Welcome to the Vancouver Lexicon. Its purpose is to pin down the patois of the City of Vancouver by recording its toponyms, nicknames, slang terms, personalities, places, and other Van-centric things. Full A-Z here.
Merch Block | geography, toponym | The enduring nickname for the block of East Hastings Street between Carrall Street and Columbia Street on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The term came into consistent use during the early 2000s on account of the unregulated, open air market of new and used ‘merchandise’ – everything from clothing and kitchen appliances to bicycle parts and computer accessories – being bought, sold and traded on the north and south sidewalks. It is widely assumed that some of the goods for sale have been ill-gotten, though evidence for this is just as anecdotal as the insistence that the same goods were innocently foraged from bins or found discarded in neighbourhood laneways. Either way, the Merch Block remains a place where, as VPD Deputy Chief Howard Chow was quoted as saying in a 2018 news story, “predatory fences thrive and vulnerable people are exploited.” Despite official fits and starts to clear the Merch Block’s sidewalks by steering irregular commerce into sanctioned, scheduled markets, the trade has only expanded for another three blocks east, with curbside sellers now (2020) hawking goods on both sides of East Hastings Street all the way to Dunlevy Avenue.
Usage: “I found a Star Wars lunch box, a Public Enemy cassette and a mint condition tennis racket on the Merch Block today…”