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VO's Main Street: where history meets hipsters

Photos by Parisa Azadi



Main Street: Where History meets Hipster

When the No. 03 trolley bus rounds the bend at 18th and Main -- revealing a stunning panorama of red brick and Edwardian storefronts, punctuated by silver church spires and surrounded by blue snow-capped mountains -- I pretend for a moment I’m in the Eastern townships of Quebec. Or a mid-west manufacturing town. For a brief second, as the stone-and-brick Heritage Hall rises onto the horizon with its copper-green steeples and clock tower, the illusion is complete. Main Street, once voted “the street that looks least like Vancouver” by the Georgia Straight, is truly the most quintessential of Vancouver streets.

Stretching from the Port of Vancouver docks in the north to the Fraser River in the south, Main Street passes through Gastown and the Downtown Eastside to Chinatown, past the CN Rail Station to Mount Pleasant (South Main), Little Mountain (Mid-Main), the Punjabi Market and ends up in the Sunset neighbourhood. Traditionally thought of as a divide, Main Street connects the wealthy west side with the working-class east side, and the bustling downtown core with the placid residential neighbourhoods to the south. It’s where the multi-million dollar heritage homes of Cambie Street rub shoulders with the decidedly plebian Planet Bingo, and where the heritage clock stands guard over a “XXX” cinema, a renowned ballet school, an old-style Chinese bakery specializing in meat buns, a “boutique” clothing store and a hipster café. Like the underground streams swirling beneath it, Main Street is the confluent where they all come together.

In fact, European settlement in “uptown” Main Street (near Broadway) began when sawmill owner Edward Stamp damned the streams, built bridges and workers came across the water from the original Granville Township. For much of its history, Main Street has remained a working-class area, more recently home to Chinese, Filipino and Vietnamese immigrants. Artists and affluent young people moving to the area in the late ’90s infused the neighbourhood with hipster culture, opening cafes, restaurants, bike and skate shops, pubs, bars, live-music venues and, most notably, fashion boutiques.


Main Street is now Vancouver’s premiere go-to destination for shoppers in search of one-of-a-kind fashion by local and Canadian designers. The perfect antidote to mall shopping and chain stores, Main Street’s shopping area runs roughly from 6th Ave. to 30th.. Boutiques offering the latest from a myriad of hot new designers are nestled among shops offering eclectic vintage and gently worn fashions. Some of the unique fashion finds on offer on Main Street include hand-stamped leather purses, laceless rubber sneakers in rainbow colours and frocks from local labels Gentle Fawn and Button. Main Street also boasts maternity wear, clothing for babies and children, menswear and independent labels in larger sizes.


  antisocial skateboard shop
2337 Main St.
604 708 5678

Athen's Pizza and Italian Food
2444 Main St.
604 872 8177 or 604 872 8178

  Brownie's Florist
273 E. Broadway
1 800 283 8772
  Dandelion Records & Emporium 
2442 Main St.
778 737 7367

2313 Main St.
604 872 8779 (87-CURRY) 604 876 2911


Our Town Cafe
245 E. Broadway
604 879 1924


Rath Art Supplies
2410 Main St.
604 678 3537

  Jerry's European Hair Styling
99 Kingsway
604 876 5813
  John's Jukes
2343 Main St.
604 872 5757
[email protected]

 New York Novelties
2429 Main St.
604 872 7312


Main Street Physiotherapy
4817 Main St.
604 568 2744
[email protected]


  Browning & Company Picture Framing
Suite 8,163 W. 4th Ave
604 879 9965

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