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Steveston: Small Business Community Thinks Big

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Steveston Village SceneYou may have heard people talking about the SMA and BIA, but what are they and what is the difference between them?

The Steveston Merchants Association (SMA) was formed in 2010 by a group of business owners whose goal was to promote local businesses and drive more customers to their services, shops and restaurants through seasonal events, small scale advertising, a website and social media. With an elective paid membership the SMA does not encompass the entire business district, resulting in a smaller funding pool although events and promotions benefit the entire village.

An elected volunteer board is responsible for organizing popular events such as Christmas in Steveston Village, Girls’ Night Out, the Scarecrow Crawl and Trick or Treat in Steveston Village and has been a voice for many important area concerns.

While the work the SMA accomplishes is outstanding, the merchants’ association model is antiquated.

BIA stands for Business Improvement Areas and what this model offers is far reaching for both merchants and the entire community. Examples of what can be achieved for Steveston include a year round focus for promotional programs and activities, collective advertising and special events designed to drive more visitors to the area. Issues such as pedestrian scale lighting and parking improvements are also a focus of many BIAs.

Steveston’s business community is losing ground as business districts in virtually every surrounding region of Metro Vancouver and throughout B.C. have embraced BIAs. In comparison, Steveston is at a disadvantage without a BIA.

Business districts can dream big with input from a full membership’s participation at the board and committee level.

A simple way to explain a BIA is to imagine a shopping mall management system. All malls have systems in place to drive customers to the mall to benefit business tenants. Steveston without a BIA is like an outdoor mall with no big picture promotional direction. It just isn’t competitive nor does it come close to realized improved potential.

BIAs are able to plan further into the future to successfully promote areas. A BIA is approved by a vote and all businesses within a BIA’s boundaries automatically become members, creating a larger collective voice working for the betterment of businesses and the community.

A BIA is uniquely created for an area, no two are identical, and therefore Steveston could capitalize on its distinct locale where farmland meets the ocean and a historic fishing village.

Jim_vandertas_BlueCanoe_Steveston Village Palla MediaJim van der Tas, owner of the Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant (and president of the SMA) believes the sky’s the limit. He envisions everything from an Oktoberfest celebration spread over a number of days to celebrating a new Steveston heritage festival and transforming the entire village into a Christmas wonderland for the month of December to draw people to town.

Getting a BIA off the ground takes a lot of work and commitment from volunteers who believe that focusing on a bigger picture can produce some very effective results.

A new committee called the Steveston Business Development Association (SBDA) has formed under the SMA’s umbrella to partner cooperatively with other local non-profits that see the value a BIA brings to an entire community.

A municipality can’t force a BIA into a business community and generally shouldn’t stop a BIA start up group from asking them to initiate the voting procedure if the group has done positive outreach. After well over a decade of discussion Steveston merchants, land owners and key stakeholders have not gone before City council to ask for the BIA voting procedure but expect to this calendar year.

Peter Tong Pharmasave Steveston Village Palla MediaPeter Tong, owner of Steveston Pharmasave, comments,“ I think a BIA is very important for Steveston.”

“Looking at this unique location and the sensitivity businesses have in trying to protect the history, integrity and feel of the community; there are a lot of political and business challenges that are hard for each business to face alone,” Tong says.

He adds, “Promoting the village, rather than one single business, attracts more people and creates an atmosphere within the village that can only benefit Steveston. I think there are certainly frustrations amongst some business owners who have seen what other BIAs have done and strongly believe one is needed to start promoting the village. The sooner we get this done the better.

Carol_LittleMexico_Steveston Village Palla MediaCarol Janeczko, owner of Little Mexico Cantina, believes, “The opportunity to revitalize Steveston through the formation of a BIA is an exciting prospect. Looking at other similar business districts such as Fort Langley and Cloverdale and seeing what they have accomplished for their communities through elaborate events, marketing and beautification projects is inspiring. It would be amazing to see Steveston advance to that level.”

Jens Hertha DOriginal_Sausage_Steveston Village Palla MediaJens Hertha, owner of D’Original Sausage Haus, agrees. “I am excited about the possibility of having a BIA in Steveston. It would make Steveston stronger. For a business like mine the cost would be less than $200 per year. I strongly believe that a BIA is an investment and everybody benefits from a strong, vibrant business district.”Hertha believes, “This BIA initiative is a significant opportunity and every business and commercial property should plan to learn about it firsthand. This is too important an opportunity to be making a decision about a BIA based on nonfactual information or hearsay from third parties. Make an appointment with the organizers to talk about it.”

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Business Updates for Steveston Insider

Monday, April 11th, 2016

Cannery Cafe building was sold and the cafe has recently reopened under new ownership. Catch Kitchen & Bar is now open. It is a new upscale casual restaurant located where Charthouse used to be above Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant. The sports bar faces Bayview Street and the restaurant overlooks the water. Cimona Cafe has recently been sold to local owners who are excited to carry on the tradition of offering all day breakfasts.

menchiesMenchie’s is now open on No. 1 Rd near Starbucks. They have self-serve frozen yogurt and a wide selection of flavours and toppings. Pizza Factory on First Avenue has new owners and promises exciting new food additions and longer hours. Watch for the grand opening party.

Tapenade Bistro is under new ownership but is the same great restaurant including happy hour and weekend barbecues. Urban Jamaica Restaurant is scheduled to open mid-April in the former space of Living Café. The owner also has Xyclo Vietnamese Cuisine on Moncton Street.

Xu Performance Motoring opened at 12320 Trites Road and is an automotive repair and maintenance facility special-izing in high performance and luxury applications.

Angel’s Secret Permanent Makeup opened on Chatham Street (formerly Eidsvik & Associates location). Browcasso recently opened on First Ave (formerly Nurse Next Door location) and specializes in semi-permanent eyebrow micropigmentation and eyelash extensions. Raintree Wellness Spa welcomes Lisa McFadden who purchased the spa from its original owner, Barbara Bell at the end of December.
Bayview Dental moved a few doors up to the corner (where McDonald’s previously resided). Dr. Jamieson joined the office of Steveston Smiles on the third floor with Dr. Michele Nielsen, Dr. Doug Nielsen and Dr. Selena Chow.

wayland 1FITNESS
Cartwheels has now officially changed their name to Wayland Sports. Russel Sean Fitness is undergoing a major expansion and will be adding many exciting classes in the months to come. True Conditioning has moved to London Landing. They have a grand opening party planned for April 9. Apparently a kitchen shop is moving into their former space on First Avenue.

RF Studios moved in above Bell’s Bake Shop and offers wedding photography and videography. Sooters Photography is located upstairs in the Hepworth Building.

Mardon Insurance moved to 12011 Third Ave (the old courthouse where Penta Builders was) while Minato Village is being redeveloped. Caesars Bar & Grill is looking for a new location. After redevelopment, only one restaurant is permitted and it will be Dairy Queen. Dairy Queen is closing due to redevelopment but will reopen in the same location in 2017.

Diplomat Bakery will be moving across the street in June. World of Music & Arts already moved in to their beautiful new space at The Pier.

Steveston Farmers & Artisans Market is moving from the Gulf of Georgia Cannery to the Steveston Community Centre parking lot. The first market is May 8.

Note: The information contained in this story have been sourced but cannot be guaranteed for accuracy. If you have an update relating to a business in Steveston, please send us an email:

Outpost Mini Donut Company

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Outpost_Mini_Donut_Steveston_Insider_5430Bet You Can’t Have Just One!

Walking through the door of Outpost Mini Donut Company feels like stumbling upon a cozy cabin in the woods offering up warmth in the form of freshly made mini donuts. The aroma of these little morsels is the businesses’ secret weapon; it is very hard to resist their siren-like lure to taste each and every one of them.

Outpost is a joint venture between Christian Desierto, his wife Margie and her parents, Sam and Christine Sidsworth, with Christian Desierto as the managing partner.

Like many Steveston merchants, the Desiertos became smitten with the area when Sam and Christine Sidsworth retired to the waterfront village. Following the birth of their first child the Desiertos moved from Vancouver to Steveston.

They had been regular Outpost customers and seized the opportunity to purchase the business after seeing a for sale sign in the window. They were charmed by Outpost’s ambience with its fireplace and comfy living room seating area staged with ice skates, snowshoes, books, antlers and other rustic props. More importantly, they were firm believers in the product.

Outpost_Mini_Donut_Steveston_Insider_5434Christian Desierto holds a full time job as a commercial property manager with flexible hours, which allows him to be actively involved in managing the shop’s operations. Sam Sidsworth oversees the maintenance of the equipment to ensure the production line runs smoothly, Christine Sidsworth assists the staff whenever they need a hand and Margie Desierto makes all of the marshmallows that are sold in the store and popped into cups of hot chocolate.

Outpost is the only brick and mortar gourmet mini donut shop that Christian Desierto is aware of in the Lower Mainland.

Many people associate these bite size treats with the PNE and some food trucks are also selling them. But if you need a year round fix Outpost is the place to go.

On any given day you will find 10 varieties of donuts. Five classics stay on the menu year round (cinnamon sugar, chocolate, maple, powdered sugar and vanilla) while five seasonal donuts also join in on rotation. In the summer fruits such as blueberry and lemon appear. This fall apple caramel was introduced and was a huge hit. The winter sees festive flavours such as maple bacon (with bacon bits from Steveston’s Heringers Meats) and gingerbread.

Outpost_Mini_Donut_Steveston_Insider_5437What sets these donuts apart from their competitors? Outpost’s creations are concocted from a cake-based mix rather than yeast. This makes them fluffy, soft and moist with a crisp exterior and yields an excellent shelf life if you have enough will power to take them home. Donuts are replenished daily at the little shop. On busy days the fryer produces as many as 1,200 donuts. The largest order to date was 170 dozen for a corporate event.

Desierto laughs when he recalls pausing to calculate 170 dozen would be an order of 2,040 donuts. The fryer worked double time that day; it took six hours to make them.

In addition to in-store sales, Outpost also provides catering. Weddings are always popular and donuts can be themed by colour. Outpost delivers the order and clients are responsible for their own displays. Companies also like to order boxed donuts as gifts.

The company’s short-term goal is to promote the product and increase their customer base within the Greater Vancouver Area and a long-term goal is add a portable fryer for mobile events.

Outpost_Mini_Donut_Steveston_Insider_5441Some people are still discovering the business, which is located along Second Avenue’s treat row (it is sandwiched between two ice cream shops). Tourists and locals like to pop by at all hours, including an after dinner crowd that crave a small treat to fuel them the rest of the way home. Outpost has received added exposure at events like O’Hare’s GastroPub’s Steveston Beer Fest and Wine Fest where they offer donut samples.

Sold by the half dozen or by the baker’s dozen (lucky thirteen, a bonus donut comes your way), you can take the little yummies away in a paper cone or in a box.

For Desierto the most rewarding part about owning Outpost Mini Donut Company is the direct involvement he and his family have within the community they have chosen to call home.

He concludes, “Adults can turn into kids when they see there is more than one flavour. This is always a happy place with donuts involved.”

Outpost_Mini_Donut_Steveston_Insider_5425Outpost Mini Donut Company
110-12240 Second Ave
Richmond BC V7E 3L8
Telephone: 604-448-0005

Once Upon A time Returns for its Fifth Season

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

The Fairy Tale Continues

Story by Sarah Gordon. Photos by Clayton Perry

Once_Upon_A_Time_Steveston_Storybrooke 4It was 2011 when Emma Swan, sporting a red leather jacket, first rolled into Storybrooke in a yellow Volkswagen Beetle with a mysterious little boy named Henry. While Stevestonites are familiar with filming in the village, nobody could predict the magnitude Once Upon a Time would have on Steveston Village; it has been one of television’s highest rated shows for the last four years.

The fifth season has now begun and the show is increasing in popularity. This past summer large crowds of fans came out to watch filming take place, hopeful for a glimpse of their favourite actors.

Curious to hear how Once Upon a Time has impacted our community; I spoke to some Steveston merchants and Tourism Richmond for their impressions.

Kelly Krull is the manager of Splash Toy Shop and is a big fan of the show. Located in the heart of Storybrooke, Splash becomes Neighbor’s Five & Dime.

She says, “Once Upon a Time has brought magic to Steveston.” On a daily basis she sees out of town visitors who have discovered Steveston purely because of the program.

Once_Upon_A_Time_Steveston_Storybrooke 1“The energy fans bring makes the village shine,” she says. People of all ages make the trip here in hope of catching a filming day, and if not, they are excited to stop and pose for photos in front of the landmark Storybrooke buildings they know so well.

“Once Upon a Time has become a draw to Steveston, attracting visitors that we have never seen before. It’s like Jack and the Beanstalk, the bean has been planted.” Kelly Krull

The cast and crew are extremely supportive of local businesses and will come in to look around and shop on their breaks. She reports Splash recently had a visit en masse from Captain Hook, Prince Charming, Snow White and the Evil Queen. She says Henry is also a regular customer.

Once_Upon_A_Time_Steveston_Storybrooke 2David Gordon’s business Pieces transforms into Purbeck Shoes. He says, “The village is still very much Steveston.” Like other merchants, he makes a point of acting as an ambassador as he directs people to local sights, from Garry Point Park to the fishing docks, museums, and the array of local restaurants, shops and services.

He points out the show has brought a whole new group of tourists to the area. “There are countless stories of out of town visitors, particularly from the United States, who are coming to see where the show is filmed.”

“Fans have reported how enchanted they are with the village, and note that they would never have come here if it were not for the show. They often have an assortment of purchases from different shops in their hands, and inevitably ask where is a good place to have lunch or dinner. It is not unusual to see fans return two or three days in
a row. “ David Gordon

Once_Upon_A_Time_Steveston_Storybrooke 3Fans include Metro Vancouver residents who enjoy watching the show being filmed and then seeing it transform through the magic of Hollywood onto their television screen. Americans, in particular Seattle residents, and a fair number of international fans make the trip out to Steveston purely to experience the magic of walking the streets of Storybrooke.

Gordon says, “One couple from Israel arranged an eight hour layover through the Vancouver airport just so they could come and see Storybrooke.”

The Kollakis family, owners of the Steveston Cannery Cafe, report they have had people come into the restaurant expecting the interior to be identical to “Granny’s Diner” and they have to explain that filming takes place on a set in a studio.

Trevor Kollakis says, “Fans like to come in and have lunch, and say they have eaten at Granny’s. We have definitely seen an increase of customers. We have been surprised with how many people have been visiting from Mexico.”

Once_Upon_A_Time_Steveston_Storybrooke 7Nick Cohen, owner of Romania Country Bread says, “Everyone asks why I keep the sign “Storybrooke Country Bread” up all the time. It is very convenient that they have me representing a bakery in the show, and my business is a bakery. Also it brings good business to me.”

“The television show is an event that brings action to the village, when they are here filming and afterwards with the fans.”

Joe and Sara Cocker’s business, Nikaido, masquerades as Standard Clocks.

Joe Cocker chuckles when he reports, “We have a good laugh when people come into our shop wanting to buy the clocks in the window, or asking us to change their watch battery. We had one customer who was absolutely insistent we sell him a clock in the window, and could not understand why we would have items that were not for sale.”

They have seen a huge increase in customer traffic since the show began, with clients also making unusual requests for items seen in the show like chipped teacups.

Sara Cocker reveals, “Our favourite is when we have been travelling outside of Canada, and explaining to someone where we are from. There have been several occasions when we make the connection of Once Upon a Time being filmed in Steveston, and then great excitement ensues with many questions asked of us.”

Vince Morlet, owner of Tapenade Bistro and vice president of the Steveston Merchants Association says, “I have spoken to a number of cast members who are very complementary of Steveston, and remark on how welcoming the village has been to them.”

He recalls his favourite filming story from season four when a scene was filmed inside his restaurant. No alterations were made to Tapenade’s interior other than changing the tablecloths.

Once_Upon_A_Time_Steveston_Storybrooke 5“After the program aired, we had all kinds of buzz on social media, particularly from the United States. I had many telephone calls asking about us, and in turn many fans coming and dining, taking pictures showing that we were not a film set, but the actual restaurant they saw in the show … minus the name Tony’s Diner. It makes me laugh, some have asked if we would consider changing our name.”

Tourism Richmond has operated the Visitor Centre out of the Steveston Museum and post office building for the last three years. During filming it becomes the Storybrooke Post Office.

Visitor Services Manager Lori Gelz says, “In that time we have witnessed the tourism related to Once Upon a Time increase substantially from small groups in the first season to now hundreds of people who not only come for filming days but plan their entire vacation around visiting “Storybrooke” and Steveston.”

“Because they love the quaint charm of the village, the easy public transit and beautiful scenery, we are now seeing visitors returning for a second or third time in the hopes to see filming and spotting the actors.” Lori Gelz

Early in 2015 Once Upon a Time broadcast a special pre-show segment entitled “Secrets of Storybrooke.” Steveston was in the spotlight as the writers discussed why they chose this location for Storybrooke.

She says, “Within days of this airing, we had people showing up in Steveston who had driven from Oregon when they learned how close we were to them.”

In 2014 just over 20 percent of the groups that came into the Visitor Centre stated Once Upon a Time was the main reason for their visit to the village. In 2015, specifically this past summer, the percentage skyrocketed to just over 50 percent.

Visitors from Washington State and California make up a large portion of Steveston’s American visitors, however, there has been a big increase in people from all of the eastern and southern United States including Alabama, Arkansas, North and South Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Texas and Tennessee.

“Once Upon a Time is hugely popular in Australia, Brazil, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (to name a few) and is finding a new audience all the time as more people discover the show and start watching it on Netflix.” Lori Gelz

Like other neighbouring businesses, the Visitor Centre staff hears many good stories. A mother and daughter stayed at the Steveston Hotel for more than a week, tried different restaurants in the village each night, shopped in the stores, so much so the merchants got to know them by name. The mother even got a Once Upon a Time themed tattoo.

Gelz is optimistic that Once Upon a Time will leave a bright and long term legacy.

“I see large groups of fans meeting in Steveston, spending many days in the area, and spending their money throughout the village and also planning future trips. Who doesn’t want more customers and more business? This show and the long-term tourism will carry on long after the show ends. We still see fans who are huge movie and TV buffs who have gone to Hope to see where Rambo First Blood was filmed and that was 30 years ago!”