The aptly named Commercial Drive is the most popular street in Grandview-Woodlands. It got its start in Vancouver’s own beginnings as a lengthy trackway for dragging felled logs down to the waterfront. An 1890’s streetcar line connecting New Westminster to Vancouver ensured its rise as a small business high street, and eventually earned it its name-change from Park Drive to Commercial Drive. It had it ups and downs between the wars as its peripheral blocks were filled in with houses, and it wasn’t until the 1950’s that its present day cultural character would begin to metastasize. Post-war Italian immigration and an increasingly heavy Italian business presence on Commercial Drive would result in the area garnering its “Little Italy” moniker. Later immigration from Portugal, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia added more diversity to the mix, as did a slow but vital trickle of artists, musicians, and politically activists. A distinctly permissive counter-culture had a lock on the neighbourhood by the 1980’s, and despite the creep of gentrification it has never really let go. Today, Commercial Drive is one of the most vibrant and culturally exciting streets in the city. A walk of its length, from Venables to Broadway, is always a enlivening breath of fresh air.
On Commercial Drive at the moment (our HOOD palettes are ever-changing), we’re seeing several shades of incense amalgamated into one dun brown; high quality marijuana; Prado coffee tri-colour; aspirational Italian male Ferrari red and yellow golf shirts; yoga mat lavender; VW Type 2 van rust; Joe’s Cafe rainbow (six colours); summer day sidewalk.
LOTS OF MID-CENTURY MODERN AWESOMENESS AT ATTIC TREASURES
CUSTOMERS SHAZAMMING WHATEVER RECORD IS SPINNING AT AUDIOPILE
PLENTY OF GROWN-UP SUPER PRIVATE FUN TIME TOYS AT WOMEN’S WARE
SHOP KEEPER & CAFE OWNER SENSITIVITY TO “OUTSIDE FOOD AND DRINK”
BLACK VELVET PAINTING COLLECTION AT LITTLE MISS VINTAGE
SAUSAGE AND FISH SMOKE ON CAR FREE DAYS
WELCOMING QUEER LGBT COMMUNITY
THE CONSTANT THREAT OF HACKEYSACK
THE INTOXICATING INCENSE SMELL INSIDE (AND OUTSIDE) OF PARANADA TRADERS
HAPPY HARMLESS PEOPLE SMOKING MARIJUANA LIKE IT WAS LEGALISED IN THE REAGAN YEARS
BEDOUIN WORLD TRANCE WIZARD YOGA*
THE TIMELESSLY GARISH INTERIOR OF CAFE CALABRIA
HOMELESS DOGS IN NECKERCHIEFS GUARDING A LIQUOR STORE
MIDNIGHT MOVIES AT THE (LICENSED) RIO THEATRE
EVERYBODY WEARS PATCHOULI TUESDAY
BEER FETISHISTS SCHOOLING SERVERS AT BIERCRAFT
PEOPLE PEOPLE WATCHING THE PEOPLE WATCHERS ON THE PATIO AT HAVANA
SUNDAY AFTERNOON JAZZ AT TANGENT CAFE
MIDDLE-AGED ITALIAN MEN GOSSIPING OUTSIDE ABRUZZO CAPPUCCINO BAR
SKATEBOARD WHEEL VENDING MACHINE AT BLVD SKATESHOP
DEEP FRIED SOUR CURED RIBS AT KINKAO
SCHNITZEL SANDWICHES AND GERMAN CHEESECAKE AT ANDY’S BAKERY
PAPUSAS FROM RICONCITO SALVADORENO
SAINT HONORE CAKE FROM FRATELLI’S BAKERY
THE FALAFEL AT DONAIR TOWN
WING WING CHINESE SAUSAGES FROM SOUTH CHINA SEAS TRADING CO. (ON VICTORIA DR.)
AL PASTOR TACOS AND COLD, SPICY, TAJIN SPICE-RIMMED MICHELADAS AT LA MEZCALERIA
COLD WHITE WINE AND FRESH OYSTERS AT MERCHANT’S
“LEMMY” POBLANO BRUNCH AT BANDIDAS
DIY ITALIAN SANDWICHES AT LA GROTTA DEL FORMAGGIO
UK-STYLE FISH & CHIPS AT WINDJAMMER’S
PEANUT BUTTER CUP AT BUMP & GRIND
BOMBER BEER AT BIERCRAFT
PROPER SAMOSAS AT SWEET CHERUBIN
HEATHER’S BUTTERMILK LOAVES AT UPRISING BREADS BAKERY (ON VENABLES ST.)
AUTHENTIC NEAPOLITAN PIZZAS AT VIA TEVERE (ON VICTORIA DR.)
COFFEE AND SUNDAY BRUNCH AT PRADO CAFE
EASTER COOKIES AT ELIZABETH’S BAKERY
JERK CHICKEN AT RIDDIM & SPICE
SPAGHETTI & RIBS AT NICK’S SPAGHETTI HOUSE
MONKEY’S LUNCH SMOOTHIES AT ETERNAL ABUNDANCE
– The name “Grand View” is said to have originated from a hand-painted sign located on First Avenue in 1892.
– Commercial Drive started as a skid road for logs en route to the old Hastings Mill on Dunlevy.
– Ice hockey can be played year round at the Britannia Rink.
– Following World War II, many of Vancouver’s Italian-Canadian population migrated from Strathcona to Commercial Drive, leading to its nickname as “Little Italy”.
– In the Blvd Skateshop there is a gigantic photo reproduction of the 1986 Thrasher Magazine cover that put Vancouver’s skateparks on the world’s skateboarding radar. It features a young Chris Miller tucking a frontside air over one of the hips at Seylynn Bowl in North Van.
– Early Squamish settlers identified the southern section of Grandview-Woodland as Khupkhahpay’ay, which translates to “cedar tree”.
– Trout Lake (or Blackie’s Lake as it was originally called) is the only lake in the city of Vancouver.
* NOT A REAL THING