Killarney Shopping Centre – The Last Outpost?

7 Aug

Depending on how you view the history of Canada, it was explored and settled or it was conquered and occupied. Either way the pattern of Westward expansion seemed to involve a commercial enterprise, usually the Hudson’s Bay, plonking down an anchor store somewhere. Then a fort was built around it and they started trading. I believe that the shopping centre of the post war expansion was the distant offspring of the old trading outposts. Basically, build a ring of retail around a parking lot and then let the people come.

There are not many of these old style wide open centres left. Oh, you can still find them in places like Campbell River and Quesnel, but for the most part on the Lower Mainland theyʼve been eaten up by the mall. Still there are a few holdouts left and one in particular that comes to mind is the Killarney Shopping Centre.

Located at East 49th and Elliott this commercial outpost is oddly frozen in time. Sure it has a bank and a Starbucks, but in the condo clearcut thatʼs slowly migrating from the West Side to East Van, it really doesnʼt look much different from when it was built in 1962. It is mostly single story and has a gas station. Remember those? They used to have them in downtown Vancouver.

The main draw though, for the Killarney Shopping Centre is the Killarney Market. It is one of those near extinct commercial entities that still exist sporadically in East Van; an independent grocery. The market was originally a Safeway, then an IGA and now it is a 24 year old independent run by two brothers, John and Tito Chiang. Walking the aisles it has that small town old store feel, though it has a diverse stock of ethnic KillarneyMarketBublefoodstuffs you probably wouldnʼt find in Quesnel. Killarney Market also gained some publicity by being in the Michael Buble video for “Havenʼt Met You Yet “ Though mentioning this kind of makes me cringe. When it comes to guys in a suit jacket singing, my taste lies more toward Nick Cave than Mr. Bubbly.

One other curiosity of the Killarney Shopping Centre is its home to Wally’s Burgers. For those unaware of the significance, Wally Burgers was located on Kingsway for 46 years. It was a small greasy burger joint of the 1950ʼs movie variety. It was also a kind of right of passage, a stop over for those traveling West for a night in town. A place to put some padding down before the boozing. It was also a stopover for those traveling East heading home. A place to absorb the boozing or maybe lay down some padding for the impending hangover.

Wally’s closed on Kingsway in 2008 and then in 2010 some enterprising folk rebooted the whole thing and now have three locations. How does it compare? Well, unless youʼre either half-pissed or hungover itʼd be pretty hard to tell. Nostalgia aside, the thing I find most curious about Killarney Shopping Centre is how long can this uniquely dated shopping centre, this aging commercial outpost last? The most recent property assessment was for over 39 million up by 10 million over the previous year. At some point an income trust or dark lord developer is going to decide to cash it in.

By Contributing Writer Al Tee

Photo Credit: Killarney Market & Wally’s Burgers

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