by Douglas Haddow | A couple years ago I spent a month holed up inside a tiny apartment in a sleepy part of Tokyo with a sprained ankle and a vacant bank account. This experience taught me many things, like how to say, “Hey guy, can I bum a smoke?” in Japanese, and that Internet access is a greater necessity than clean tap water. But most importantly, it taught me the value of convenience. Specifically, how to survive exclusively off the products available at the Family Mart a half block away from the building I was staying in.
Convenience, from the Latin convenientia, meaning harmony, is a virtue of the modern world that is all too often dismissed or overlooked. This is not the case in Japan, which has a culture that values harmony above all else and has elevated the convenience store to be a temple of consumerism – an indispensable hub of activity that provides all of one’s daily necessities in an expedient manner at affordable cost, with plenty of single-serving sake bombs on the extra cheap.
In Canada, our convenience stores trend towards the superfluous. They prey on our weaknesses, their mainstay being discount cigarettes, repurposed meat and lottery tickets. As such, they are often seen as symbols of cultural decline, and for good reason.
There is no art or pride to them, and certainly no harmony in their business model. They aim for the gutter and wallow in the fact that the average Canadian is content to support their crude, third-rate offerings.
This, however, is not the case with Hasty Market, Vancouver’s unrivalled all-hours munchie mecca.
Located on the corner of 16th and Main, Hasty looks a typical independent East Van shop from the outside, but on the inside offers a wealth of selection that verges on the bizarre. Items of interest include: locally brewed root beer, British “crisps”, homemade samosas, organic teas, rare Dutch candies, gluten-free pasta, and every potato chip that Old Dutch has ever produced (even the evasive Au Gratin Rip-L), to name a few.
All of which come together to create a vibe that is somewhere between a neighbourhood delicatessen and the stargate scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
This monolithic selection of foodstuffs is superbly complimented by the shaman-like disposition of the store’s personnel, who are always standing by, calmly waiting to help you find something or answer questions like “Where are you eco-friendly quinoa chocolate bars?”
Alas, when it comes to convenience, Canada is still in the dark ages, but at least the lights are always on at Hasty Market.
Douglas Haddow is a Main Street-based writer and the Associate Editor at Scout. His work has appeared in The Guardian, Adbusters, Vice, Colors, Slate, Hobo, and various online ice hockey forums. He has a BA in film studies from UBC, is a reluctant Calgary Flames supporter and likes to drink and argue.