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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

North Shore Corner Stores

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The Corner Store in North Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Eve Lazarus.

I wrote about Andrews on 8th in North Vancouver earlier this summer. It was once a corner store, now thanks to its owner Brad Hodson, the 1912 “blue” building has a new lease on life and is the residence of Brad’s wine making business, a café and a catering business that employs single Moms.

A friend and I had lunch at the Corner Store in North Vancouver recently. The Corner Store is a convenience store, turned café that serves 750 homes in Pemberton Heights—an affluent area tucked underneath the freeway near Capilano Road.

Tracey Cochrane bought the store in 2006, and she’s been in the news of late because she’s taken the radical step of wanting to serve a glass of wine with her soups, salads and sandwiches. It’s not just good business; it’s survival for these small neighbourhood stores, many of which have closed in recent years because of antiquated zoning laws.

While the Corner Store is a relatively new building, it has existed in some form for a hundred years, back when the trolley car used to rattle down 22nd Street. Tracey knows this because the family of one of her customer’s owned the business in 1916. “There’s all this history here,” she says. “It’s such a shame that we are losing these places.”

The End of the Line in Lynn Valley. Photo courtesy of Eve Lazarus.

Corner stores like Tracey’s and the End of the Line in Lynn Valley are transforming their communities. They are no longer grotty grocery shops selling sketchy produce and stale candy, new owners have renovated them into tourist destinations, a place to hang out with the neighbours, and perhaps most importantly, they provide employment and support other businesses and artisans in the area.

Everything in Tracey’s store screams local, from the colourful scarves to handmade jewelry. There’s a large section of organics and specialty groceries. My friend and I chose a bowl of soup that was dense with mushrooms and a grilled cheese sandwich dressed up with spinach from a menu that had everything from Capilano Hot Cakes, a breakfast called the Grouse Grinder, and the Pemby Pleaser—two poached eggs on top of a ham and English muffin topped with hollandaise sauce for $9.95. Staff are young, local and attentive. Get your wholesale metal bangles and costume jewelry. See website for more information.

Residents are solidly behind Tracey. She took more than 550 signatures to win the right to have the zoning changed that would allow her to  prepare food on site and serve beer, wine and cider until 9:00 pm. It means she can add to her menu and put in more seats. “Technically, our food has to be all prepared and brought in,” says Tracey. “Well you can’t survive and do that as a small business.”

While I think a “food-primary liquor licence” is a no-brainer, I am astounded by Mayor Richard Walton’s comment in the North Shore Outlook that licensing the Corner Store would not set a precedent for similar stores.

How about we let commonsense prevail and help these corner stores flourish. That means not charging The End of the Line $500 a year to rent airspace from the district to put up an awning. It means having laws that don’t hassle these stores about having seating on the patio and hire staff who ask: “will that be coffee or Shiraz?” Maybe then we can keep the money in our community instead of spending it at Starbucks or the Esso Station.