Corner store culture was a large part of my childhood.
On weekends I pedaled the half-block down to Jackson’s corner store to buy sour soothers with my mom’s spare change. In the summer my friends and I would flock to Bob’s Mini Mart for screamers – a decadent cup of slush with soft-serve ice cream on top.
The owners knew our names and the selection of munchies and trinkets for sale seemed endless.
Now, as an adult, I seek similar qualities in the delis, markets and shops I frequent: availability of quality snacks, quirky goods and location, location, location.
Whether I’m hunting for a sparkly, spontaneous gift or fixing for a rare ingredient like garlic-scape salt or frozen lobster bisque Vancouver has a lovely smattering of eclectic markets, mini-grocers and shops that can provide these and more. Herewith are some of my favourite neighborhood shops and not-so-secret mini-markets around the city.
The Wilder Snail – I’ve been known to migrate across town for the salted chocolate chip cookies or UBC square (banana bread topped with chocolate chips and cocoa) at the Wilder Snail.
Part café and part grocery store, the Wilder Snail sells everything from green cleaning products to Annie’s Macaroni Cheese to Americanos. Located across the street from MacLean Park in the heart of Strathcona, it’s a must stop during November’s Eastside Culture Crawl or after a game of bocce in the park.
Le Marche St. George – Nestled in the heart of Mt. Pleasant/Fraserhood on St. George and East 28th Avenue, Le Marche St. George, like the Wilder Snail, is a haberdashery of snacks, household supplies and groceries. The best part of Le Marche might just be the sheepskin-covered chairs set outside. I love to watch the locals converge over cups of tea with friends as I fill my shopping bag with splendid off-beat items like lavender soda syrup, small-batch olive oils and exotic teas.
House of Jewels – My dear friend Token, whose taste in accessories and jewels rival Nicole Richie (in my humble opinion), introduced me to the House of Jewels a decade ago when I visited her in Vancouver. Now, she lives in Maple Ridge and I live a mere three blocks from this West End den of cool.
Sandwiched between a hair salon and corner grocer at Nicola and Barclay, House of Jewels carries local and international jewelry lines as well as dresses, denim and accessories. The House of Jewels is my number one West End clothing and jewelry stop. Thanks Token!
The Market at Giovane Café Winebar – I encountered the new Market at the Pacific Rim while on a coffee run about a month ago. After grabbing a coffee at Giovane, I noticed a rather large butcher block with a half-dozen or so tiny bowls of olive oil and crusty bread squares for sampling. Bread and oil are like sunshine and sand for me – two of life’s essential combos.
Besides baguettes, the market also sells frozen food to go, created on site by Giovane Café and Wine Bar Chef Brown. Olives, honey, and sandwiches are also for sale in this little tuck shop at the Fairmont Pacific Rim.
The Mighty Oak – Nested in the Cambie Village, the Mighty Oak used to be an art gallery/yoga studio then a bakery. Now the character corner store space at West 18th and Columbia is a petite, neighborhood shop that serves coffee and candy and sells local and imported delights like bar shampoo, tea, coffee and tomato sauce. The best section of the Mighty Oak? The freezer full of locally made Earnest Ice Cream. After a few trips to the Mighty Oak, it’s time to get back to the yoga studio.
Do you have a favourite neighborhood shop or market? Share your secret shops and markets in the comments section below.