In the 1980s, Granville Island forever changed the food landscape of Vancouver. Sure, we were–and remain–a coastal region with access to fresh seafood and spoiled with agricultural land producing a cornucopia of the province and country’s fruits and vegetables–but suddenly our real, natural foodstuffs became the cornerstone of a destination. An experience. Visitors and locals alike continue to flock to its aisles and stalls for a taste of beautiful British Columbia.
Still, there’s been a recent and sustained cry for Vancouver to have a food destination that turns the page and takes us into the next chapter of the story of how we know and enjoy our local eats.
For the past few years, the pop-up Hawkers Market has given local entrepreneur Chris Jerome the chance to spotlight small businesses and artisanal-style food vendors–a mission he furthered in 2015 with the temporary hawker-esque innovative food court he orchestrated for the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet in Richmond. But before that project (called the Hawkers Mercado) had even launched, Jerome was working on his next big idea. One that is not only about to take flight, but also represent the realization of a vision Jerome has for how Vancouverites relate to their food.
Hawkers Wharf is a 2.2-acre (100,000-square-foot) North Vancouver harbourfront multidisciplinary food hub that aims to unite locals who want to support local purveyors from the ground up, and in many ways.
“It’s a space that’s all about community,” Jerome tells Daily Hive via telephone. “I really hope it’s a space that inclusive for everybody.”
The open-air marketplace will boast over 40 vendors in converted shipping containers, many working from an onsite 4,000-square-foot co-working kitchen. A series of the containers will showcase vendors selling whole foods, akin to a farmers’ market experience, for customers looking to fill their reusable bags with fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, and more to prepare at home.
Hawkers Wharf will also offer multiple onsite dining options, from more casual grab-and-go to full sit-down experiences, including a 6,000-square-foot bar area for guests who may want to imbibe.
For Jerome, the idea is to offer staggering variety. “The overall vision is diversity, and giving everyone something fresh,” he elaborates. “People could be coming a couple of times a week and it’s completely possible to have a unique experience every time,” thanks to the number of vendors who will be participating. Jerome says they plan to reveal their vendors in the coming weeks, as Hawkers Wharf prepares to open up for business.
Who the grocery vendors are is key, mind you, particularly where they farm or produce their goods. “We’re focusing on traceability from the BC region, and hoping for all Canadian farmers if possible,” notes Jerome. “We want to be about as much local and regional as we can.”
In the meantime, while construction comes to an end, Jerome adds that the “grocery” part of the hub will kick into gear with a subscription service akin to the model of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), with the option to add-on premium items to the harvest-based bundles. These orders will be available for pick-up, with the more traditional browse and pluck kind of shopping to come once the Wharf is up and running.
Hawkers Wharf, however, is also taking fresh, local produce right to the root. The marketplace will feature a vertical garden growing food for the site. Additionally, Hawkers Wharf has space set aside for use by North Vancouver’s Edible Garden Project, a school program that connects children with the boundless educational benefits of hands-on experiences growing food.
Jerome points out that at Hawkers Market, they had a more narrowly-focused demographic, but that Hawkers Wharf is really an opportunity for anybody and everybody to enjoy. “We think food is for everybody,” he says.
And so this is the next chapter: It’s different from shopping at Whole Foods. It’s different from a day at Granville Island. It’s a school garden for some one day, a place to grab a drink and a snack in the evening with friends another. It’s dinner on site, or the ingredients to make dinner. But it’s also about coming together and learning, all while supporting local small businesses; all the byproduct of simply being a consumer, or participating in their planned events at the site.
“We hope that it will really connect [people and food] and bring them together,” says Jerome. “I want to see more collaboration in the food community–farmers and chefs working together to solve issues in food, leading to a new way of eating.”
Jerome suggests that Hawkers Wharf could also really serve as the proverbial striking match. “It’s an ignition point and a platform,” he says. “I really think it’s just the beginning.”
Hawkers Wharf is expected to open in August.
Address: 925 Harbourside Drive, North Vancouver