Disappearing Corner Stores of Vancouver

Every week or so, on and off for a few years, I’ve walked past this abandoned store. Heong Grocery. It’s been closed for years, and in recent weeks it appears it’s being prepared for demolition. What is its story? How long was it open? Why did it close? Who is or was Heong?

Several years ago the Sun had a feature story about ‘disappearing corner stores of Vancouver.’ I think there was a book published. A quick Web search turned up nothing; I wish I could find it. Every one of these stores has a story, and at the risk of sounding old and sentimental, perhaps a more interesting one than the franchise joint that probably put them out of business.

Ford Pier: Pier-ic Victory

This near-masterpiece, by Ford Pier, may be the most obscure and underrated CD I own. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone else who owns it (with the obvious exception of Veda Hille, in whose wonderful band Mr. Pier played for many years). The songs are frenetic, inventive, insightful, often hilarious, and tuneful. There are at least two potential singles (“Charmed, I’m Sure” and “Why On Earth”). I’m not sure whether it’s available anywhere other than from Six Shooter Records (unfortunately the site is frame-based so you will have to search out the Ford Pier and on-line store pages manually).


We’re still almost four years out from the 2010 Olympics, and significant budget concerns have started to emerge (cf. some of Vaughan Palmer‘s recent columns in the Sun). But I’m not going to write another “I told you so” rant.

My perception of the whole affair is coloured by my involvement in designing the original bid Web site (now replaced). I did this partly against my better judgement, and I can’t say much about the experience because I’m probably under some sort of non-disclosure agreement. Suffice to say that my better judgement was increasingly skewed towards the “no” camp as the project progressed.

But there was one experience that stands out for me, and it was apart from my professional activities. The night of the referendum, February 22 2003, I was picking up my daughter from a choir rehearsal in Kerrisdale. Of course this part of town is probably one of those in which many people actually stand to benefit from the games. I overheard a fellow emoting to his friend about the referendum and questioning how anyone could possibly vote against. I immediately stepped in and said that I’d voted “no.” He was aghast. But when I tried to engage him in substantive debate on the issue, all he could really come up with was a tag line from the Olympic campaign. Not even a tag line, a word. “Think of the legacies,” he insisted, gesturing wide with his arms, his tone evoking a world in which, after February 2010, we Vancouverites might awake each morning to find a glass of chocolate milk on a fluffy white pillow waiting on our doorsteps (rather than an abandoned luge track somewhere up Howe Sound for which we are still paying).

Marketing puzzles me, because so much of it seems to be counterintuitive, if not just plain stupid. But the application of this one word was brilliant. It worked. And so “legacies” we will have: besides mounting debt, we’re not quite sure yet what they might be.