I was happily surprised! Sure there is a bit more space for Seventh Generation detergents and Happy Planet and Enviro Kidz and Nature’s Path, but they are part of the mix along side specialty foods, imported brands and food products from small producers and cottage industries. This was what I found to be the most compelling about this store: it has manages to differentiate itself from other options in town while not alienating the majority of potential shoppers with hard-to-sell product choices.

Other pluses: the prices are pretty good. Produce was of great quality and reasonable selection, at prices better than most New Westminsterites are used to (especially those reliant on the IGA). The quality was so good that even the small amount of fruit that we did buy (49c bannanas BTW) tasted noticeably better than the average. Prices through the whole store were in line with Safeway or Save-On-Foods – and better in some cases, as you would expect for a Grand Opening Sale. The Store was crowded and a little hard to move in but the staff were keen and helpful and obviously proud of their opening. Lots of Island Farms and Olympic Dairy products, Saltspring and Latin Organics brand coffee, bulk foods etc.

Another local blogger, Sheila Keenan, had a similar impression:

I’m not going to lie. I had my doubts, especially given that the renovations dragged on for so long and at least one of the tenant choices seemed goofy. When I heard the Vancouver Circus School was a tenant I was skeptical. What the heck is a circus school doing in a market? After attending the grand opening today, I found out what it’s doing there: being awesome. After all, which grocery store would you rather go to: normal grocery store with just groceries or grocery store where there’s a guy doing a handstand all the way down the escalator and a girl juggling all the way up? I pick the grocery store with the circus school. (In addition to classes, they are also going to offer birthday party packages.) I actually got a little teary-eyed on the drive home, thinking to myself that this marvelous place is in New Westminster.

I will be cautious in my criticism, as I am sure Donald’s and the River Market have a lot of work left to do, but there were some points I wanted to raise:

1)It is a tightly packed space. Sure it was crowded today, but even with normal foot traffic, I cannot see how anyone in a wheelchair, scooter or large stroller could navigate without a series of blushful apologies. The arrangement of cashiers doesnt help, but it is plain that Donald’s is making the most use of the space available.

Opening-day shoppers at Donald's also got to tour the rest of the River Market space (though much of it is still under construction). Photo: Briana Tomkinson

Opening-day shoppers at Donald's also got to tour the rest of the River Market space (though much of it is still under construction). Photo: Briana Tomkinson

2) Parking. It is the rare supermarket that requires a 200-meter walk to a paid parking lot. Donald’s will cater to a core clientele of condo-dwellers from the Quay and Downtown New West buying 2-3 bags of groceries, and it will feature a bicycle delivery service. But those of us in Queens Park and the West End who appreciate the curated inventory Donald’s offers will begrudge paying a $2.50 parking bill for the honour of lugging fancy groceries to the other side of the Fraser River Discovery Centre. I suggest a golf cart with a trolley behind it, like a hayride but no, um, hay. “Aaaaawll Abooord! River Market to Riverside Park by way of parking kiosk A and B!”

3) Similarly, the way into the rest of the market from Donald’s seems restrictive; like a too-narrow hallway. Do they need that wall there? For a packed space, they should use all of the free air space they can get.

That is about it! I think Donald’s will help to disperse the malaise that has settled in the minds of locals since the Quay Market closed. The New Westminster Quay Market is Dead. Long live River Market!

For more photos of the new Donald’s Market at River Market, please see the album on our Facebook Page.


Shop Local at Pedagogy Toys Nov 20

One of my favourite local shops is Pedagogy Toys.  As a graduate of the Small Business program at Douglas College, owner Karen Smecher loves what she does and is committed to providing high quality toys and other kid items. She recently went on the hunt for a harmonica just for me and we are still toot-tooting our way around the house with our awesome green harmonica.

I was really impressed with her new exclusive to Pedagogy line of reusable lunch and snack bags lined with Tyvek! Ingenious! She’s also designed play items such as reversible  felt belts that double as a super hero and a utility belt.

Karen is committed to sourcing locally as much as she can and her dedication shows. Her shop features a lovely play area for kids, toys of all sorts for ages ranging in newborn to 12+. Her prices are also great. I try hard to shop local as much as I can, and sometimes I find that retailers can make it hard to shop! Karen, however, makes it easy for me to support her.

Tenth to the Fraser is very pleased to present an Exclusive Shopping Night at Pedagogy Toys November 20th from 7PM until 9PM for Tenth readers. Special discounts, catalogue shopping, gift wrapping and refreshments are offered at Exclusive Shopping Nights.  Continue reading


Sapperton revitalization more fragile than it seems

Poor Sapperton.

Around 2005/2006 I remember visiting Will before we were married at his old Cedar St. apartment. Sapperton then seemed pretty run-down and rough around the edges. When we bought our first condo together in New West a few years later, I refused to consider even looking in that part of New West.

But in the past couple of years, the area seemed to be improving. There was the start of a kids’ district in New West, with Pedagogy Toys, Kids Kloset and Dimpleskins, a few neat boutiques (Opulence & Cadeaux), a few good bakeries (Bella Cakes & Farm Cottage, which relocated from the Quay), and of course the new Starbucks (hey, I like my lattes). Now it’s looking like Sapperton’s revitalization was more fragile than it seemed.

The City of New West is doing streetscape improvements in the area. You’d think this would be a good thing. But when four months’ worth of construction turned into 10 months, customers just stopped coming. And now it looks like East Columbia is in crisis.

Kids Kloset relocated Uptown. Pedagogy Toys has said this may be their last Christmas season, unless sales are unexpectedly strong. And now Bella Cakes says it may not be able to last much longer either.

On the bright side, I hear that newly opened Graze Market & Deli is amazing. Holland Shopping Centre seems to be doing pretty well since moving from 8th Ave. in Glenbrook to Columbia. And (a mixed success) Karmavore is doing so well that they are relocating to a much larger location … only it’s in Downtown New West!

Sapperton’s boutiques haven’t been shuttered yet. Fie on the roadwork! I’m going to make a point of doing at least one pre-Christmas shopping trip in Sapperton this year and I hope you do the same.

Have I missed any great Sapperton shops or restaurants that could use some link lovin’ (and customers!)?


Her year of shopping locally

Uptown New Westminster. Photo: Dennis Sylvester Hurd

Uptown New Westminster. Photo: Dennis Sylvester Hurd

New Westminster writer Sheila Keenan is committing to do all her shopping locally for the next year – and will blog about it to boot. In her first blog post explaining her motivation to take on the project, she writes:

I’ve always been the kind of person who wants to shop locally. My desire stems from vague notions that shopping locally is good for the community, the local economy and the environment, though I really don’t know that much about exactly how local economies work. I want to find out whether and how my actions as a consumer effect the local economy. You see, despite my desire, the reality is, I don’t really shop locally all that much.

Most of the shopping I do in New Westminster is usually at chain stores and it’s mostly for groceries or food. I go to Safeway, Walmart, Starbucks, Boston Pizza and White Spot. For most other items, including clothing, furniture, hardware, and shoes, I leave New Westminster and drive to another community to do my shopping.

The reason I leave town to shop is the same reason I think New Westminster is uniquely suited for this experiment. It’s in the middle of a large urban area, but it’s really just a small town (population 60,000) in many ways. But, unlike towns with similar populations NOT in the middle of a urban area, New Westminster seems to be missing certain kinds of stores and services that drives me, and has me driving, to other communities to shop. One reason I want to do this experiment is to see just what retailers and services are missing from New Westminster, as well as to find out what is here. (I’ve heard there are interesting stores in New West, even interesting clothing stores, but I’ve never set foot in one.)


If I’m typical of New Westminster residents, leaving town to buy most goods and services, that diverse and ambitious mix of retailers will never be attracted here. If the retailers aren’t here, residents will keep leaving town to shop. It’s a vicious, but predictable, cycle.

[Click to read the full post]

My husband and I make an effort to shop and eat locally, especially since launching our blog, but since having our second child, I’ve started doing a lot more shopping online. It’s just too stressful for me to bring two small children into local boutiques. I wish there were more options to shop online from local stores. It’s hard to find stores that will even ship to Canada. Still, I remain interested in keeping a healthy segment of my discretionary spending in the local economy, and I look forward to reading Sheila’s posts (and maybe getting some tips on new stores to visit!).

If you’ve got any favourite local shopping suggestions, please share them in the comments!


Get your thrift on at Saturday’s Quayside Boardwalk Festival & Sale

The 4th Annual Quayside Boardwalk Festival & Sale is this Saturday, August 21 from 10am - 3pm. Photo: eych-you-bee-ee-ahr-tee (via Flickr)

The 4th Annual Quayside Boardwalk Festival & Sale is this Saturday, August 21 from 10am - 3pm. Photo: eych-you-bee-ee-ahr-tee (via Flickr)

New West gets its thrift on this weekend at the 4th Annual Quayside Boardwalk Festival & Sale. On Saturday, August 21 from 10am to 3pm, the boardwalk at the Quay will bustle with bargain-hunters seeking their treasures.

And boy, is there ever treasure to be found. At last year’s event I bought a sock monkey from a crafter who became my son’s most-beloved stuffed “friend,” artwork that still hangs in my living room, five pre-loved “action men” for Wesley (Spider-Man, GI Joe, Superman, Batman and Bob from Reboot), some orphaned china pieces that started a new collection for me and an awesome $2 lamp. In my experience, the Quayside Sale has better booty than the Queen’s Park sale, and it’s easier to shop because the tables are right next to each other along the kilometre-long sale.

Organizers expect 5,000 people to come down and shop over 150 tables of “deluxe junque.” There will also be fundraisers such as raffles and hot dog sales for various charities, food for sale from Royal City Farmers Market vendors, the Lion’s Club BBQ and others, live music, a kids’ zone with bouncy castle and slide, and more. There will also be a sidewalk sale along Columbia Street in partnership with the Downtown Business Improvement Association.

The event is rain or shine, so don’t let the chance of showers on Saturday dissuade you from dropping by.

Jen and I will be there too, as vendors, so if you come by please say hello!


I’ve Got Someone For That

This has been reposted from my personal blog. I’d like to invite you to add your favorite local “someones” to the comments! Tell us what makes them your go-to person or business.

Here at the Arbolog, we work hard to try and practice reducing, reusing, refusing, and repairing before we get to recycling, because as far as I am concerned, the jury is out on whether recycling really does lower my carbon footprint. To that end, I’ve spent a long time finding people capable of repairing things. When you live in an area for a long time, you tend to build up a list of  go-to people that can repair things that need repairing. I’ve found that nine times out of ten, it actually costs me more to repair stuff than it would to buy a new, cheap item, but I’m personally trying hard to buy higher quality items that are worth repairing. I also like being able to say “Ooh, I got someone for that” and pass on the info. Makes me feel like I’m in the know. Disclosure: no one has paid me or asked me to write this.

Photo by Jennifer Stuber


I bought a pair of higher quality Birkenstock knockoffs from a well known Lower Mainland shoe store back when I was pregnant. I have since blown through the sole and into the cork, so I had the soles replaced. The shoes cost me $110. The repair was $40. Now I am working my way through the suede footbed and need to replace that and will, at a cost of about $40.

I also have a favorite pair of Portuguese made leather shoes that I bought in some fancy pants West Vancouver shoe store. They were having a “last pairs” sale and since I’m a size 6, there generally isn’t much for me at clearance sales. But I lucked out and a pair of Eject shoes that normally retailed for $290 was a mere $99. I bought them, and wore them more or less daily when I was still a full time office worker, and scuffed my way through the sole. I had the soles replaced on those as well, but I haven’t been wearing them as often. See also: Mom Uniform.  I don’t need office appropriate shoes anymore. The repair was well done, however, and cost me only $50. These shoes are about 5 years old and I will wear them until they fall off my feet.

My go-to place for shoes is New West Cobbler.

Jewelry Purchase and Repair:

A few years ago, instead of dropping a hint, I emailed Ross a direct link to a series of Citizen Eco-Drive watches and said “for my birthday gift”.  Like a smart husband, Ross didn’t question it, and went directly to a local jeweler and bought the one he felt I’d like the most (he was right). A few years after that, Ross proposed to me and so we went to the same jeweler to get my engagement ring made, Ross’ wedding band made, and my wedding band ordered to match. This past Christmas, I bought Ross an Eco-Drive watch as well from the same jeweler. You could say we are impressed with their customer service and prices. I walk in there and they hold their hands out and automatically scrub my rings while I shop. They all know my name and the name of our son. I like that. I recently had the crystal replaced on my watch, and had them unbend the crown that I bent when I caught it on the dresser while putting away laundry (Little known fact: laundry is a full contact sport, apparently).  Total bill for the repair: $61. On a $200 watch that I have worn every single day for 4? 5? years, that’s not too terribly bad. It’s good as new.

Our go-to jeweler is Cartwright Jewelers.

Photo by Harry Pehkonen

Hemming and Alterations:

HI, my name is Jen and I am five feet tall. Pretty much every single pair of pants I own needs to be hemmed, and I have recently discovered how nicely things can fit if I have the waist taken in as well. I had my wedding dress custom made for me by an incredible local designer and I wish she made custom clothing and did alternations and hemming. However, I have recently discovered Genie’s Stitch in the otherwise lackluster Royal City Centre. Hemming a pair of pants is generally overnight and it a whopping $7. Boo-ya. I doubt her name is Genie – it’s probably more like Jelena or Gordana, but I don’t care. It’s 100% pure awesome.

My go-to tailor is Genie’s Stitch.

Photo by riverwatcher09 (via Flickr)

Dog Grooming:

I have a dog whose a bit of a snot when it comes to nail trimming. She doesn’t like other dogs, she’s set in her ways, and if she really wants to get your attention she will emit a noise that makes you think she is being pulled apart (google “shiba scream”). it is truly awful and completely embarrassing. When I first moved to the neighbourhood I’m in now, I wandered over to Hair of the Dog on 12th Street, where friendly and sweet Barb picked Mooki up, popped her up on the groom table, and chatted with me while effortlessly trimming Mooki’s nails. She laughed at the noise Mooki made, and it didn’t faze her one bit. Dog grooming is something you don’t get into unless you are comfortable and like dogs. Barb is so comfortable around them that neurotic dog owner (me) was comfortable too. I’ve written about Hair of the Dog before. I still stand behind every word, two years later.

Our dog groomer is Hair of the Dog.

Photo by Jen Arbo

So tell me, who are your favourites?