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?

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

Cadeaux
Cadeaux

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.

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. 

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.