Strathcona businesses serve new grub with old community values

VANCOUVER — On the eve of summer 2015, three businesses are preparing to open their doors to residents and visitors of Strathcona. Every business brings its own distinct vibe to the area: The Heatley, a gastropub-style neighbourhood watering hole; Roots+Fruits, a health food café with fresh seasonal juices; and Ed’s Daily, a commissary with grab-and-go breakfast and lunch. While the cuisines couldn’t be more different, the owners of all three businesses share a common interest: making a valuable contribution to the Strathcona community.

“I think if you’re planning on opening a business down here without a community program, you wouldn’t really fit in,” says Brett Turner, who co-owns Ed’s Daily with Dax Droski. The commissary-style café on the corner of Heatley and Powell hasn’t seen a break in foot traffic since its opening in early May, whether it’s a lunch rush of employees from the animation studio next door or morning coffee runs from the residents of nearby social housing units.

“We see all kinds of backgrounds coming into the café, and so far it’s been really well-received in the community,” Turner explains. He adds that they’ve seen a lot of anticipation leading up to the opening date. “We were on social media about a month before we opened, and obviously people were seeing something being built here, so people kept reaching out to us, asking when we were opening.”

The Heatley, located just up the street from Ed’s Daily, has seen a similar kind of attention. Owner Michael Brennan says he has made a point of leaving the windows and the doors of The Heatley open throughout renovations. “I’ve always invited people to come in and ask who I am and what I’m doing,” he explains, “and by that, I feel like I’ve already gained support of the community.” His vision of The Heatley was brought about by what he felt was an absence of old-fashioned neighbourhood pubs in Vancouver. Strathcona, with its diverse yet tight-knit community, seemed like the perfect spot.

“The one thing that Strathcona has that I think many neighbourhoods are sorely missing is businesses interspersed throughout the community,” Brennan says. “I wanted to ensure that what I wanted to do was in line with the neighbourhood, not a radical transformation of [it].”

It seems that all Strathcona business owners, whether they’ve been running businesses for many years or moved into the neighbourhood recently, share Brennan’s sentiment. Scott McTavish, who owns Roots+Fruits, says paying homage to the history and tradition of Strathcona is part of the business identity. “Our goal is to be embedded and accepted by the community and give them what they want,” he explains.

His inspiration for the menu at Roots+Fruits came from extensive research on positive effects of a healthy diet. “It soon became obvious that a lot of the food that we’re consuming everyday can be improved upon and should be more convenient to obtain,” McTavish says. Following that realization, McTavish has created an oasis of responsibly-sourced organic superfoods and seasonal freshly-squeezed juices.

Ed’s Daily and The Heatley are both participants of Made in Strathcona, a Strathcona Business Improvement Association initiative aimed at highlighting local businesses. As SBIA executive director Joji Kumagai explains, the business owners’ interest in the daily lives of Strathcona residents ensures that the changes in the community have a positive impact. “It’s not just about opening a business and trying to do whatever you can to make a buck – which is what you have to do as a small business owner – but also to really understand how to make your community better.”

If the three newest additions to the Strathcona culinary scene are any indication, things are about to get a lot better – for residents and foodies alike.

A version of this article appeared in BeatRoute Magazine in June 2015.

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