I bought a Starbucks coffee and sandwich on Wednesday, and it made my day.
This might sound like a very bizarre statement, especially in a city with an abnormally high Starbucks density (two per block in places), and indeed I don’t usually go there. But Wednesday’s purchase represents much more than just lunch…
I admit thatthe main reason we bought a house where we did was price; it’s not a fashionable area, at all, and we’re on a main road to boot, so the house prices aren’t quite as insane as elsewhere in the city (although it’s all relative). But we’ve come to really like the area. We’re friendly, rather than friends, with our neighbours, which is a wee bit of a shame, although there are a few people I stop and chat with on a regular basis, and many more I know by sight. But it’s very pleasant, up on a hill with lots of trees and green space and a partial mountain view, and safe: our tenant has stored his kid’s bike out in the back yard, visible from the back alley and with no lock, for almost two years; I’ve accidentally left our back door unlocked for a couple of days at a time, with no ill effects; and an Amazon package (containing the final Harry Potter book on the day of its publication, no less) once sat undisturbed and unstolen on our front step for a whole long weekend. Oh, and we got a flyer through our door last week saying that the city is going to start holding live Sunday evening concerts in one of the parks in August! SCORE!
The problem, though, is that there’s nothing there. Well, nothing except for houses; no shops. The closest two places where I can buy any food at all are gas stations, and they’re only good for junk food cravings. There used to be a really depressing strip mall a few blocks away, consisting of a grocery store that had sticky floors and smelled just like the animal facility at work, a decent-looking bakery that I think was only open from 1:02 – 3:13 pm every second Tuesday or something like that, a Polish deli that I never saw open even once, and the world’s dirtiest and scariest looking dentist. Oh, and there was a Sri Lankan curry place that we really liked, but they closed a few months after we moved in.
As for dining out: we’ve tried, we really have. There are numerous hole-in-the-wall, family-run, mostly Asian restaurants a few blocks away in either direction, but we’ve not found a good one yet. The ones that look good from the outside have served extremely salty, cold, bland, or otherwise bad food, and the rest… look, I know it’s a tough and very competitive industry, with very tight margins, but how much does it cost you to fill a bucket with soap and water and clean your windows and awnings?! Some of them are filthy, looking like they haven’t been cleaned in years – if not generations – and while I’m sure the food in some of these restaurants is excellent, I just don’t trust them not to give me food poisoning.
Main Street, which is an awesome little mecca of good cafes, restaurants, bars and vintage and designer clothing stores, is within walking distance in the summer, but not realistically in the dark, cold, and/or rain. And so if we want to eat out, we usually drive or bus-out-taxi-home to Main Street, Commercial Drive, or Granville Island, where there’s a plethora of appetising options.
All this is starting to change, though.
The aforementioned depressing strip mall was torn down a couple of years ago, and we got wind of a mixed residential and commercial development that would replace it. This is now nearing completion; the Shopper’s Drug Mart opened a few weeks ago (as well as the pharmacy and cosmetics, they have a food section with – miracle of miracles – such exotic offerings as cans of soup, pasta and sauces, milk, juice, eggs, bacon, sausages, cheese and bread. I can now walk to buy the ingredients for an admittedly basic breakfast or dinner! This is a revelation! It’s sad how excited I am!), and the grocery store is starting to stock up and looks ready to open soon.
And now the Starbucks is open!
I passed the development on my way home on Wednesday (I decided at lunch time to go and work from home all afternoon), and was super-duper-awesomely excited to see the lights on and tables set up outside. I just had to get off the bus a few stops early and go and celebrate with a coffee and a sandwich. I hate to be one of those people, but in other areas of the city, Starbucks has been the first business in the first wave of gentrification, and other cozy cafes and nice-looking restaurants and bars have sprung up around them within a few months. Indeed, I’ve heard from a very reliable source (the developer, who’s a friend) that a new restaurant and/or bar will be launching within a few blocks of the new Starbucks some time in 2012. I can’t wait to be able to walk a few short blocks to buy groceries, sit in a nice coffee shop, and go out for dinner!
Part of me feels a leeeetle bad for all the existing business owners, who will no doubt be pushed out, just as the rising rents on Main Street are starting to push businesses out to the east (towards us, yay!). But hey – Starbucks may be many things, but at least it’s clean, with free Wi-Fi, and open at reasonable hours. And their cookies are awesome.