Fresh fish, bread, gelato and *coffee* coming soon to 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. I'm happy to say River Market's got some welcome news: coffee is coming, and a lot more too.

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.

Briana Tomkinson

Briana Tomkinson is a Montreal-based writer and original founder of Tenth to the Fraser. She really likes to write letters by hand.

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19 comments

  1. Coffee!!! Yes! (I love Great Wall Tea, but I love my coffee too!) And gelato — an absolute must for summer days on the Quay.
    I too am getting impatient for the market to fill up, so I'm glad to hear of these developments.
    Also glad to hear the deli is open at Donald's. I just did a month of shopping only at small grocery stores, so that meant I went to Donald's often. I saw a letter in the paper that mentioned Donald's had very high prices, but after my month of shopping there, I can say for certain, that is not true.
    Produce prices are competitive, some grocery items are even a smidge cheaper than regular-priced items at big grocery stores. (It is hard to beat sale prices at the big grocery stores.)
    Best finds: a made-in-Vancouver laundry soap that is formulated for our soft water and is comparably priced to big-name brands and a paper towel alternative that can be washed in the dishwasher.

  2. The lack of downtown Gelato has bugged me since moving to New West. I know Sherlock's now has it, but they close at dinner time. An evening stroll for Gelato should be in the Charter of Rights. (and no, Dairy Qureen does not suffice!)

    1. We're uptown, DQ is only 4 blocks away, and the kids love the dipped cones. If there was something better within walking distance, I'd go for it.

      In the summer, I might be willing to head down to the Quay, eat Gelato, and and go for a walk.

      I really wish there were better transit options between uptown and downtown. The bus doesn't cut it – too expensive to get a family of 4 downtown and then back up, the walk to the Quay would be 30 minutes each way.

      It would be great if there was a trolley that looped the city…. Campbell River is looking to get one that is donation-only.

      1. I just watned to mention — Uptown, Anny's Dairy Bar is pretty much the best thing out there. The owner is from Quebec and brought with her a machine that lightly swirls maple syrup with Vanilla Soft Serve. I also believe they sell Island Farms Ice Cream, so go there instead and support local industry!

      2. I would love the idea of a trolley too. Forget about getting Translink involved….that would take us until 2111. It would be a great way to bridge uptown with downtown. Agreed, one zone just to go downtown for an ice cream and one zone to get back home is not going to work for most people…

        1. At the risk of going even further off topic, the idea of an actual street car (or even better: a San Francisco-type cable car) running from the River Market to 6th and 6th has been raised before, and it would be remarkable if it ever happened. It would really tie our community together, it would evoke the heritage history of the City while supporting the modern sustianable transport goals the City has. Done right, it would draw tourists, provide more business and support the high-density buildings along the line.

          Who would pay for it? How much would it cost? What fare structure would we need? Would it be TransLink-run, a PPP, or run by the City? Yikes. the complications are huge. But this year the City is doing its master Transportation Plan, I wounder if this peice could be slotted in for longer-term planning (like the bridge to Queensborough…)

          1. Yes – this is what I was thinking – the old trolley that used to run through New West. I lived on Pine Street years ago, and if I recall correctly, the trolley tracks were still visible.

            As Columbia street gets more and more interesting, and the market is finally going, a trolley would be a significant enhancement, and would bring people into New West that only know of it by the 10-year-old news reports about drug-dealing at the sky train stations.

  3. I'm glad to see that there are a range of offerings coming to the Quay; I just hope that folks were not so turned off the first time they walked into the "reopened" market. Unfortunately, the notion of opening up the market in "courses" was ill-conceived, and really, just a way to brand the lack of tenants. Donald's is great for some items, but I have to disagree – it is really quite expensive for others (although, I could say that about the majority of grocery stores). I have troubles going for big shopping trips there, because I haaaate hauling all the items to the car post-checkout.

    BTW, I checked out Tiny, and it is beautiful (with great products) but after growing up in Vancouver for the majority of my life, it is overpriced for the same quality of items you can purchase in specialty food stores in Kits. I hope that folks out here are more willing than I am to pay $5 for two ounces of product than I am.

    1. Personally, I'm okay with paying a premium to NOT have to drive (or transit) all the way to Vancouver, pay for parking (or transit) spend all that time and effort, just to buy something at a fancypants store in Kitsilano. I don't go into Vancouver very often for business, and even less for pleasure so that might be why I think Tiny's prices are very reasonable. I like being able to get gourmet type items here in my city rather than have to rely on anything in Vancouver and I'm okay with paying a bit more as a result.

  4. There's a little Geltao shop in Highgate Village that I love to frequent when visiting the area. Feels very European; coffee in actual cups, fresh baked goodies, and knowing you are supporting an dependent local business. Nice to see something similar come to the Quay.

  5. In addition to transit options, the parking situation near the Quay should also be improved. First hour free, with no minimum purchase. Recently I ran into Donalds to see if they had a particular item. They didn't. and I was left paying for parking. It would have been much easier for me to dash into any number of grocery stores in New West. The River Market needs to make itself as accessible and attractive to folks as possible – particularly now.

    1. I'm with you on this one. For the most part, my visits to River Market have been on transit or on foot, but I did bring my car once and paid for my parking. I then promptly forgot to tear off the receipt and bring it with me, did a bit of shopping, and then left maybe 20 minutes later. I didn't want to go all the way back to the car to get the receipt part so I could get reimbursed – it wasn't worth it. I wish there was a better system – perhaps a way to type in your plate number and when you get to the checkout just give your plate number to the clerk to get reimbursed. No paper required that way. Also, this is nitpicky, but they really need to repaint the lines in the parking lot too – because there are two faded sets that don't always line up.

  6. Regarding parking at the River Market, it would be great if it was free, especially at this critical time while it's still getting established. However, at $1.50 (for two hours, I think), the parking isn't exactly expensive. (Anyone know how much two hours of metered parking is in New West? Must be about $1.50.) And think of other markets: Granville Island and Lonsdale Quay both have crappy parking too. That doesn't seem to have affected their popularity.
    If the River Market turns into the dynamic place a lot of us are hoping for, I have a feeling a lot of these perceived barriers (pay parking, hard to get to because of train tracks, far away from uptown) will evaporate from people's minds. If a place is popular and happening, people will make the effort to get there and won't care so much (or at all) about inconvenience. The question is, can the market turn into a thriving, busy place given that these inconveniences seem to loom so large for so many?

    1. The new parking meters in Sapperton are 13 minutes for .25. I don't know if that is the same across town or if it's so cheap because the meters out here are brand new or what…but you only feed meters from 8AM to 6PM and it's free outside of that.

  7. I am really disappointed in the Quay. I am not interested in Espresso; I just want an ordinary cup of coffee. I used to buy a coffee and sit upstairs on the patio where the circus school is now. That has been lost to me and I miss it a lot.

  8. I really like the Great Wall tea shop. I used to have to trek out to Granville Island to get a nice Cream Earl Grey, but now I just send my teens on Skytrain! There's also an excellent wine shop (not in Quay itself but right by the hotel) – this isn't the off-license pub store mentioned in the article.

    The Quay is still missing some key ingredients: a nice deli (how about an Oyama Meats outlet?) and a good cheese shop (there used to be one…). Without these, I still wind up going to Granville Island for my "targeted hit" food-gift shopping expeditions at Christmas…

    The old incarnation of the Quay was also missing outdoor cafe space. We'll have to see this summer if that has improved. It's such a lovely spot in good weather, it'd be really great to have more outdoor food and drink there.
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