Mary/ April 27, 2015/ Living

Kingsway is one of the longest roads in Greater Vancouver. It stretches across and into three cities. In a region mainly comprised of a north/south – east/west grid, it is a unique diagonal slash through the lower mainland. An as-the-crow-flies line that’s drawn basically from my home in New Westminster almost all the way to my client’s office near Granville Island, just south of the downtown core of Vancouver.

And the reason I’m driving it, is because I’ve been spending a lot of time at my client’s office and I’ve been doing what typically resembles…..commuting.

This is a strange thing for a gal who’s had a home office for 23 years. For 23 years I’ve said “I don’t do rush hour!” meaning I usually schedule my meetings between 10am to 2pm, when I have the choice, which is usually always. But, the lure of a fabulous collaboration on a couple high profile projects, otherwise beyond my reach as a small firm, meant….commuting.

Since there is an accident/hold up/obstruction/catastrophe almost every day on the freeway, and another round-about route involves bridges (scary commuter wild cards), I asked for some advice from my friend who also lives in New Westminster and commutes to an office just down the road from my client. She said “Take Kingsway. It’s always moving fairly well, steady and reliable.” She was right, it’s been decent. But this….commuting thing isn’t the focus of my story. Kingsway is!

Kingsway follows an old wagon road that was built by the Royal Engineers in the mid-late 1800’s, to connect troops from Gastown with the former capital of B.C., New Westminster. Later it became Vancouver Road, and in 1913, improved and paved, it became Kingsway. It was part of the Trans Canada Highway, until our current freeway was opened in 1964.

Because of its length, it’s difficult to characterize; it’s like one of those ‘round-the-world menus where you sample many dishes from different countries. It’s lined with diverse family operated shops, restaurants, beauty salons, cafes. Ethnic communities and districts range from Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Japanese, South Asian and Filipino, to Caribbean and Russian.

There are enchanting and fascinating signs: a coffee shop called Room for Cream, another – Milk and Sugar Café. Another quaint coffee shop, Our Town has a vintage signage font straight out of 1940. You and Me Coffee in a Tim Burton-esque font, sadly, looks like it just closed.

Heartbreaker Salon is such a cool name, as is East Vanity Parlour, but I don’t get Hercules Hair and Beauty. Secret Beauty Supply has a huge awning – I find that funny (it would be difficult to keep that secret!)…

Sal y Limon, (Salt & Lime) looks like a Mexican restaurant I’d like to try – its sign and logo so upbeat and modern. Pink Peppercorn Seafood House has a perky name. Easy Spy Surveillance equipment is pretty self-explanatory – as are the numerous Medical Marijuana stores that have recently opened.

There are dollar stores, bridal salons, hardware and appliance stores, paint stores, furniture stores….even a balloon studio. I could shop for everything I ever needed on one long drive in, stopping here and there all the way. And if you’re a size 9, then the Work Boot Store has samples at clearance prices!

Classic landmarks include Famous Foods, that had organic and natural health foods for sale before anyone knew what the word organic meant; Purdy’s chocolate factory, a local institution; and the 2400 Motel bungalows, built in 1946 in the burgeoning heyday of the automobile, a relatively untouched and classic piece of history and a visual reminder of the critical shifts in transportation that have occurred in the last 50 some odd years. It’s a 15 kilometer ribbon of ever changing periods and eras, styles and characters, and ethnic offerings: some rough and tumble, some refined.

It’s an amusing, interesting ride.

(photo: 1910 Kingsway near Fraser, Photographer: Stuart Thomson, VPL # 18240)