Vancouverites, visitors, and travellers alike visit Commercial Drive to explore and experience something you can’t typically find in the downtown core.
The unwavering sense of community, culture, and energy that you find along this one street has the ability to make you feel as though you’re somewhere new, every time you visit. Eclectic boutiques, global-inspired eateries, family-owned supermarkets, and tons of other unique shops form a line on either side, each offering something special.
If you’ve visited Commercial Drive lately, you may have noticed the road closure along East 1st Avenue. These closures will be in place until the end of August as FortisBC is upgrading the gas line that runs from Coquitlam to Vancouver (and has been in service since the late 50s), to ensure reliable service to the 210,000+ Metro Vancouver customers who use natural gas every single day.
And while construction is taking place, you can still visit The Drive and enjoy a day out in the city’s most magnetic neighbourhood. With that in mind, here’s a look at six local businesses you can visit on Commercial Drive right now.
This bright and inviting Mexican eatery serves up seriously tasty burritos, tacos, and tamales (all made in-house), seven days a week. Owner of the restaurant, Tracy Huang, says Red Burrito is “proud to be part of the food diversity” and “family-friendly neighbourhood” on Commercial Drive.
And it doesn’t end with food service; Huang says the business is always looking for ways to improve without compromising quality. “This year we are going to change all of our packaging to eco-friendly ones, including straws and cups,” she says.
Working out and staying active on The Drive is made accessible with the 7,000 sq. ft. fitness facility, FitForever Fitness Center. The gym itself has been there for over 14 years, but Derek Song took over ownership in 2016, something he describes as “exciting, challenging, and rewarding.”
He compares owning a business on Commercial Drive to being part of “a big family” and that the enthusiasm and energy of people in the neighbourhood encourage FitForever Fitness Center to “maintain a high-quality service and improve its facility on an ongoing basis.” Put simply, FitForever wants to “help everybody get active, and stay active.”
If you’re looking to find exclusive vintage clothing, jewellery, footwear, and accessories, you can’t miss Mintage — it’s arguably one of the best vintage stores in Vancouver. It’s been on The Drive for almost 13 years, and it’s easy to see why once you talk to the community-driven owner, Skylar Stock. “I try to work with the local schools, I work with local agencies as far as helping employ young people, and all of us at Mintage love what we do.”
He explains how Commercial Drive is special to him because “it’s full of a lot of small businesses.” Just last week, Stock expanded the business by opening a second Mintage store on Broadway and Kingsway.
There’s no shortage of variety when it comes to choosing where to eat on Commercial Drive, and My BBQ Hut has plenty of organic options with four menus including Mediterranean and Afghan styles. The eatery serves up freshly-made dishes with antibiotic-and hormone-free meats like beef, bison, lamb, chicken, turkey, kangaroo, camel, venison, and game.
Owner Baran Shinwari says his business values the fact that Commercial Drive is “multicultural, and people are also friendly.” A perfect day for him is when events like Italian Day are taking place (we wholeheartedly agree). Shinwari hopes to add deliveries as a service in the future so watch this BBQ space.
Every great community has a dental office, and on The Drive, it’s family-owned dental practice Mercato Dental Centre. The team caters their services to the needs and evolving demands of all ages, from basic restorations to elective makeovers. Dr. Bayan Mottahed explains how his father opened the office 31 years ago and it continues to grow today, to the point that they’re looking at expanding their business hours to accommodate everyone who needs them.
He notes how there’s a strong sense of community in the area: “Not only do we have friendly relationships with the neighbouring businesses, we are often each others’ clients and can, therefore, recommend each other based on firsthand experience.” Picking up some fresh bread and vegetables for dinner from Persia before driving home is one of the little things he cherishes about working in the area.
Full-service supermarket, Super Valu, has been on the Drive since 1998 when owner Darcey Houser and partner Garnet Vickers took over from the previous business partner. And you may not know that the store is always open for customers – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Passionate about the neighbourhood, Houser says: “The fact that [locals have] embraced us and people come here to shop warms my heart, it makes me feel good.” He explains how the area is “a bustling hive of activity” and that’s what drew him to it in the beginning. “You can sit out on Commercial Drive with a latte and watch the world go by.”
With regard to the current gas line upgrades, Houser says FortisBC held “informational seminars” in his store, and have done “a great job in engaging the business community and the neighbourhood.”
“Collectively, as a community, we’ll be stronger” as a result of the upgrades, Houser says.