The changing face of Kitsilano
I checked in with the staff at M&J Car Wash down by Granville Island and got some good news: the iconic car wash won't be torn down and replaced with condos... at least not yet. M&J Car Wash has a reprieve, at least through 2015.
On the way back, though, I looked again at the unusual number of vacant storefronts along West 4th Avenue. This stretch of Kitsilano thoroughfare commands the second-highest commercial rent in Vanouver, with only Robson Street being less affordable for a business-owner looking to hang out a shingle.
This means that businesses have to thrive in order to survive: there's no just scraping by on West 4th. In turn, when a storefront becomes vacant, it will more likely be occupied by a chain store, or at least a business with more than one outlet.
That's how a neighborhood homogenizes. Just look at Lower Broadway in Manhattan. It's happening in New York; you think it's not happening in Vancouver?
The memory hole: Why Lou Reed is so grumpy
I noticed a strange phenomenon when it comes to those empty storefronts. When a place shuts down and the butcher paper goes up in the windows, we quickly forget what used to be there. I call this phenomenon "the memory hole" in a nod to George Orwell's 1984, but not in a conspiracy-theory sort of way. Several friends in the neighborhood seem to suffer from it as well.
You know who hasn't fallen down the memory hole? Rock icon Lou Reed. He seems so grouchy because he remembers what his beloved city of New York used to be.
To paraphrase Dr. Dre, How much Lou Reed in you you got?
How well do you know Kitsilano?
So, how well do you know Kits? Do you know it like the back of your hand?
Okay, smart guy/gal, prove it.
Let's play a little game.
I'll show you a series of photos depicting now-empty storefronts. All you have to do is tell me what used to occupy each vacant spot. How many of the following eight empty storefronts can you identify?
No cheating, now. No Google Maps, no phone-a-friend.
Empty Kits Storefront #1
This is the one with the remixed "Post No Bills" posters.
Empty Kits Storefront #2
A recent vacancy. The font is sort of a giveaway.
Empty Kits Storefront #3
The storefront that started me thinking about the memory hole. I cannot remember what used to occupy this space along Snowboard Row.
Empty Kits Storefront #4
I was surprised that this place didn't stay open.
Empty Kits Storefront #5
This one's a gimme.
Empty Kits Storefront #6
Its less-trendy neighbour lives to trade another day.
Empty Kits Storefront #7
Second Suit has been on West 4th for 17 years. But what about this place? What used to be there?
Empty Kits Storefront #8
I have no idea what used to be here, either.
So, how did you do? Can you keep the oral and written history of Kitsilano alive for the next generation (or at least the next group of renters)?
Are you Vancouver's Lou Reed?
Or have you, too, been sucked down the memory hole?