Archive for April, 2014

Sean Lawson

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Steveston’s Award Winning Realtor

Many of us are familiar with Sean Lawson, Steveston’s award-winning realtor. If you haven’t conducted business with his company, Steveston Real Estate, you likely have seen his smiling face on bus stop benches, or met him through his active involvement coaching sports, or seen him running along the dike, or noticed him driving through the village in his handsome 1968 baby blue California Special Mustang.

Lawson was born in Regina where he spent the first few years of his life. At age four he and his family set sail for Australia where they spent one year during his father’s teaching sabbatical. They travelled back to Canada by boat and chose to make the West Coast their new home. All of his schooling took place in Richmond. He graduated from Richmond High School, and as a young man moved to Steveston.

Lawson’s early career aspiration was to become an architect, however he soon realized it wasn’t for him, and instead graduated from B.C.I.T.’s Building Technologies Program. At age 23, along with a business partner, he ventured into building houses on speculation as a general contractor.

In 1991 Lawson says the down turn in real estate affected their enterprise. He took some time off to travel, and upon returning attained his degree in Urban Land Economics from U.B.C.

Today, with over twenty years of experience in real estate sales, re-zoning applications, land assembly and other development projects, Lawson is a very busy and highly sought after realtor, however he indicates he is always happy to take on new clients. He is the only realtor at his office that handles both commercial and residential real estate.

Lawson personally recruits realtors for Steveston Real Estate. Based on their outstanding 2013 sales, he and his colleagues were honored to receive the title of top RE/MAX team in B.C. and they placed fourth in Western Canada.

In response to Richmond’s culturally diverse community, a number of Steveston Real Estate’s realtors are bilingual. Languages spoken include Cantonese and Mandarin, and licensed realtor/receptionist Mila Vagabova speaks Russian. Besides Lawson and the other realtors (Jess Baxter, Clayton Ho, Cher Lin, Lynn Sakai-Boden, Alisa Sakamoto, Dave Van Hoeke and Albert Wong), Grace Campbell is the office manager and Pat Guzzo (Lawson’s wife) is the company’s marketing manager.

In 2002 Lawson leased the upper floor of his current office building. After the green grocer below closed down he purchased the building and renovated it extensively to become a one-stop shop. It is a large and inviting space where the public is always welcome to drop by and meet with a realtor or inquire about listings. Open seven days a week, Lawson says there is always someone who will be happy to assist you. Currently on display is a model of The Pier at London Landing, the new development that he is excited to be involved with, along with Dana Westermark (Oris Consulting Ltd.) and Barry Cavanaugh (Penta Homes).

Lawson lives in the serene London Landing area. He finds the beautiful view of the Fraser River and Shady Island very appealing. Several times a week he enjoys running along the dike trail with his wife and they strive to run one half marathon each year. The couple have been together for twenty years. They have two daughters in elementary school who are actively involved in sports. Lawson thoroughly enjoys dedicating much of his free time to coaching their basketball and soccer teams.

He confesses to being an early bird by choice. Lawson commences his workday before 6:00 a.m. to ensure he does not have to work in the evenings, as he wants to play an active role in his children’s lives. Prior to having kids he worked non-stop, and while he admits he could be a workaholic he wants to be around during these precious years with his girls. When it is time to unwind and take a break the family enjoys skiing, boating in the Gulf Islands and setting off to one of their favourite vacation destinations, Noosa Heads, Australia.

Lawson is one of Steveston’s biggest fans. He says it is a great place to live and to raise a family. He notices how involved parents are in their children’s lives, and with this focus on family values it resonates an old-fashioned feeling.

He appreciates the variety of architectural styles in Steveston, and enjoys that it is not a cookie cutter district. He is eager to see Steveston continue to grow and evolve, and at the same time he admits that the slow changes are partially responsible for the village’s charm and retention of character. He attempts to support as many local businesses as possible. With his family’s busy lifestyle they tend to dine out frequently and pick up food to take home. Lawson says that he has survived eating Steveston Bakery’s soups.

Steveston Real Estate has been a proud member of the Steveston Merchants Association (SMA) since its inception in 2009. He applauds the SMA’s board of directors for their ongoing work and proving themselves as a professional organization. Lawson believes the next logical step is to form a Business Improvement Area (BIA), which would require all businesses to become members. Lawson says it is a proven fact that BIAs are good for property and business owners. BIAs bring more customers to communities. As well, more revenue is earned from lease rates as business owners seek to locate in these attractive, well-organized and energized districts. Lawson says, “A BIA is the next step but there are challenges and hurdles to educate about the long term benefits. Think of it as a marathon rather than a sprint.”

What is up next for Lawson? He is going to be involved in the redevelopment of East Richmond’s Hamilton neighbourhood, which will be transformed through the creation of a city core. He says he will be devoting the next ten years of his life to this project and will open a second office there.

But have no fear; Lawson will continue to devote himself to Steveston, the community that he loves to call home.

Steveston Real Estate RE/MAX
12235 No. 1 Rd
Richmond BC V7E 1T6
Telephone: 604-274-7326

Steveston Village Vietnamese Restaurant

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

It was a snowy morning and the scent of a delicious smelling simmering stock was wafting from Steveston Village Vietnamese Restaurant’s kitchen. Phung Nguyen was hard at work preparing for the lunch crowd while her son, Justin Nguyen, spoke with me about his family’s successful business. In partnership with his mother, father (Son), and brother (Richard), the family has introduced Steveston to a cuisine that is bursting with flavour and has quickly become one of the village’s most popular dining spots.

Donning his signature bow tie, Justin Nguyen is often the first person you will encounter when you arrive at the restaurant. He is absolutely charming and is bound to greet you with a genuine warm welcome. Why the bow tie? He says he has always admired this fashion and decided to wear them on a regular basis when the business opened. Knowing that this would be an expensive wardrobe accessory, his girlfriend volunteered to make them. To date Justin Nguyen has amassed 80 bow ties. He hopes that over the course of their lives together his collection will expand to one thousand.

Originally from Nha Trang (a coastal city on the south central coast of Vietnam, known for its beautiful beaches and scuba diving), the Nguyen family fled their homeland as boat people in 1985.

Their story could easily be made into a film. Seeking a better life for his wife and their four young children, Son Nguyen managed to find a boat and offered space to as many families as possible to join them when they set out to sea. Without an experienced skipper onboard, Son Nguyen was left with the terrifying task of navigating by the light of a star. After a number of days, good fortune came their way. A passing cargo ship rescued the boat’s occupants from this precarious situation and transported them to the Philippines.

Phung and Son Nguyen eked out a living by opening a small café in the Philippines, and saved money while they sought refugee status in Canada. Upon arriving in Calgary they opened a restaurant and settled into the cold Canadian climate. Eventually they moved to Abbotsford, where Justin Nguyen says they opened one of the city’s first Vietnamese restaurants. Two of his siblings continue to reside in Calgary, his sister (Hong), and his brother (Paul), who operates a food truck and sells Vietnamese submarine sandwiches.

Justin Nguyen brought his parents to Steveston for a visit and they immediately fell in love with the area. They were intending to retire, but could not resist the opportunity to locate a restaurant here. Justin Nguyen gave up his career at UBC to join them as a business partner. Steveston Village Vietnamese Restaurant opened in November 2012. This is the fifth restaurant that the Nguyens have owned and operated.

They are thrilled to be a part of Steveston. Customers and local merchants have made them feel so welcome in the community. His parents were initially attracted to the scenic beauty, and felt very much at home with so many Vietnamese involved in the local fishing industry.

Three clocks are mounted on the restaurant’s south wall, set for three time zones: Nha Trang, Steveston and Paris. Some of their customers question, “Why, Paris?” as they are unaware Vietnam was a former French colony. As a result, there is some French influence in Vietnamese food. Justin Nguyen uses the examples of Vietnamese submarine sandwiches (made with baguette), some of the ingredients found in pho, and the method in which Vietnamese coffee is prepared.

Traditional Vietnamese cooking is known for its fresh ingredients and minimal use of oil. Fresh herbs (such as basil, mint, and coriander) balanced with vegetables, meats, seafood and a selective use of spices make it a very healthy cuisine.

Justin Nguyen says that until the 1990s North Americans were relatively unfamiliar with food from his country, however people have made up for lost time. The establishment has a loyal and diverse customer base. He is particularly excited to see teenagers frequenting the restaurant and appreciates their willingness to sample new tastes.

The menu is filled with temptations. A variety of starters include homemade fried wontons, pork, chicken and vegetable spring rolls and salad rolls. If you are curious to taste an array of starters, the sample platter contains spring rolls, salad rolls, along with BBQ chicken, pork, beef and prawn skewers.

Stevestonites often refer to the restaurant simply as ‘Pho’, and indeed this is one of the restaurant’s specialties. Eight varieties of this popular and delicious noodle soup are featured. Accompanied by a side of bean sprouts and basil leaves, simply add them to your steaming bowl and you are in for a big treat. The chicken noodle pho (made with local free range chicken) is especially satisfying.

Other menu highlights include homemade won ton soup, a number of rice dishes (barbeque lemongrass chicken, sate beef, tamarind prawns), vermicelli noodle bowls (stir fried lemongrass beef or chicken, barbeque pork patties with spring rolls), along with stir fries (seafood, chicken, beef and vegetarian options are all offered), Vietnamese style Pad Thai, and fried rice dishes.

Be sure to save room for dessert. A meal at Steveston Village Vietnamese Restaurant is not complete until you have tasted the toasted coconut cake and tiramisu made daily by Justin Nguyen. As the busy manager and accountant, how he finds time to create these masterpieces is a complete mystery, however they are not to be missed. Justin Nguyen decided that in addition to deep-fried bananas with ice cream (the delectable traditional Vietnamese dessert), that a few more selections would be a nice addition to the menu. He began experimenting with recipes that appealed to him. It turns out they have become extremely popular, and people can’t stop talking about the coconut cake.

Positive word of mouth is vital for any business, and Steveston Village Vietnamese Restaurant excels in this department. With friendly and attentive service and excellent food, Steveston is buzzing about this wonderful addition to our community.

Steveston Village Vietnamese Restaurant
120-12480 No. 1 Rd
Richmond BC V7E 0A2
Telephone 604-370-3709

Nature Nutures

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

by Sarah Gordon

Spring has arrived, and with the season of rebirth comes more frequent sightings of one of my favourite fine-feathered friends, the robin. Much to my children’s dismay, I will burst into the song “Robin in the Rain” when I see a “saucy fellow” skittering about on “its nimble feet” like a wind up toy methodically hunting for worms.

Coinciding with increased bird sightings is another much anticipated sign of warmer days as spring flowers debut. There is so much hope attached to these perennial players as they return to the garden stage. Elegant hellebores, delicate snowdrops and colourful crocuses warm up eager audiences in late winter, followed by the cameo appearances of cheerful daffodils, along with dramatic tulips in a rainbow of colours and varieties, yet they are all stars as they take their curtain call.

Learning through nature ranks at the top of my memory list. When I was little, my family vacationed at Minnesota’s Outward Bound program. While there we met American naturalist Euell Gibbons, who taught us about wild edible plants that could safely be eaten, and we grazed together.

I enjoyed a quintessential Canadian childhood. In Ontario, winter activities were much anticipated (at least by children). Ice-skating, tobogganing, cross-country skiing were all at our doorstep. In the spring we set off on school field trips to visit the Wye Marsh wetlands. Summer brought a blast of heat and swimming in the clear, deep water of Georgian Bay, followed by gradually cooler days signifying a return to school. Crisp dry leaves, some burnt, others raked and jumped into with wild abandon, accompanied by Eastern Canada’s intense fall colours have left lasting impressions as vivid as Group of Seven paintings.

During the footloose and fancy-free phase of my elementary school days in Vancouver, we had numerous opportunities to go camping. On one expedition, accompanied by a couple of parent volunteers and our teacher driving a vehicle to transport our gear, the class of 20+ children weaved and wobbled on bicycles up steep and curvy Salt Spring Island hills. We pitched our tents and cooked our own meals. These trips were a crash course in independent living and unquestionably made us self-sufficient at an early age.

Introducing children to the natural world, and taking a break from screen time is such a formative and healthy experience. If you are fortunate enough to be the parent of a preschool age child, a marvellous new opportunity is launching this fall. Terra Nova Nature Preschool is a ground breaking learning experience for young children (ages 3 to 5), where large amounts of time will be spent outdoors celebrating each season in all its glory. Home base will be inside the restored Edwardian cottage at Terra Nova Rural Park.

Steveston resident Emily Vera, and her Early Childhood Education colleague, Kate Dawson, are the masterminds behind this venture, and with the backing of Thompson Community Association, the City of Richmond and Richmond Schoolyard Society, I suspect it will be a huge hit.

While adults are often too busy to pause and watch a spider at work, or search for a nest in a tree, children thrive on these wondrous moments. I find the Nature Preschool concept awfully exciting and can imagine the stories the little nature students will share at home each day.

The beauty of this program is in taking the time to stop and smell the flowers, learn about gardening, watch clouds drift by, and look closely at what this beautiful planet has to offer. There is a lesson for us all here, to slow down and get back to the basics of being nurtured through nature.