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.