As I mentioned, I’m returning to school in September. For the past three years, I’ve been working in downtown Vancouver. Thinking about this big change has made me realize a few things, one is how much I love Gastown.

The office is just on the cusp of Gastown but outside the city centre. The area is very up-and-coming with the new W2 Woodwards development including SFU, London Drugs, and Nester’s Market.

New and old Ws at Woodwards Gassy Jack in Historic Gastown
New and old Ws at Woodwards | Gassy Jack in Historic Gastown

Soon, it’ll be part of a new business district called “Hastings Crossing”. I figured that this was as good a time as any to highlight some of the local businesses that I frequent and hope to continue to support.

Bambo Café
This is absolutely my favourite lunch spot. Everything I’ve tried has been delicious, fresh, and well-priced for the large portions. I know I can spend less than $10 on lunch and be nice and full until dinner time. I love the sandwiches and their homemade soups. My favourites are tuna melt because they put fresh dill in the tuna and this amazing butternut squash soup. To die for.

Soup and sandwich at Bambo Cafe

Butternut Squash soup and grilled veggie sandwich at Bambo Cafe

Deadly Couture
Speaking of dying… but not really… is the alternative shop Deadly Couture full of goth/punk/rockabilly fashion and accessories. They carry my favourite brand of hair dye here: Special Effects. The colour is super intense and lasts for a really long time. I also all the fashion accessories and clothing style.

Deadly Couture on Cambie Street at Cordova Corsets at Deadly Couture

I’ve been going to Dressew for years — it is a crafty person’s dream come true. The whole basement is filled with discount fabrics and notions galore, the main floor is costuming, some discontinued yarn and fabric fabric fabric. Dressew celebrated its 50th anniversary in March of this year and the Vancouver Courier ran an awesome article. It’s true you can find a zipper to match any fabric, fringe to adorn anything, and even genuine leather scraps. They told me that in addition to two full floors, Dressew has a sub-basement for stock and an additional off-site storage facility.

Old Faithful Shop
Relative newcomer to the area, I cannot resist going into the shop regularly. The style embraces au natural design with unfinished wood, unbleached fabrics, and sustainable materials. Old Faithful has amazing home decor (think shabby-chic, eco-cabin) with a down-to-earth, organic, homegrown feel. It was the hanging glass terrariums that inspired me to write this article about how to make a terrarium for GardenWise Online.

Bird houses at Old Faithful Shop Hanging terrariums at Old Faithful Shop

Hitz Boutique
Another ‘alternative’ style clothing shop in the area, they always have hilarious baby clothes in the window. But what I really love is that they carry several brands that are mostly found in Kits and Point Grey. My favourite turquoise jacket is made by a company called Orb and I bought it at Hitz Boutique. Also, the staff are fantastic, friendly and helpful. One of them even remembered—nearly a year later—that I was “the one who bought the turquoise jacket.”

You may think with Dressew just around the corner that ButtonButton would go out of business. In truth, it’s the skyrocketing rent for retail space in the downtown core that nearly did in this cute, tiny little shop. Sure, Dressew may have tons of buttons… but most of them are fairly common. What about the uncommon buttons, the buttons that turn heads, the buttons that make you squeal with delight as you find a replacement for your favourite jacket? ButtonButton has all these kinds of buttons and more.

ButtonButton in downtown Vancouver

Olla Urban Flower Project & Shop
Even though I have a mottled green-black thumb (I only succeed half of the time), I love Olla Flowers. I love their design aesthetic as well as their concept. They create arrangements and living containers using sustainable resources, local and ethically-traded plants and even recycled and/or repurposed containers. They also work with corporate and non-profit groups to compost, re-home event decor, and even hold monthly workshops.

Olla Flowers on Cambie Street in Downtown Vancouver

Also in the area is Academie Duello, where I’ve recently begun taking lessons. This makes the history geek in me very happy and it’s surprisingly quite a good workout!