How One of Vancouver’s Great Neighbourhood Coffee Spots Began

Dylan Doubt, Ganga Jolicoeur and Walter Le Deca inside the soon-to-open Greenhorn Espresso Bar in December, 2013 | Photo: Scout Magazine

Five years ago this week I met up with Walter Le Deca and Ganga Jolicoeur to look in at their then soon-to-open Greenhorn Espresso Bar at 994 Nicola Street. The capable, two-level charmer quickly established itself as the best place for coffee in the West End neighbourhood, and has since become a neighbourhood hangout.

Here’s what I wrote about it just before Christmas in 2013…

In the 1860’s, three Englishmen –  William Hailstone, John Morton, Sam Brighouse – purchased the 550 acres of the West End of Vancouver for a buck an acre (everything west of Burrard St. except the Government Reserve that became Stanley Park). Using the native clay of the area, their plan was to become brickmakers. They were mocked for their endeavours and derisively called “greenhorns” by the media of the day, as their enterprise was seen as entirely foolhardy – the work of 19th century noobs (they ended up doing pretty well for themselves in the long run and there’s a lovely sundial memorial to them on English Bay beach).

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Close to the epicentre of what was once their bit of good earth is 994 Nicola St., a long vacant spot that will soon welcome the Greenhorn Espresso Bar. Owned by first timers Walter Le Deca and Ganga Jolicoeur, it is set to open on January 3rd. I took a look inside the other day, guided by local photographer Dylan Doubt, who is helping Le Deca and Jolicoeur with sourcing, set up, and other things besides.

To call it just an espresso bar (serving Moja beans) is selling it rather short, though, as Greenhorn will also feature an upstairs gallery showcasing poster art and vintage bikes, a retail shop (coffee, chocolates, flowers) and a bakery/cafe component overseen by ex-Chambar kitchen fixture Becks Foster, from whom we can expect Spanish tortillas, quiches, sandwiches soups, salads, baguettes, croissants, waffles, and more.

If I had to pin it, I’d say that the West End is about to score something similar to Le Marche St. George, and that’s cause for residents to rejoice. This is a terribly under-served bit of the city, so it would be rather silly if they didn’t do well. If it’s half as good as I expect it to be (and the rent isn’t cruel), it could be a real institution, cut from the Finch’s cloth.

Here are some photos from that day…

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