Alejandro Diaz is so committed to creating a new vibe on Columbia Street, he hired a crane to help install a 1000-pound tortilla maker in his new restaurant, El Santo.
He could have just imported tortillas or sourced them from a supplier, said Diaz, but it’s details like freshly-made tortillas that will set his new venture apart, and solidify New Westminster’s growing reputation in foodie circles.
The machine, which he imported from Mexico, is a big, expensive commitment and the stakes are high.
El Santo is the first tenant to open in the commercial ground floor of Robert Fung’s gleaming new condo tower that rises 20 stories above the historic facades of the historic Trapp and Holbrook blocks. The Edwardian structures were built in the late 1800s, then rebuilt after the great fire of 1898 destroyed much of the city’s original downtown.
The Trapp Block was once a department store. The Holbrook was a hotel and saloon. Both fell on tough times when the lustre left the city’s Golden Mile, as Columbia Street was once known in its heyday.
Fung’s Salient Group acquired the structures in 2005 then bided its time until New West was ready for a project to spark its historic downtown much as other Salient projects have transformed Vancouver’s old Gastown district from tacky tourist haunt to a chic urban destination for new restaurants, bistros and boutiques.
“Our strongest takeaway from our work in the Vancouver historic districts is that the strength of the area will come from the passion and commitment of the business owners that we work with,” said Fung. “This invariably leads us to favouring independent local business owners that have a passion and understanding for the area.”
That passion is percolating, said Kendra Johnston, of the city’s Downtown Business Improvement Association.
Continue reading “El Santo brings new vibe, optimism to Columbia Street”