Thursday, 26 April 2018

The Big Cover-up - Part Two

So in my earlier post we found that covering up old storefronts and building facades became "the thing to do" starting in the 1950's. Finding old photos of downtown Vancouver during this period has proven a bit difficult. But the Vancouver Archives has another great image of the 400 block of West Hastings Street taken back in 1974 (CVA 718-144). This picture has been used on many other blogs as it's a great illustration of how the city used to look decades ago. But for my purposes it's a great example of how old buildings and storefronts were covered up!


The covering for the Sheppard Shoes storefront was probably porcelain enamel panels. This baked on finish offered brighter colours and was highly resistant to fading and weathering. It was first used for gas stations and their related signage which are highly collectable today. The Reitman's Store is great example of slipcovering with corrugated aluminum. In both cases the upper stories of the buildings were covered over and were probably used for storage or inventory. This provided lots of space for signage. One of the largest suppliers of aluminum slipcovering was the Kawneer Company originally from Niles Michigan. Although they were a US company they did have a factory to supply the Canadian market in Toronto Ontario. Here are a few images from an old Kawneer catalogue from the 1950's promoting the use of their siding called Zourite (don't you love that name?) to modernize old buildings and storefronts.




Today the siding that was once covering the Reitman's store has been taken down revealing the old turn of the century building underneath. Back in the 1980's the Sheppard Shoes building was taken over by the Millar and Coe fine china shop next door. Interestingly both storefronts were then covered with aluminum siding which was exactly when slipcovering was starting to go out of style. Today Millar and Coe are long gone and the space is being used by Mott Electric but the metal siding is still there. It would be great if they removed the paneling as I'm sure their are some fine looking old buildings hiding underneath. Interestingly in both cases the buildings are not being used for retail purposes anymore.

Friday, 6 April 2018

The Big Cover-up - Part One

Well, after a bit of a hiatus Storefront Vancouver is back with more great posts for 2018!

If you've ever been in downtown Vancouver you've probably noticed the building that houses the Church of Scientology at the North West corner of Hastings and Homer Street. Today it looks a bit odd with its funky mirrored paneling. But interestingly enough it's a great example of what happened to many old buildings in downtowns around North America in the 1950's, 60's and 70's. They were covered up!


By the late 1950's the move was on to the suburbs and retail was shifting to the shopping mall. Many downtowns had older stone or masonry buildings constructed in the late 1800's or turn of the century which were now looking a bit dated. The building at 401 West Hastings was a prime example of this as it dates from 1909. This photo was taken by W.J.Moore in 1931. Moore is of course known for his panoramic images of Vancouver. (Vancouver Archives str N281.2)


So in order to try and lure shoppers back to the downtown buildings and storefronts were covered up with slipcovers of paneling and corrugated metal siding. The new facades could then be covered with large modern signs. This 1974 image below from the Vancouver Archives (CVA 778-145) shows Peoples Jewellers with its modern looking mirrored panels which are still there today. The building next door was covered with metal siding and was home then to Reitman's.


By the 1980's slipcovering of older building began to go out of style and many downtowns rediscovered the older buildings that had been hidden away for decades. Today there are only a few buildings and storefronts left in Vancouver that are still covered up.

Check out Part Two in this series of The Big Cover-up!


Thursday, 9 November 2017

Fantasy Factory on Granville

I was looking through some older images recently and came across a few of an Adult XXX store on Granville Street that's not around anymore. This store was part of the Fantasy Factory chain and was in the Clifton Hotel at 1127 Granville Street. As far back as 2009 it seemed like Granville Street still had plenty of Adult stores. But seeing as the 2010 Winter Olympics were just around the corner suddenly several quietly disappeared. Whether this was by design or by natural selection it's hard to tell. The City did do an extensive redesign of Granville Street in preparation for the big events in 2010. Here's a photo of the Fantasy Factory storefront in the fall of 2009.


Since 2009 many old stores along Granville Street have been renovated hoping to attract higher end tenants. This has met with mixed success. Many different shops have come and gone since then but it seems like restaurants and eateries have had the most staying power. Here's another old shot of the storefront from the fall of 2010.


It seemed like this location of the Fantasy Factory was going to hang in there but that all changed in 2014. At that time the Hotel Clifton was making the news for all the wrong reasons. It seems the tenants who lived in the rooms upstairs were complaining of substandard living conditions. Instead of seeing improvements they were met with eviction notices! Thus began a long protracted battle between the owners of the hotel and City Hall. Basically the hotel was eventually emptied out and then put up for sale. So by the end of 2014 the Fantasy Factory was gone as well. Here's a photo of how the hotel looked in late 2014.


A Google search reveals the hotel has been sold and it had an asking price of $7,788,000.00! So hopefully the new owners will renovate the old place as it's been empty for three years now. I'm thinking the Fantasy Factory won't return though. It was part of a chain and there are still quite a few sprinkled around the greater Vancouver area. But with it's neon signs it did give Granville Street a bit of gritty charm at night.


Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Empty Stores on Granville Street

Back in October I was over in the South Granville area and noticed a higher than usual number of empty stores. South Granville is of course home to higher end and swankier retail shops and galleries so rents are already pretty pricey. The area I noticed was only in a two block stretch from Broadway down the hill to 7th Avenue. Most of the businesses in this strip are larger home furnishing and furniture stores as well as a few art galleries. It is normal for some turnover in terms of retail but the number of empty stores in such a small area makes it look like something a bit more serious is going on. Interestingly enough the Vancouver Sun recently published an article about how the City's rather misguided taxation system is forcing many independent retailers to either move farther afield or to close up shop entirely. You can read the whole story here


It seems the Triple Net lease system where retailers not only pay rent but also improvement fees and property taxes is the culprit. With the City's sky rocketing real estate prices the increase in property tax is passed on to the tenant. So in the South Granville area it seems that the point of paying ever increasing taxes has reached a breaking point and many retailers have simply had to close their doors and just move on.


Interestingly the Ian Tan Gallery will soon be moving across the street. According to their Twitter feed their building was sold three different times in only a 12 month period which shows the kind of frenetic activity going on in the commercial real estate market. The Gallery's present location was of course home to the Equinox Gallery for 25 years until they made the big move East back in 2012. At that time the gallery was rumoured to be paying $19,000 a month. Their move also set in motion an exodus of art galleries that left South Granville for cheaper digs in East Vancouver's industrial area in False Creek Flats. There's another great piece about the move done by the Vancouver Sun from 2012.


More empty stores on South Granville


So what does the future hold for this part of South Granville? Hard to tell but as we've seen in other high end retail strips like Fourth Avenue and Robson Street most likely big chain type retailers will probably move in. They do have the financial clout to hang in for the longer haul but make for a much less interesting shopping experience. But business is business and even the big name stores will suffer losses for only so long. Some big players have even given up on Robson Street in recent years because of astronomical rents. In any case it probably means many more small independent retailers will be forced out unless the City takes action which seems unlikely.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

12th Street Storefronts

Time to change things up a bit and temporarily leave Vancouver for a quick visit to 12th Street out in New Westminster. This part of New West has a lot of history and has some great old storefronts! Most are located along a strip of the street that stretches from 10th Avenue down the hill to 6th Avenue.


12th Street is actually a continuation of Kingsway which runs all the way into Vancouver. For a time it was the main route down to the US border. Here's some info I found about Kingsway in a City of Vancouver document about the historical significance of the 2400 Motel.

"The route we know as Kingsway has a long history. The Royal Engineers, who were sent from England to keep order during the gold rush beginning in 1858, feared invasion by the expansionist United States. So they laid out a trail running some 13 miles (20 kilometres) from New Westminster, the capital of the then British colony of British Columbia, northwest to Burrard Inlet. The route most likely followed a pre-contact Aboriginal trail. It was originally called Westminster Road"

"Westminster Road (renamed Kingsway in 1913) became the auto route heading south once the Fraser River was bridged at New Westminster in 1904. Kingsway kept growing in importance. The Pattullo Bridge crossing the Fraser River at New Westminster was completed in 1937. From there the King George Highway ran south to the international border at Blaine, Washington. Kingsway became the northernmost section of a road system linking Vancouver down the American coast to Mexico by what became known as the Pacific Highway."

So some of the storefronts along 12th street probably date from the heyday of the automobile. I'm guessing some are from the early 20th century and most probably from the 1920's and 1930's. 12th Street is of course no longer the transportation corridor it once was but the street with its old stores still has lots of charm. Today there are antique stores, restaurants, neighbourhood grocery stores, and some funky thrift stores to name a few.


But New West like most municipalities in the Lower Mainland is growing at a phenomenal rate. This especially true in the lower part of town where condo towers having been springing up like weeds over the last decade. No doubt this will have an effect on the little stores on 12th Street. As property values and taxes rise it becomes economically unviable to have such little buildings on such expensive land. So for the time being this little strip of 12th Street is hanging in there and is well worth a visit!




Wednesday, 4 October 2017

The Jade Dynasty Restaurant

One of my favourite storefronts in Chinatown is the Jade Dynasty Restaurant at 137 East Pender Street. Located in the 1913 Mah Society Building it's certainly one of the most colourful storefronts around. But that all changed back in early 2016 when the restaurant closed down and the building started an extensive restoration. Here's an old photo of how it looked back in early 2013.


Strangely enough while the building was empty it suffered a fire. A local news channel stated incorrectly that the restaurant "went up in flames" although there was some damage as a result.

When the building first opened in 1913 the storefront was home to Kwong Fong Grocery with the Minglee Rooms upstairs. Here's a link to a photo of the building at Canada's Historic Places.

After doing a bit of searching I found the building got a Heritage Facade Grant from the City back in late 2015. I also found a document online that included lot's of technical and historical information about the old place. Amazingly there was some very detailed info about the storefront and how it had changed over the years.

"The original 1913 wood storefront was altered in about 1928; the storefront above the wood paneled base and below the wood clearestorey windows was replaced with a pressed copper storefront system popular at this time. The storefront was entirely changed out in the late 1960s to an aluminum storefront with a ceramic tile covering over the clearestorey area, which was subsequently replaced in the 1980s with the current aluminum storefront."

So in the summer of 2017 the restoration work was complete and the Jade Dynasty reopened for business. But it looks nothing like the old restaurant!


The restaurant's new look is more in keeping with the building's original design but I can't help thinking that I liked the colours of the old place better!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Glory Foods

I was down in Gastown recently and as I was walking along Carrall Street near Powell I immediately noticed something was missing. Glory Foods was a little corner store that was right next door to another one called Bill's Confectionary. It was always interesting to see two corner stores side by side. But the way Gastown is changing I guess it was only a matter of time before one of them disappeared. Here is an old shot of the store taken back in late 2012.


The store was located in the old Glory Hotel which was a single room occupancy hotel. Technically the building dates from 1909. But according to the folks at Changing Vancouver the hotel was built over two existing stores on Carrall Street. You can read more about the Glory Hotel in their post here. I happened to find an old photo at the Vancouver Archives of the building taken probably in the early 1980's. At that time the space was home to a belt buckle store! It's hard to photograph the building today as trees have since grown up and cover it during the spring and summer months. CVA-790-2146


I did a little searching and found out the hotel was sold back in 2014. It looks like it's also been extensively renovated over the last few years. So I guess the corner store's days were probably numbered. I'm also guessing the folks that lived in the rooms upstairs won't be able to afford to move back either. The area around Maple Tree Square and Gastown in general is going very upscale in terms of retail these days. A new store called Bailey Nelson (Australian) will be opening a new eyewear store once renovations are completed. I'm sure the new store will be nice but you can't help  miss the character of Glory Foods!