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SEEN IN VANCOUVER #362: What’s Up With The 400 Block Of Columbia In Chinatown?

by Michelle Sproule | There’s been a lot of cool stuff going down on a single stretch of the DTES lately. The 400 block of Columbia is being transformed into something of a magnet to young, independent Vancouver creatives. It is already home to Shudder Gallery, Beats & Bikes, and Positive Negative Gallery, and very soon it will welcome a new shop called Duchesse Vintage & Such, the new headquarters of small scale design house Strathcona Carpentry, and a German street food parlour called Bestie. Here’s a little skinny on each one…

Duchesse Vintage and Such

430 Columbia Street | Anna McLean & Anna MacLellan | Anticipated opening: June, 2012

Duchesse is going to be sweet vintage shop for both men and women. It’ll offer a carefully curated assemblage of vintage clothing, furniture, housewares and all manner of oddities. Ricky Alvarez is doing the interior design and Glasfurd & Walker are doing all the logo, branding and signage work (see Bao Bei, Meat & Bread, etc.). Can’t wait for this one. Anna(s) got taste!

Positive Negative Gallery

436 Columbia Street | Adam Lupton | Open

Positive Negative is all about creativity: the thought, the expression, and the execution that creative people pour into their passion – their work.” It’s an artist-run gallery that loves showing and promoting local and international artists and designers every month. Colin Moore’s show Monsters of Görlitzer Park is up and running until May 5th, and then it’s the international polaroid show Anywhere But Here from May 16th to June 2nd. The gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday from 1pm until 5pm. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Beats & Bikes

420 Columbia Street | Justin Jung, Syavash Yorish, German Pombo | Open

Beats & Bikes is a collective group of local designers, musicians, artists and makers that work on creative projects that involve music and bikes. They’re also the folks that brought us this rad PSA on what happens when you steal a bike.

Shudder Gallery

433 Columbia St. | Director:  Mysa Kaczkowski | Asst. Coordinator/Designer: Sylvana D’Angelo | Asst. Coordinator: Sharona Franklin | Open

“Encouraging national participation from artists and performers across Canada for the last 5 years, Shudder Gallery aims to promote all forms of contemporary creative communication and visual arts for the emerging artist. Opening a dialogue within the community and across Vancouver, Shudder is a platform for discussion and discovery.” Be quick to drop in to check out Alex Heilbron’s Haphy, “a light-hearted but emphatic response to the habitual interpretation of contemporary art.” The show only runs until this Saturday, May 5th.

Strathcona Carpentry: Chinatown Experiment

434 Columbia St. | Devon Abson and Devon McKenzie | Opening Soon(ish)

Devon and Devon of Strathcona Carpentry are the contractors behind Gastown’s Housexguest and Strathcona’s Board of Trade aesthetic, as well as numerous residential projects. Their new space is going to function primarily as an office but the storefront will provide a platform for testing out new construction processes, design ideas and to judge the so-called sustainability of new “eco products”. The idea for the experiment portion of their project evolved from their own need as small contractors to try to gain knowledge to build sustainably but remain profitable even on small scale projects.


105 East Pender (at Columbia) | Clinton McDougall and Dane Brown | Opening in August

We broke the news on Bestie recently. As you may recall, it’s going to be a 25 seat sausage and beer restaurant in the old “Panda On Pender” location at 105 East Pender just off Columbia (look for the old “Chinese Records, Books, Tapes” sign). Though it technically isn’t on the 400 block like the others, it does share the same secret back alley.  As we wrote previously, their concept is simple: three sausages, three beers, three sides, three sauces, and three wines on tap. Stoked.


  • Peeps on Columbia Street
  • Columbia Street
  • Anna & Anna of Duchesse
  • Anna at Duchesse
  • Mural - Columbia Street
  • Positive Negative Gallery | Adam Lupton
  • Positive Negative Gallery
  • Mural - Columbia Street
  • Positive Negative Gallery
  • Devon & Devon of Strathcona Carpentry


It’s a diverse group, and there’s much to anticipate. As a nearby resident, I’m thrilled about each and every one. I’m sure some of my neighbours would decry them as “gentrifiers” or the foot soldiers thereof (because we all know young artisans, first time restaurateurs, and curators are just rolling in it), but that brand of blinkered assumption comes with the territory. They’re each and every one of them young, independent-minded Vancouverites, and no one should fault them for making a go of it. There’s also word of a biker-friendly cafe going in on the same block, but the owners don’t yet have possession and are hesitant to discuss it publicly until they have a signed deal. We’ll have more on that as it develops, but in the meantime, give this block a proper stroll. Though only three of the above are open now (the rest are coming this summer), it’s still very much worth a wander.


late-may-2009-169Michelle Sproule grew up in Kitsilano and attended University in Australia and the University of Victoria before receiving her graduate degree in Library Sciences from The University of Toronto. She lives in beautiful Strathcona and enjoys wandering aimlessly through the city’s shops and streets with her best friend – a beat up, sticky, grimy, and uncooperative camera.


There are 13 comments

  1. Neighbourhoods like these are the primordial ooze that the city’s future entrepreneurial leaders will be evolving in. Absolutely love seeing this kind of vision and optimism.

    This isn’t what gentrification looks like, it’s what everyone wishes gentrification would look like.

    Well done all.

  2. I like the grass roots spirit of these guys. But do know the road map of gentrification is built on the back of creative and grass roots type. It’s this wonderful mentality that elevates the desirability of a neighborhood. It’s what happened to Soho in NYC when Warhol, Basquet and company populated the crappy area, the hipsters in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and on a local scale, Pigeon, and Livestock helped transform the tacky dumpy neighborhood that became expensive store fronts and offices. You can say the same thing is happening to the area around the Waldorf. While this is going on, you know who’s watching all this? Developers and investors like Renny Group. Moral of the story? Go support these shops and support the grassroots movement so hopefully they’ll be around for
    many years

  3. Because all developers and developments are bad. Right? I’m pretty sure that’s the hip zeitgeist in Vancity.

  4. Love it. As a neighbour ’round the corner on Hastings (Gam Gallery), we are super excited to see the new business going up! Can’t wait to have a pint with y’all.

  5. Onwards and upwards! I wish gallery owners didn’t have sleep upstairs and depend on beer sales from openings to float their businesses – here’s to a foreseeable future of reasonable rent!

  6. […] On May 7th the Development Permit Board (DPB) approved the application a 10 storey luxury development in Chinatown. The project, financed by Solterra Group of Companies, comprises 82 dwelling units above three levels of underground parking. This is the first condo project stimulated by the Vision-NPA gentrification plan for the neighbourhood. In spring of last year, Vision-NPA approved a blanket upzoning of land, which increased the value of 189 Keefer from $1 million to $2.9 million overnight. Through the so-called “Height Review” for the DTES, the predominantly low-income Chinese community and other low-income social groups are gradually being displaced by the incursion of market condos, high-end shops, and cultural amenities catering to a wealthier, predominantly white clientele. […]

  7. yeah, let’s destroy the only neighborhood with any character left in Vancouver and replace it with the same stupid bullshit for rich assholes that’s everywhere else. great job!

  8. The last time we checked, sausages, art, bicycles and used clothes weren’t the everyday desires of rich assholes. And culture? What do you know of it if you point to this block as the sole remaining home of it? You and your beginner’s swipe at NIMBYism are enough to make one weep.

  9. I miss the mountains, ocean, and temperate rainforest of the pacific northwest something fierce, but I never miss the culture of the city of Vancouver. “Have you heard: gentrification is SOOOO SEXY and HIP?!” Maybe these superficial, oblivious tattooed shitsters should be fucked in the face with a Gatling gun. (Whoops, is that anachronistic or “politically incorrect” of me?)

  10. These young, small-scale entrepreneurs in the Columbia Block each have their own story. Most of them live (and work) in and around the neighbourhood and are trying to open, in most cases, their first small business from very modest means. These folks aren’t taking over existing businesses, in fact, what they’re doing is fixing up vacant and boarded up storefronts, doing the work themselves, and trying to contribute something positive and thoughtful to the important enclave of small businesses that make up Chinatown.

  11. I’m all for business revitalization of the area, but would it be too much to ask that the hipsters throw the history a bone – it’s Chinatown after all, how about some bilingual signage?

  12. Cool, reminds me of when the Viaduct went in and the black community was displaced. Enjoy your new digs, honkies.

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