Archive for September, 2014

Village Books and Coffee House

Monday, September 15th, 2014

web_village_books_Angela_HillLittle did Angela and Ron Hill realize when they opened Village Books & Coffee House in March 2013 the book vending playing field in Richmond would vastly alter a year later. In May 2014 with the closing of two major Richmond bookshops (Chapters and Black Bond Books) their Steveston business has become one of the only remaining contenders on Lulu Island.

While the married couple and business partners are disappointed to see these shops go, they are taking the opportunity to draw a new market to their bookstore which is alive and well in Steveston village.

Village Books & Coffee House evolved from Gerry’s Books, which was located on First Avenue. Ron Hill’s parents Gerry and Sonja Hill opened the store in 1988. When the time came to sell they approached their son and daughter-in-law who had been running the business since January 2011. In January 2013 Angela and Ron Hill decided to make some big changes to the business and moved it two doors down to a larger retail space. After a couple of months spent renovating and moving 50,000 books, Village Books & Coffee House opened its door.

web_village_books_2aA new business concept accompanied the new location. They incorporated a coffee bar and a few tables where customers can make themselves at home. The Hills assumed that the coffee house would help supplement books sales, however, they have been pleasantly surprised to discover that books are selling remarkably well.

Nice touches like oversized letters in assorted colours spell READ and COFFEE create an inviting and homelike feel. Angela gives her husband full credit for the interior design. The pine bookcases (built by himself and a friend) placed in an almost maze like pattern, encourage people to meander through the shop and discover literary gems along the way.

Village Books & Coffee House primarily sells used books, however with their new role as one of the only bookstores in town, the Hills plan to introduce a larger selection of new books to fill the demand. Customers will also be able to place special orders. The selection of used books is vast and ranges, in very organized sections, from historical romance to general fiction, historical fiction, poetry, literature, children’s books, cookbooks, architecture, art, crafts, non-fiction, current events, history, spiritual and self-help.

If you are interested in trading in books the shop offers a credit program, which they apply to the purchase of second hand books. It is a great way to bring home some fresh reading material.

web_village_books_5aAs booksellers the couple frequently are asked what they like to read. Currently Angela is reading “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed and she has a stack of parenting and cookbooks on her beside table. One of her favourite authors is Chevy Stevens, a Vancouver Island author who writes thrillers set in British Columbia. Angela recommends “Never Knowing” as one of her top picks. Ron is an action and suspense fan and enjoys British author Lee Child. They also have three part-time staff that are avid readers and are happy to assist you in searching the shelves.

These busy merchants are the parents of two young boys. During the summer the Hills alternate time at the shop to care for their children. Angela is also hard at work as a part-time student studying bookkeeping at Langara College. Ron has recently joined the Steveston Merchants Association as a board member.

There are plenty of ideas percolating to take Village Books & Coffee House in new directions and to further increase its exposure. Angela mentions that the group Richmond Write Out Loud meets at the shop on occasional evenings to read their published or unpublished works. Future plans include introducing story times for children and organizing book clubs for adults.web_village_books_1a
At the coffee counter the couple is committed to selling sustainable and high-quality products. They are proud to serve 49th Parallel coffee from the Burnaby-based roasting company. Herbal Republic Tea and cold beverages (lemonade and fruit smoothies) are also on the menu. They are always experimenting with drinks and come up with some wonderful seasonal concoctions.
Solly’s Bakery in Vancouver is the supplier of the majority of baked goods that they sell. A few of the tempting items include muffins, cinnamon buns, date squares and apple strudel. One of their most popular goodies (made by Mangala Foods) is the B Square. This gluten-free vegan treat is chock-a-block full of delicious goodness with dark chocolate, brown rice, pumpkin and chia seeds, raw almonds and cashews.

web_village_books_6Philanthropy is important to the couple. They choose to donate books they cannot use to a number of local charities including the Richmond Hospital Auxiliary, The Richmond Food Bank, Women’s Hospital as well to preschools and other local organizations. They are also respectful of the environment and source products that are either recyclable or compostable. Attention gardeners! If you would like some coffee grounds for the nitrogen-loving plants in your garden, bring in a bucket and they will fill it for you.

Reflecting back Angela says, “We could have called the store ‘My Favourite Things.'” Books, 49th Parallel coffee, Herbal Republic Tea and Solly’s bakery are a few of her favourite things, as are their long term customers who have supported them over the years, and the new ones who discover them on a daily basis.

The next time you walk down First Avenue make a point of stopping in and exploring Village Books & Coffee House. You may come out with something that you were looking for, or perhaps you will leave with an unexpected book that jumps out at you and will be a great midsummer read.

Village Books & Coffee House
130-12031 First Ave
Richmond BC V7E 3M1
Telephone 604-272-6601

A Girl and Her Horse

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Sophie & Reine - 2014While some girls dream of owning a horse, the closest many come is living vicariously through posters on their bedroom walls, watching movies and reading novels. Steveston resident Sophie O’Bray (14) has been fortunate to live the dream with access to stables a short drive from her home.

She says she has been horse crazy for as long as she can recall. As a toddler she insisted on sitting on a horse and by age 4 she was taking riding lessons. O’Bray says she never outgrew the “I love horses” phase and adores the majestic animals.

She recently earned the honour of qualifying for Dressage (a competitive equestrian sport) at the BC Summer Games, but sadly her horse Luke sustained an injury and they had to withdraw. Undoubtedly O’Bray will not let this slow her down. She is participating in other local Dressage events and dreams of one day competing in the Olympics.

O’Bray is deeply commit-ted to the ten-year-old Holsteiner, owned by her grandmother Marcia Westermark. During the summer months she volunteers five days a week at Pacific Banner stable where Luke resides. She does everything from barn work, to tacking up horses, warming up and riding other people’s horses to keep them active. Her mother, Jennifer O’Bray, is also an equestrian and rides at the barn.

She appreciates the opportunity to bond with an animal. O’Bray points out each horse has its own personality. To succeed at events there is a deep level of trust involved for both the rider and the horse. She says, “We are one. We work together as a team. How we work together affects our performance.” Although she has been riding for years, she realizes that she still has much to learn and that even the best in the sport are always training and striving to improve.Sophie & Luke 2014 - 2

Behind every rider is a team of people who help make it possible. O’Bray points out that her mother, her coach Marcie Doyle, and her grandmother have all been key supporters.

In addition to her year round commitment to Luke, she is also actively involved in competitive dance at Urban Dance where she takes contemporary, jazz, lyrical, modern and pointe classes. When asked about her career goal O’Bray says law is an area of interest.

As for her love of horses O’Bray declares, “I have found my passion and I will never give it up.”

Memories of Vacations Past

Monday, September 15th, 2014

family-vacation-road-tripWhen you set off on a holiday do you find yourself reminiscing about past adventures? Do ‘how I spent my summer vacation memories’ surface that you thought were permanently archived and never to be retrieved?

When my family goes on vacation we are usually loyal to our home and native land, however on our first camping trip this summer we headed to Washington state for a few days of rest and relaxation. We were told at the border that we were venturing into an area laden with hillbillies and skinheads, a remark that we discovered painted a very unkind portrait of the warm and hospitable people we met along the way.

Memories began to surface as soon we reached the Peace Arch crossing. Upon sighting Blaine’s water tower my stories began. I had a view of a water tower from my bedroom window as a child. It was a legend in the area. Someone had scaled it and painted a massive peace sign, a symbol very much associated with those years. Stories circulated of people who had climbed the mighty structure without getting caught. I imagined an Ontario Provincial Police officer would whisk those who did get caught off to a jail cell. I am not entirely sure how many times I have told that tale, but nonetheless my family patiently humours me.

As we rolled down the I-5 we noticed new car after new car. It dawned on me that when I was a child my family had a series of roadside mishaps in some of the older cars that transported us, eventually, to our destinations or home. A classic roadside breakdown occurred in the sweltering heat in the Cariboo region, a rear tire got stuck in deep mud on an isolated road near Port Alberni as we listened to the car radio announcing Elvis had died, and the biggest S.O.S. moment of all, a breakdown took place in the middle of a bridge in northern France.

With seven people onboard a large van we had rented to tour the Loire Valley, and with my mum driving, the tie rod end chose that dangerous moment to break, leaving our steering in jeopardy with nowhere to pull over. We were forced to cautiously limp to the nearest village in the heartland of Normandy to find a service station, and using our best textbook French (how exactly do you say ‘tie rod end’ in French?) to explain the situation.

There was no quick fix, instead the suggestion was to load the van onto a flatbed truck, drive us to the Le Havre ferry terminal and from there we were on our own to seek repairs back in L’Angleterre, where our journey had commenced. Two of our passengers sat up front with the French driver, while five of us remained inside the van strapped to the rescue truck. Like a parade float we travelled through the countryside and from our elevated vantage point we waved at mystified French folk as they saw this odd image pass by. In my imagination they rubbed their eyes and questioned how much red wine they had consumed that day – zut alors!

Vacations are a time to relax and clear the brain. Perhaps it is during this down time, combined with reminders of past experiences, that we create an opportunity for these blasts from the past to surface. Enjoy these trips down memory lane, and if you have a chance, bring along a journal and jot down classic holiday moments – they may become family legends!