A relic from Vancouver’s past has been restored.
The bricks laid by mason Harry Bridge in 1918 for this two-storey building are again visible to everyone.
Located at the southeast corner of East 34th Avenue and Nanaimo Street, the structure was once home to a succession of grocers that served South Vancouver.
The last of these grocers was the Mah family, who ran the B&K Grocery and lived at the home upstairs.
Richard Wittstock of Domus Homes bought 2308 East 34th Avenue, with a vision of preserving the site as part of a redevelopment project.
Wittstock also imagined a new community hub emerging in the restored retail space.
On June 21, 2016, Vancouver city council approved a rezoning application for the site.
The plan called for the restoration of the red brick building with retail space and a new home upstairs, plus three townhouses on the lot.
Construction is almost complete.
Only two homes are left for sale, Leah Kenney of Icon Marketing told the Straight by phone.
The retail space is awaiting a new owner.
The red brick building, which was designated by the City of the Vancouver as a protected heritage property, is ready for another chapter in its history.
Kenney said that a café is an ideal fit, which will serve as a gathering place for the community.
Except for a few remaining touches, everything is ready for the summer.
The new development is called Century House.
The development’s website recalls that the brick building first became Smith’s Grocery in 1922, and then Thomson’s Grocery in 1925.
“The following 40-odd years hosted a dozen more grocers, all of British and European ancestry until B.K. Mah, an enterprising Chinese immigrant, opened B.K. Grocery in 1968,” according to the account.
“Mah and his family owned the store and lived in the building—a life where work and family life intertwined. The store remained under the name B.K. Grocery until 2014,” it related.
“Though a humble corner store, the building tells a significant Vancouver story, a narrative familiar to many new Canadians of yesteryear and today,” the site added.
A similar version was featured in a city staff report to council when the rezoning application was considered in 2016:
Built in 1918 by bricklayer Harry Bridge, the B&K Grocery building is significant as a long-time visual landmark in the neighbourhood, which remained sparsely populated until the 1940s. Its red brick structure is unusual. It is believed to be the only brick building constructed in South Vancouver between the Edwardian building boom (1910–1913) and the start of the 1920s.
In the early days of rural Vancouver, paved streets were rare and vehicles even rarer. Residents relied on small stores for basic supplies. The building features a small shop on the ground floor and a residential unit on the second floor. The Bridge family moved into this upstairs unit in 1919 from their nearby residence at 5131 Highgate Street. Since 1968 and until recently the building was the home of ‘B&K Grocery’.