‘It’s like going back to basics’: Vancouver businesses open in Chinatown to help revitalize area – BC
As street disorder, anti-Asian racism and vandalism exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic keep some away from Vancouver’s Chinatown, two business partners recently returned to the historic district because they want to be part of of the solution.
The storefront at 83 East Pender Street had been vacant for more than seven years when Dustin Grant and Perry Lam moved to the area in late June.
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“It feels like going back to basics,” said Bootleg Barbers’ Dustin Grant.
Grant opened his first hair salon in Chinatown in 2013, but left four years later for various reasons, including a rent increase.
After trying a few different spots in East Vancouver, he now wants to help restore the neighborhood.
“It’s one of the most beautiful historic areas in the city and to see it deteriorate over the past few years like it has, it’s sad,” Grant told Global News in an interview.
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Perry Lam said he tried to launch his menswear store in Gastown last year, but the neighborhood proved too difficult.
He now shares Grant’s space and together the couple hope to be part of the change.
“I think we’re really trying to offer to help clean up the community,” the Private & Co owner said.
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“Bring a whole new vibe and bring tourism back here.”
The building housing their retail unit is owned by the Cheng Wing Yeong Tong Company.
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The ground level space had been empty since the Furniture store Peking Lounge — known for its window displays — closed at the end of March 2015.
Everything, including the floor, was in poor condition, according to the Chinatown society association.
“Five, ten years, nobody (did nothing), you can’t even walk there, that’s actually how bad it is,” said Cheng Wing Yeong Tong’s Mike Jang. Society.
The company has spent thousands of dollars restoring the space, and Jang is happy to have found the right tenants.
“Right now the store is looking good,” Jang told Global News on Saturday.
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This is a positive sign for the revitalization of Chinatown, according to the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver.
“They feel more comfortable running businesses in Chinatown, so it’s about building that trust in people so they feel safe to come to Chinatown,” Chairman Fred Kwok told Global. News.
“Before, they stayed away because I guess it didn’t look good,” Jang added.
Lam has roots in the community, and Jang gave him and Grant a break on rent to help them start their five-year lease.
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“We now have a solid landlord who wants a solid business here and not the type of landlord who just wants to squeeze every penny out of you every time your lease comes up,” Grant said.
The couple hope their business will be ‘a cut above’ in the heritage district that faces its share of ongoing challenges.
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