Tag Archives: Commercial Street

Car Free Day On Commercial Drive & Commercial Street Village Sunday, July 8th

3 Jul

CarFreeDay2018Two Car Free Days are happening this Sunday, July 8th. First up is:

Car Free Day On Commercial Drive: Noon – 7:00 pm

The street festival which stretches 15 blocks along Commercial Drive will have at least 3 stages set up for entertainment.  Local artisans will be on hand, there will be activities for all ages and of course great food.  If you hadn’t heard, Car Free started on The Drive, so they have this event nailed down and will be continuing to promote car free spaces and green living within the community. Note, buses will be rerouted for the day along Commercial Drive, but there will be lots of easy access to the event by bus and Skytrain.  If you are travelling by bike and wish to store it while you wander, BEST Bike Valet will be on hand.  Event kicks off at Noon and goes till 7:00 pm.

Car Free Day On Commercial Street Village: Noon – 4:30 pm 

The local businesses that comprise the 3400 – 3500 block Commercial Street are hosting a Mini Car Free Day this Sunday alongside the event on Commercial Drive. They have lots of fun stuff lined up including chainsaw carving by Jesse Toso of Toso Wood Gallery, live music, kids t-shirt giveaway, giant Genga game, street art, rummage sale, chocolate tasting, bike repair as well as an electric bike demo and a whole lot more.  They are asking those that attend to help make this a zero waste event.  This is a first time event for this group, so they are running a shorter event from Noon – 4:30 pm. Stop by and support some great local businesses tucked away on Commercial Street.

Social Enterprise: A Conversation With Elizabeth McKitrick, Second Nature Home

1 May

SecondNatureHomeLocal writer, Maryam Khezrzadeh, recently prepared a feature on the platform, Medium.  Her article was on a local business, Second Nature Home, which is also a social enterprise.  With Maryam’s permission, we have set out her article below. Social enterprises are noble undertakings, but they need to be profitable as well to survive and finding that balance is important and we want to see these businesses succeed.  Without further ado, Maryam’s feature:

People don’t buy from a business just because it is doing something good for the society. So how do social enterprises succeed? How do they compete with the increasingly socially aware big corporations?

Elizabeth McKitrick is the founder of Second Nature Home Boutique, a social enterprise in the Trout Lake/Cedar Cottage neighbourhood in East Vancouver.

One afternoon, a few years ago, I entered the shop for the first time, expecting boutique prices for the boutique quality. But I was surprised! The well-made, beautiful pottery, linens, jewelry, woodwork, self-care and edibles were all priced comparably lower than same or similar items in other stores. What was going on? What a gem, I thought!

I became a regular and the shop became a place not only to refill soap and shampoo bottles, but also to learn about the city, the people who made the products sold at the store and the goings-on around the neighbourhood.

For the second episode of “Ten Minute Conversations”, I invited Elizabeth McKitrick to tell us about the boutique, its social mission and how it survives and thrives in an expensive city such as Vancouver. To listen to an interview with Elizabeth McKitrick, visit Soundcloud.

What is a Social Enterprise?

Most people are confused about what a social enterprise really is. A 2013 survey in UK revealed that only one in five people can correctly identify a social enterprise. Half of the public either thinks that a social enterprise relies on grants and donations to provide support to people (charity), or that the main purpose of a social enterprise is to return profits to individual owners and shareholders (traditional business). None of these definitions capture the essential nature of a social enterprise.

At its core, a social enterprise, has a mission to address specific issues within a society. The enterprise assumes responsibility to change an unjust situation for the better and sometimes even transform whole societies, and it does so by participating in the economy. It is this direct economic activity and the central steering role of a core mission, that marks a social enterprise.

This is how Elizabeth defines it:

A social enterprise is one whose social mission is just as important as their financial mission. So it’s on equal footing; you have to make a profit in order to be in business, but the profits are re-invested back into the business for the benefit of “all involved”.

There are a number of things that fall into the social mission for Second Nature. Elizabeth and her team are aware of the consequences of social isolation, and so they’re committed to make a place that encourages and enhances connectedness; a place where people can come and be known to one another, meet their neighbours and have a conversation.

The enterprise is also committed to promote conversations around the environment and how our ways of living and climate change might be related. Furthermore, the shop has equipped the neighbourhood with a soap refilling system to target plastic waste.

 SNHSoapStation

It is direct economic activity and the central steering role of a social mission, that marks a social enterprise.

The financials do terribly matter though. As we mentioned, people don’t buy from a business just because it is a do-gooder. A small percentage of people give a very high priority to ethical considerations (early adopters), but a significantly larger population, considers the ethics of a business only after everything else (price, quality, availability) is more or less the same. So a social enterprise, like any other business, has to find a way to provide good value.

Good Value: Price, Quality & Intrigue

The shop, purposely tries to keep its pricing low, because it is located in a mixed income neighbourhood. The majority of families and individuals in the neighbourhood, Elizabeth tells us, live on strict budgets. The way Second Nature manages to offer beautiful, local, handmade products at affordable prices, is by partnering with makers who are also in the same situation.

This co-dependent and co-development of makers and buyers, facilitated by a (not-greedy) social enterprise might just offer a fair equilibrium. The makers get all their costs covered and also receive 60% of the profits. The shop receives 40% of the profits. But the margins are moderate, not high. And sometimes even, the shop and the makers strategically decide to cut back on their margins to be able to offer certain valuable products that have longevity to them:

For example we have some linen towels that we bring in that are all ethically sourced, and they are pricy! but we do try to keep the margins down …we are not making 50% or 60% markup on them which we know some other stores are doing! (laughs) … you could use [these towels] for twenty years and wouldn’t have to buy another towel.

Elizabeth McKitrick (center) and Elya Bergen (right) inside Second Nature boutique.

It is not easy work to curate quality goods and maintain good prices. Second Nature invests a lot of time and effort researching and testing the products. It is the shop’s direct alliance with an army of local makers that makes it possible to not only test and filter goods more effectively, but also to offer a very diverse array of products. “And that’s part of the intrigue”, Elizabeth believes, “people come in and go, oh! I’ve never seen anything like this before!”

For Second Nature, though, makers are not just strategic partners:

We also encourage people to go outside … It doesn’t have to go through us. We encourage the expansion of the makers’ influence. We are about promoting artisans and helping them to be solidly supported, so they can continue making beautiful things.

But why is it so important to support local makers?

The Importance of Circular Economy

When you support a local artisan, you’re giving the money into their pocket, so that they can buy other local products. And it’s strengthening the local community in a way that would not ever happen. It’s very organic.

Locally owned businesses in Canada re-circulate 2.6 times more revenue back into the local economy than multi-national chains. It’s not only that local business are more likely to buy local services and products, it’s also that they employ people in the community and support local events, sports teams and charities. So money gets recirculated many times and in many ways within the community invigorating the local economy and making it grow.

Why Local? Infographic from BC Buy Local.

Elizabeth believes that the community’s understanding of this ripple effect has definitely increased in the past few years. “There is a desire to buy local”, she tells us. People are more aware of true costs of producing, consuming and disposal of a product and so are adapting new attitudes towards their purchasing. More people see paying a little more for local products as “investing in the life of another person or another family” and investing in a product that they love and are going to wear, keep and use for a long time. A departure from rapid consumerism.

Reprinted With Permission: Maryam Khezrzadeh

Off The Beaten Track – Casa Verde & Spartacus Books

19 Jul

ACasaVerdeccording to Robert Stone – I recommend the Netflix doc “ Get Me Robert Stone “- the past is prologue. Now if you donʼt subscribe to that theory then you most likely werenʼt inspired by my suggestions to stop in at what was once Commercial Village. But if you do, you may want to check out another curiosity. Right in the middle of Commercial Street, at 3532, is a restaurant. Itʼs called Casa Verde and unless you were looking for it, you wouldnʼt even give it a side glance. With itʼs fading green awning and neutral storefront, the place looks like one of those “ social clubs “Tony Sopranoʼs pals would hang at. But actually itʼs a real restaurant. A Portuguese restaurant thatʼs been run by the same family for twenty years. Iʼm not going to review Casa Verdeʼs fare. Which is a good thing. I may not be the best food critic given that I did not like the much praised and acclaimed Savio Volpe on Kingsway and Fraser. I can tell you that the proprietors of Casa Verde recommend the salted Cod or their weekend chicken barbecue special. But thatʼs not whatʼs interesting. Whatʼs interesting is that behind Casa Verdeʼs almost invisible storefront, thereʼs also a banquet hall that holds up to one hundred. The hall feels like it should be accessible through a bookcase operated secret passage. Itʼs discreet and it might be the perfect venue to roll out your start-up launch, or throw that party when your new single drops.

On the other hand, maybe you donʼt have time for something as frivolous as checking out a restaurant you may never dine in. How could you have time when thereʼs injustice and inequality in the world? After all, you are a social justice warrior. Thatʼs why you live in East Van the birthplace of Vancouverʼs progressive thought. East Van was home to the first Lefties on city council Bruces Yorke and Erickson and the Godfather of Progressive Vancouver Trout Laker Harry Rankin. Itʼs also home to long serving former NDP MP Libby Davies and future long serving NDP MP Jenny Kwan. So itʼs ironic that in your rush to those committee meetings youʼve never stopped, right at where Commercial Street meets Commercial Drive, and checked out Spartacus Books at 3378 Findlay.

Spartacus Books is Vancouverʼs original Lefty book store. Itʼs been around since 1973 and for years was a beacon of socialist thought on the Downtown East Side. But eventually evil forces – think developers not CSIS- conspired to run Spartacus Books out of itʼs long time location and over to this innocuous spot under the Sky Train behind the Croatian Cultural Centre. Banished to this location, Spartacus Books soldiers on encouraging truth justice and the East Van way. Theyʼre friendly folk, mostly volunteers, and they wonʼt try and force feed you Das Kapital or insist you watch a North Korean video. If youʼre trying to establish an ideological position, validate your East Van political street cred, or just worry about the fires of capitalism being highly infectious, Spartacus Books can help.SpartacusBooks

By Contributing Writer: Al Tee

 

 

A Little East Van History – The Lakeview Disaster And The Wild West

12 Jul

LakeviewDisasterVancouverHeritageFoundationWe introduce you to a new contributing writer Al Tee. Al loves a good story and has his eye on East Van’s history.  His East Van roots go back to his grandmother’s childhood home and farm at 41st and Sophia. Today, he’s going to share a little East Van history in the Kensington-Cedar Cottage area.

You live in East Van, youʼre always rushing. In a hurry. Youʼre rushing for the bus, for the Skytrain. Youʼre riding in the bike lane rushing to make the next light. Youʼre rushing trying to avoid traffic from pop-up city road work. All that rushing, and no time to take a side glance at what youʼre rushing past in East Van. Short anomalous streets and tiny micro neighborhoods. All of them bubbling over with anecdotal history. Because if you hadnʼt realized, East Van is where Vancouver started.

So let me do the side glance for you while you rush. As you rush North down Victoria thereʼs a point where you hit a big curve that becomes Commercial Drive. On your right you pass a large patch of green that hides a community garden. Plenty of those in East Van, except this has some history. At the bottom of Lakeviewthe garden is a shed thatʼs been built like a replica of one of the old shelters for the Interurban. The Interurban was the original Skytrain, Vancouverʼs first rapid transit. These shelters offered both protection from the elements and often a ticket agent to sell riders their fare. More importantly the shed has a plaque, placed there to remind passersby of the events of the Lakeview Disaster.

In 1909 at the current location of the community garden, a BC Electric Interurban train collided with a runaway railcar loaded with timber. The collision resulted in 14 people killed and another 9 seriously injured. What happened at Lakeview became the worst transit accident in Vancouver history. While you give that a pause as you rush by, two blocks east is a short strip of Commercial Street that was itself once considered a village. The Commercial Street Cafe located at East 20th and Commercial Street, is particularly significant. While I canʼt vouch for the coffee – Iʼm too anti-social to have coffee anywhere but home – I can vouch that this was the sight of Vancouverʼs first armed robbery. The restored Cafe was once home to the Bank of Hamilton, a forerunner of the CIBC, and on one August Saturday night back in 1912, six armed men entered the bank and robbed it. While this was going on, members of a nearby gospel meeting began singing. At the same time two South Vancouver Police Constables Pcʼs Thomas and Winters happened by. There was a shoot-out. According to PC Winters; “ …men came running out of the bank and opened fire on me. Quite a fusillade was opened on me…I raised my revolver to shoot, but the crowd that had been singing and preaching now began to realize what was on and they scattered. “

Picture the opening scene in Sam Peckinpahʼs The Wild Bunch happening two blocks from the Croatian Cultural Centre. A running gun battle ensued and the robbers, some possibly wounded, escaped into the bush around Trout Lake. Which brings us back to Lakeview. Because these six “ desperate outlaws “ all passed by the sight of the cityʼs worst traffic accident ever. Think of it, a train wreck and an armed robbery with a shootout only a couple of blocks apart. Is this is a side glance of East Van? Or the Wild Wild West?

Contributing Writer: Al Tee

Photo Credit: Vancouver Heritage Foundation (above)
Photo Credit: Commercial Street Below (below)

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