Inside ‘Oh Carolina’, Opening Soon in East Van

Josh Pape, Ian McHale, Nick Miller, James Iranzad and Travis McCord.

Gooseneck Hospitality’s new Charles St. Grocery project is inching closer to opening at East 12th and Carolina. We first reported on it back in March, before it had a name.

As a nod to its cross street they’re calling it Oh Carolina, and the more I’ve gotten to know about it the more I’ve become jealous that it isn’t around the corner from my house. Any neighbourhood would be lucky to have a project like this in its midst. It’s a good idea at the right time and in the right place. Many of our neighbourhoods can count at least one long defunct or under-utilized corner store among their blocks, and it’s always a fine and hopeful thing to see new life and renewed purpose breathed into their old and under-appreciated bones.

Here’s some background if this is the first you’re reading of it…

James Iranzad, Josh Pape and Nick Miller of Gooseneck Hospitality have secured the old Charles Grocery location at 580 East 12th Avenue for the purpose of turning it into a little sandwich shop, cafe and corner store.

I don’t know the full history of the place, which located two blocks north of Robson Park and Savio Volpe, but I’m pretty sure it was shuttered for well over a decade until 2019 when it was reopened as a cafe grocery. The new owner didn’t have an easy time of it during Covid, and so was in the mood to sell.

The Gooseneck guys signed the deal two weeks ago. Their plan is for a quick renovation inside and out, launching at some point in May, 2021. They don’t have a name or a concept fully fleshed out yet but the goal is to keep it a 15-seat cafe grocery dedicated to serving the needs of the immediate neighbourhood, not unlike other refurbished corner stores such as Le Marche St. George, Finch’s, and the Federal Store. They’re especially excited at the prospect of doing a weekly series of pop-ups, guest chef feasts and other special events out of the space and its potential wraparound patio, so it’s safe to expect a pretty dynamic end result.

I snuck a look inside earlier this week for a walkthrough with the whole crew (pictured above), including the chef, Travis McCord, who you will remember from his time at Yaletown’s La Pentola. I was struck by the sunny and shaded patio spaces right away. These are going to be a major draw. The neighbourhood corner (SW 12th and Carolina) is highly trafficked by foot, bike and car, so I trust the watchable action will be near constant.

The retooled interior was coming together with a new herringbone patterned floor. The sandwich presses and espresso machine were both installed (Timbertrain beans at the ready) and a peg board wall was awaiting its first shelves and products. An old Coke-style menu board hung above the counter, ready for its first sliding black letters.

I haven’t seen McCord’s menu of sandwiches and snacks yet, but I don’t doubt that they’ll be excellent considering his six years of experience as an executive chef and Gooseneck’s track record of deliciousness. If you don’t recognize the parent company name, you probably know its restaurants: the two Bells & Whistles, both Bufalas and Kitsilano’s Lucky Taco. You might also remember their first spot, the award-winning Wildebeest, which – before it closed at the start of the pandemic – played host to countless special dinners and collaboration feasts. This is why I’m especially looking forward to checking out one (or two) of the many special dinners that Oh Carolina has planned for this year. It’s a card up a sleeve, an Ace for sure.

Launch day is still a couple of weeks away, but take a look inside just the same. You can definitely see where they’re going with it…

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