Why we love Kerrisdale
Jennifer Hungerford and her seven-year-old daughter Victoria are the unofficial 'tea party tourists' of Kerrisdale. It's a tradition they started when Victoria was three, and since then they've had tea parties all over the neighbourhood.
“She’s big into tea,” Jennifer says with a smile as her daughter picks a peach and pistachio frangipane tart from the three-tiered tray in front of them. Today they've chosen the Secret Garden Tea Company on West Boulevard, their favourite local tea party purlieu.
“Almost everybody here is a local business owner,” says Jennifer fondly, dropping a sugar cube into her cup. It’s a central part of the neighbourhood’s charm, she explains, and part of the reason the Secret Garden is their tea party location of choice.
“My grandmother was English and we had tea every Sunday when we visited,” she explains. “It’s something we don’t really do at home ceremoniously like she would do, but when we come here it sort of feels like what she would normally have.”
This is why people love Kerrisdale so much, I realize, turning my attention back to my own pot of steaming vanilla rooibos. There’s something here for everybody that reminds them of home and heritage.
Bits and pieces of home
I take a walk around the neighbourhood, which is bustling with the lunch crowd on a sunny September afternoon. The community has made a clear effort to maintain a quaint village vibe, with its brown brick sidewalks, terra cotta plant pots and stylish black street lamps.
Even the McDonald’s is trying to blend in, having cast aside its corporate red and yellow for a vintage brick and wood design.
“It’s like a village still, which is great,” says Pierre Saint-Denis from his kitschy antique shop on West Boulevard. Saint-Denis is from a small village called Val-David in the Laurentian Mountains and says the neighbourhood simply reminds him of home.
“It was a potters and artisan area,” he recalls with a smile. “I was there for 10 years and the atmosphere was quite nice — I think Kerrisdale is similar in a way.”
Saint-Denis has one of the last antique shops in Kerrisdale, and says many of his clients come in and find traces of their heritage in his selection of knick knacks. He has stationary from Italy, soap from France, jade from China, and dishes from just about everywhere else.
Pierre Saint-Denis says Kerrisdale reminds him of home. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey.
“A lot of the people who live here used to travel a lot,” he explains, referring to Kerrisdale’s retirees. “Their parents collected, their grandparents collected — those generations really collected a lot of things.”
Many of these items end up in his shop, but in order to appeal to a wider crowd, Saint-Denis keeps a stock of new items as well. After all, the collector explains, Kerrisdale is home to young folk too.
I leave the antique shop rather curious, wondering what would entice 'young folk' to settle in such a calm and quiet neighbourhood. I hop into a local Starbucks - full of UBC students hammering away on their laptops - and ask a millennial about life in Kerrisdale.
As it turns out, the answer I'm looking for is embedded in the question.
A quiet, friendly neighbourhood
“It’s nice and quiet here," says 25-year-old Kevin Jones, who is listening to music and sipping a large cup of tea. "UBC is just down the street, it’s a great location, and it's one bus ride away from downtown as well.”
Jones, an electrician's apprentice, used to live closer to the city centre but relocated to Kerrisdale in search of a more laid back neighbourhood. He says the small community is a welcome "retreat" from the hustle and bustle of downtown Vancouver, but close enough to to the core to have fun on the weekends.
"You don’t want to be right downtown in the action," he explains from the coffee shop. "Kerrisdale is sort of separating yourself from it, but still within striking distance when Saturday night rolls around and close enough to get back home safely.”
Kevin Jones moved to Kerrisdale earlier this summer and couldn't be happier with his new neighbourhood. Photo by Elizabeth McSheffrey.
In addition to its geographic convenience, Jones says the neighbourhood is also one of the friendliest places in Vancouver. The residents are generally very "sweet" as long as you don't step in their gardens, he laughs.
"Just the other day I had some stranger buy my coffee for me at Starbucks," he tells me. "He was all for the young generation and said, ‘you kids are carrying the weight now, so here’s a coffee!’”
There really is something here for everybody.
Back at the Secret Garden on West Boulevard, Jennifier and Victoria, are wrapping up their afternoon tea party. There's even talk of dessert at Dairy Queen in the works as an extra sweet way to end their date.
“It’s fun for us!” says Victoria, of why she loves living in Kerrisdale. With help from her mother, she quickly names off her favourite places in the neighbourhood: The Secret Garden, Cowboys and Angels Toy Store, the farmers market, and the Kerrisdale Cyclone Taylor Arena.
“We love being able to walk around here and go shopping,” says Jennifer, who has no plans to leave the neighbourhood anytime soon. “We figured this is good value in terms of where we live, and proximity to things that kids will enjoy and we’ll enjoy.”