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Farewell to a few more West Broadway businesses

September 5, 2016
kalamata-closed-2016-09-05-03

1495 West Broadway Avenue—-the end of the line for the Kalamata Greek Taverna.

The entire glass front of the Kalamata Greek Taverna, the little restaurant located at 1481 West Broadway, Vancouver, is entirely covered over with butcher’s paper. The “Closed” sign has been hung beside the entrance since the end of August.

Under the sign is a hand-written note on white letter-size paper, taped to the inside of the floor-to-ceiling glass beside the door.

All week, passers-by have been stopping to read what it says.

Another sign of the times on West Broadway

kalamata-closed-2016-09-05-02

What the note beside the door says is this:

“To our valued customers

Kalamata is now permanently closed. It will re-open soon under new ownership as the Breakfast Table.

We thank you for your business for all these years.

We will miss you.”

That’s it. Not relocating. Not going somewhere else. Kalamata is just going out of business after 27 years.  And just days after the 58-year-old Mayfair News closed their doors for good, next door in the 1500 block of West Broadway.

It’s sad anywhere, I think, to see long-time local businesses cease to be. And here in Vancouver it’s hard not to remember—particularly when losing small family businesses—that “cease” rhymes with both “lease” and “increase”.

Just across the street from the former location of the Kalamata, a lease increase appears to be behind both tenants of the little two-storey building at 1448 West Broadway skedaddling by the end of August.

I never had a chance to speak with the people that ran the second floor suntan parlour but I did buttonhole one of gentlemen from the ground floor rug shop as he piled stuff into a truck and a car.

He had a close-mouthed and stoic mien when I saw him but he did tell me succinctly that after eight years in the 1400 block the business had to move and no, he said, he did not have a new location.

Both empty floors of 1448 West Broadway are up for lease.

The lease was not the issue behind the closure of Kalamata, as Ken Bayne explained in a comment to the Georgia Staight’s reblog of this post:

“Kalamatas actually operated for many years in the 400 block West Broadway and relocated to the 300 block when the Canada Line station was built. Stephi served the best Greek food in the City and had a big following. However the loss of his wife earlier this year took the excitement out of the business and I hope he has found a great beach in Greece to enjoy.”

The woman who owned Mayfair News was telling customers in the week before she closed that her lease was reasonable enough; she just wanted to retire and couldn’t find  anyone to take over the business.

But in the case of all three locations, the new retail tenants will almost certainly be paying a higher lease than their predecessors.

And I think it’s fair to say that the higher the lease the harder it is for single-location local business to survive long enough to thrive. Higher leases shift the playing field in favour of large chains, which have pre-existing brand recognition, a carefully bland product, and the ability to distribute profits to support under-performing new locations.

Which is to say that I think the deck is stacked against the new restaurant coming to 1481 West Broadway. I’ll certainly give it a try and I wish the proprietors the very best of luck.

Buy local, think local and f**k global?

Kalamata at their 388 West Broadway Avenue location in 2007.—Google Street View

Kalamata at their 388 West Broadway Avenue location in 2007.—Google Street View

On one level, it seems ironic to speak dismissively of globalization while decrying the loss of a Greek restaurant but it isn’t, not really. Immigration isn’t globalization, it’s actually one of Canada’s oldest local traditions.

Immigration has been vital to the life of Canada in every possible way, including our way of eating—allowing us to enjoy a truly world-class diet.

Had we just sat around waited for restaurants that served nothing but real Canadian cuisine, I believe that we would have all perished from hunger (or at least starch poisoning) long ago.

Kalamata was an authentic Greek restaurant run by a Greek-Canadian family, which first opened for business in 1989 at 338 West Broadway Avenue. The awning of the original location appears to have advertised “Southern Greek Home Cooking”.

Don’t quote me but I think that the restaurant relocated the 11 blocks (or about 1.9 km) west to the 1400 block location in 2012.

I’m certainly not a connoisseur of Greek food but twice in 2014 I had takeaway from Kalamata and thought it very good indeed.

More than missing the cuisine, I’ll be sad to to see the South Granville area lose another small, locally-owed, family business.

Likewise, I was sad to see the family-owned Normandy Restaurant close up shop at 2675 Granville Street back in 2005—pushed by an unfortunate kitchen fire but slated to close anyway, due to skyrocketing leases. Or McKinnon’s Bakery, the two grocery stores and Jackson Meats that were also gone from South Granville by around 2005.

All five of these independent local business have been replaced on South Granville by regional, national or multinational chain stores.

What I especially miss about small, locally-owned businesses is their independent spirit, their individuality, the quality of their service and the more intangible sense of community and continuity which they contribute to a neighbourhood.

I do not believe that extra-territorial chain stores contribute very much of the above to a neighbourhood and I suppose that it wasn’t until I was well into my 30s that I even thought of small locally-owned stores of having a cultural role in neighbourhoods.

But, better late than never, I now see that they do and I note the loss of each local business sadly—as a slight diminishing of the quality that makes a neighbourhood a neighbourhood. Just as I see the chain store which replaces a local store as something of an invasive commercial species.

I’m certainly not the first person to notice that globalization has effectively made multinational corporations a new colonizing powers in the world but I have noticed.

The question is what, besides shopping local, is there to do about it?

See also: 2017 closure of Vera’s Burger Shack at 1455 West Broadway, partly due to a lease hike. Click the images  to enlarge them.

4 Comments
  1. Oily bird permalink

    Simple tax corporations at the same rate or more than local businesses which keep their profits local.

    • you mean preferentially taxing corporations that plow their profits back into the local economy? That would make a positive difference, certainly but there is another problem, I think.

      Historically, in Vancouver, there have been deliberately zoned area, for light industrial and warehouses, for example, and otherwise economically less desirable areas, where quirky little “bohemian” stores and businesses could afford to take root. Not only do such shoppimg areas make shopping kind of fun but they actually incubate new ideas that can lead to successes of the future–like Starbucks or Lululemon, or the Georgia Straight newspaper, for example.

      The entirety of Vancouver threatens to become too pricey, with all the light industrial-zoned areas, rezoned by City Hall and filled with condos and all the lower income areas gentrified. Where for art thou small, offbeat, non-brand-name, shop?

      What’s to stop the city from becoming a retail monoculture?

  2. Sandra permalink

    This trend is sadly happening everywhere. Even before the onslaught of globalization, and even when I was a child, I can recall my dear little mother always saying “we will kill ourselves with progress”.

  3. Drive flaneur permalink

    Blame the Banks for All Those Boring Chain Stores Ruining Your City” by Patrick Clark, September 22, 2016.

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