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!)?

Hyack the Holidays: That special something

New Westminster is a haven for unique boutiques. Perhaps it’s the character buildings lining our main shopping districts chock-a-block that draw the proprietors of these neat little businesses … or maybe just the low rents that can be found in some of our legendarily ‘up and coming’ neighbourhoods.

Here are some of my picks for places to go when you’re looking for that unique ‘special something’ for the person who’s hard to buy for.

Opulence, 437 E. Columbia St.

What a fun store to browse. Opulence specializes in everything Art Deco and Art Nouveau. It’s an eclectic assortment of jewelry, art prints, books, textiles, soaps & hand creams, with a few vintage lamps and other home accessories in the mix. I’m not a hand cream girl, but even I was seduced by the pretty period packaging. When the kids are big enough that they stop tugging at my earrings and breaking my necklaces, I plan on coming back to Opulence and treating myself to some bling.

Cadeaux, 467 E. Columbia St.

Cadeaux is well known for its jewelry and soaps, but they also have quite a collection of Christmas ornaments and silly stocking stuffers, as well as luxury pajama sets in the back.

Karmavore, 569 E. Columbia St.

A vegan specialty store, this is obviously an excellent place to find vegan beauty products, marshmallows , and ‘message’ stickers and jewelry. It’s also home to Astrosatchel bags, which even carnivores must admit are just plain stylish.

Clever Mink’s, 711 Carnarvon St.

Tucked away from the main drag, Clever Mink’s owners Brad and Nancy Gephart fill their cozy store with things that are just plain … neat. Funny T-shirts (that really will make you laugh), home decor and stocking stuffers … you never know quite what you’ll come across at Clever Mink’s.

Urban Gypsy, 614 Columbia St.

A Columbia St. favourite, Urban Gypsy stocks exotic furniture, jewelry and art from India, Nepal and other parts of South Asia. Owner Jason McGill has a keen eye for the unique and the beautiful. While most of the stock is big-ticket items like furniture, the jewelry is quite reasonably priced and there’s always a selection of smaller items near the back – things like photo frames, paper journals, candleholders and so on.

Lofty Living, 610 Columbia St.

At Lofty Living, they’ve got a thing for birds. You’ll find arty avians on pillows, laptop bags, cards, placemats … even salt & pepper shakers. I always love to browse through the store – and not just because I happen to like birds! With so many antique stores in New West, it’s refreshing to see a sleek, modern look juxtaposed with our heritage architecture.

Tranquility Art & Gifts, Royal City Centre

Ok, so this is the kind of store I wouldn’t normally bother to check out; I’m usually not too impressed with mall stores that sell framed art prints. But in planning the Hyack the Holidays series, I made a special effort to step into stores I wouldn’t normally frequent just in case there were some hidden gems. To my surprise, this was one of them. While I’m just not the target market for the scented soaps and Easter Island tissue holders (you pull the tissue out the nose of the “faux-pierre” face …) I actually ended up buying a few things in there. I’d recommend stopping in here if you’re looking for stocking stuffers (things like reusable fabric bags that tuck away into a wallet-sized pouch, pretty matchboxes, scalp massagers, Christmas ornaments and small stuffed animals) or for women’s accessories. I bought a collapsible red wool cloche hat for myself and thought the handbags and jewelry would be worth a look if I had another woman to buy for.

Adriana’s, Royal City Centre

Again with the scented everything … but there were also some cute & colourful kitchen and garden accessories that would be great stocking stuffers for a woman. When I was in, Adriana’s had bird-shaped kitchen scissors, pretty painted garden trowels and veggie scrub brushes, and special hand creams for gardeners.