We're already stoked for our 14th annual Sunrise Summer Kickoff, coming up Saturday, July 11. This amazing summer event features all day street hockey for kids K–Gr.9, live performances, face-painting, games, pony rides, and more. To register for street hockey click here. See you there!
With small dwellings becoming the norm in our city, thank goodness for spaces like Maple Leaf Storage. The East Village location has been in the ‘hood for eight years now, with 1400 storage containers holding everything from personal items to business supplies.
“We find that a lot of our tenants are in a 2km radius from us,” Maple Leaf’s marketing manager Darren explains to us. “We have businesses who store here as well.”
Location manager Sherry lives on site at Maple Leaf Storage, which may come to a surprise to some. To keep the property and units secure, all Maple Leaf Storage locations (with exception to just one) all have an on-site manager. Working and living in the area has allowed Sherry to develop invaluable relationships with local business owners and tenants alike. “I love the people and the community and the fact it is being built up,” Sherry says.
“I also love all the artists, especially from the ARC building across the street,” says Sherry. “They are an amazing group of people.” The two are working together to beautify a space in the back of Maple Leaf’s lot, constructing various bird houses to sit along the fence for the birds. “Hopefully in the future will also add a small community garden.”
When we ask Sherry and Darren what it is they enjoy most about their work, Darren says it’s all about developing solid relationships with clients. “I love helping people and doing whatever I can,” Sherry adds. “It’s a family here - we are based on that and it’s how we treat our customers.”
“The area is definitely changed in the last few years and is really going in the right direction,” Darren says. “I enjoy how we have had tenants for years, some people have stored here for ten years.”
The team at Maple Leaf Storage have forged community partner relationships with local non-for-profits charities, and the staff regularly volunteer for The Starlight Children’s Foundation, Kits House, and Urban Native Youth. They’ll also be participating in the upcoming Sunrise Summer Kick-Off Coupon Book, which will be handed out at our SSK event on July 11th.
If you’re looking for a business owner who is passionate about every aspect of their work, give Laura-Lee Gerwing, owner of My City Photos a call. The budding photography and event company has been located in East Village for 2.5 years now, providing clients a professional, affordable, and customizable experience. “We’re a company for the people,” Laura-Lee tells us proudly. “That’s something that’s close to my heart.”
Laura-Lee started the company after years of working as a professional stage manager. “Honestly, I was tired of working for other people,” she tells us. “I always knew I would work for myself, but I never quite knew what it would be. [Working as] a professional stage manager for theatre, I moved to Vancouver to do more but that’s a ridiculously tough industry to work full-time in and make any money at.”
We’re seated in Laura-Lee’s studio on East Hastings Street, a bright and functional space that works for both photoshoots and parties. “I started off just doing photography, weddings, headshots and portraits,” Laura-Lee explains. “With my background in stage management, I always wanted to be a professional party planner. So the photography and the event planning kinda came together, and I was trying to find something to differentiate myself. I came up with the idea of hosting kids birthday parties.”
When we ask Laura-Lee about the precise moment she considered herself a photographer, she tells us it’s something that has always been a part of her life. “The short version of the story,” she says, “is I’ve always been one. It wasn’t until I turned 30 that I could make a career out of it. I’ve been a full-time photographer and event manager for 5 years now.” Taking that leap to launch her own business wasn’t an easy decision for Laura, but she had some initial help due to a very successful launch through Living Social.
“I was doing photography on the side,” she explains, “and about five and half years ago the whole Groupon thing started, and my sister-in-law said ‘hey, you should do one of those!’ My first one went really well, I made $9000 in one day,” Lauralee beams. “I was just starting off, and I made that chunk of money, quit my day job and crossed my fingers, jumped, and here I am. Those risks are good to take. Scary as hell, but so worthwhile.”
With a team of seven, Laura says she wakes up every day pumped for something new. “I love making props and decorations, planning and organizing, ordering things online, taking photos, working with the kids,” she says. “Honestly every part of it. I love editing and answering emails. It’s kinda crazy, I know. But everything in moderation for me. If I did the same thing everyday, I would lose my mind.”
Laura-Lee’s drive is palpable, and with her level of passion there’s surely no way but up. “I never really considered myself a photographer or event manager. I consider myself an entrepreneur,” she says confidently. “I have big plans for my business, and I’m hoping all the dreaming will come true.”
Kessel&March opened its doors at The Arc building in June of 2013, and have just celebrated their two year anniversary. Owned and operated by local couple Tony Marzo and Satchi Iwamoto, the restaurant is unique in the sense that it doesn’t have a traditional stove-top or oven - but you would never guess it by the food coming out. “I think it’s a little different for our space and what we are trying to do,” Chef Marzo explains to us. “We use a lot of unconventional methods to cook, like sous vide cooking.”
“This is our first restaurant we have owned,” Chef Tony continues. “I started cooking part time in high school, and never have done anything else. It’s just kinda fun,” he says. Specifically, Tony says that he would never be good at a desk job. “Here, I’m always moving and doing something, working and using my hands. It keeps you on your toes. I also just love food in general. It is fun to have people eat your food, make comments and enjoy what you make.”
Counting the Pork Belly among his current favorites on the menu, Chef Tony says it’s his gnocchi that he is most proud of. “I really like making gnocchi,” he explains. “I like making the dough, rolling it out… it’s one of those dishes that aren’t made very well, everyone wants to eat it but aren’t too sure that it will be that good. But when you make it decently - it’s pretty special. It takes a lot of skill.”
Crafting seasonal, modern European fare influenced by Italian, French, English, and Spanish cultures, the food at Kessel&March is truly a feast for all of the senses. “I think we are very passionate about food and what Tony creates,” Satchi says. “I think it’s exciting that we get to provide that as an option to the city. It has always been a goal in life for Tony to own his own restaurant, so just to get to see him live out his dream.”
The couple also live in the area, so it seemed like a natural fit to open shop here, too. “The neighbourhood is very vibrant,” Sachi says. “There are people from all walks of life. I actually like being in the industrial hub. There are a lot of interesting food and beverage businesses around us. I like the area is on the cusp of change. I think right now is a very exciting time for this area.”
Satchi works full-time as an interior designer, and helps front of house during the evenings and on weekends. The kitchen has recently delved into catering, something the duo hope to expand further in the near future. The restaurant also plans to bring back its popular “pairing” dinner series, where they team-up with a local craft brewery or distillery. Past collabs include Coal Harbour Brewing, Odd Society Spirits, and Storm Brewing, to name a few.
Keep up with the latest Kessel&March news through their website, and don’t forget to stay social on Twitter and Facebook.
Coal Harbour Brewing started back in 2010, with the company making their first local festival appearance the following year at The Great Canadian Beer Fest. You’ll likely recognize the brand for their famous 311 Helles Lager, a German style beer which is brewed in the tradition of the Helles style of the Munich brewers.
“It’s called 311 because it was first brewed on 11 11 11,” general manager Pawan Sankhala tells us, while giving us some background about the company and its slightly unique operation. See, while most local East Van breweries sell their tasting lounges and growler fills as draws - Coal Harbour have forged a decidedly different approach.
“We’re kind of in a different situation,” Pawan explains. “Whereas other craft breweries might start with so many beers - the majority of our brewing has just been 311. It’s kind of what this company’s strategy has been - to establish that brand as the main one.”
This calculated move has led Coal Harbour Brewing to forge a relationship with the BC Liquor Stores, who now stock their product across the province. Over the past few years Coal Harbour have slowly introduced new beers, including Smoke and Mirrors and the aptly named Powel St IPA, which recently received a Gold medal from The Canadian Brewing Awards.
And if you’re expecting a fancy tasting room at Coal Harbour, think twice. The industrial setting is all business, and Pawan says that was a conscious decision made long before the craft beer scene was considered trendy.
“We were one of the first in this area to start a brewery,” Pawan says. “At that time tasting lounges weren’t really a thing. The plan was to have just a manufacturing facility here. The bet was on 311, and that we’d be brewing and canning a lot of it. Although we don’t have a tasting room, we’re still in the heart of the brewing district,” Pawan says. “We have plans in the future to have an on-site store, hopefully by the end of summer.”
Heading into its 19th year in business, Solus Decor creates concrete, contemporary and modern fireplace surrounds, mantels, and fire pits. The shop has been in the area for 12 years now, and was originally started in a friend’s garage by Tanya, who is an original founder of the business. Tanya is no longer an owner, but has recently come back to the organization.
Blair has also been involved with the company for many years, and has also recently returned to work with Solus. Once we got to chatting, Blair explained to us it’s the diversity of the neighbourhood that he loves most about the East Village. “Although the gentrification has started to happen, it is the last pocket that has yet to be gentrified,” he says. “You can still have industry here,” Tanya adds. “A lot of manufacturers are here which is insane - as manufacturing in Canada is extremely difficult. It’s also nice as there is this little group who are building around us.”
“Businesses here can use each other as a resource,” Blair continues. “There is a community of people in this area who all manufacture in Canada. We are supplied from businesses across the street; we also donate to loving spoonful next door. It is tight knit community here.”
Specializing in fire places, water features and firepits made of concrete, the team at Solus offers a showroom for customers, and also manufacture right onsite. In it’s former years, the building used to be a brewery (surprise, surprise!), then a wood processing plant.
The company will showing off their products at many upcoming tradeshows, including IDS West, Build Ex, Architect Digest Show in New York, Chelsea Garden in the UK, Hampton Court Garden show in the UK. “We are currently expanding into Europe,” Tanya tells us.
With a new revamped website on the way and new products to come, be sure to keep in the loop with what’s new at Solus Decor through their Facebook, and visit them in person at their showroom located at 1445 Powell Street.
The last five years has seen a sharp rise in the number of Craft Breweries and Distilleries opening in Metro Vancouver, but one visionary man was busy concocting his own microbrews long before the locavore movement began trending. James Walton of Storm Brewing, located at 310 Commercial Drive, has been crafting small-batch beer for over two decades now.
“Storm is the longest running independent craft brewery in the city of Vancouver,” shop manager Heather tells us enthusiastically. “That’s something we’re really proud of.”
“James Walton is our owner and brewer, and he started it back in 1994 - way before the craft beer ‘revolution’ came about. I think he’s totally a pioneer, not only for Vancouver but the country,” Heather says. “He’s one of the first brewers to commercially brew sour beer in North America, like that’s amazing. He’s a living legend.”
Heather been with the company since 2013, when Storm Brewing first opened their doors to the public. “When we started we had no idea if people were going to come in,” Heather says, “or if people were going to be into the fact that we’re an old working brewery. We don’t have a new fancy tasting room… everything is just a bit more gritty and East Van,” she continues with a laugh. “Now I’m here full-time, and it’s really exciting to see that kind of growth in just two years. James has done this completely independently, which is both amazing and completely rare.”
When we ask Heather what it is she likes most about the no-fuss atmosphere of her job environment, she says it’s the down-to-earth vibe that resonates most with her. “I like that Storm makes craft beer really accessible to people,” Heather says. “We love talking about what we do here. There is no behind-the-scenes tour, everything is just laid out. When people first walk in there like right in the middle of what we’re doing, and there’s just no pretentiousness about it. We’re just happy to share what we’re doing with people, and I think that’s really exciting.”
Heather's also a dog lover, which means you’re more than welcome to bring by your pooch to their dog-friendly brewery for some cuddles. “We have a Dogs of Storm Instagram account,” Heather says with a big smile. “We’re sponsoring a weiner dog named Lenny for the upcoming weiner dog race at Hastings Racecourse. We’re so excited. Lenny is number one! Go Lenny!”
With 4 mainstays and over 110 different ‘brainstorm’ brews rotated each week, there’s likely something for everyone at Storm. But you may be surprised to learn that the team only brews once per week. “We’re creative,” Heather explains, “and we use our mainstays as a base for our brainstorms. Because of the style of our keg, we can add in fresh ingredients, we juice things ourselves, make our own extracts, things like that.”
Some of Heather’s stand-out favorites are Pineapple Pilsner, Basil IPA, and the Apple Pie Ale. “They mostly all work out,” she says. “There’s only been a couple where we’ve been like, ‘yeah, not making that one again!’”
With a tight-knit team and a dog-friendly shop, it’s easy to see why Heather loves her job so much. “Storm is the kind of place where I’ve seen people make new friends. There’s a really great sense of community here. I’ll see people meet here, and then come back in together for beer the next week. That’s pretty cool.”