Archive for June, 2017

Dunbar Dairy Queen & Orange Julius

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Ten Years of Tempting Treats. The warm weather has finally arrived and it’s officially ice cream season! Simon and Jessica Tran’s Dunbar Dairy Queen/Orange Julius franchise is a year round destination, yet summer is by far their busiest season as hot Dunbarites come in looking for their favourite frozen treats and beverages.

The couple are thrilled to be celebrating their tenth year as DQ franchise owners. Simon admits that winter was challenging with multiple snowfalls followed by the wettest spring in many years, but they are grateful to their customers who continued to come in for DQ’s treats (Blizzards, soft ice cream, sundaes and legendary ice cream cakes), and Orange Julius’ drinks and hot dogs.

Prior to being a DQ franchise owner Simon worked as a crane operator. When he decided it was time for a career change, a friend who owns a DQ franchise suggested Simon explore this option. Simon was convinced – he believed in the product and signed up.

In 2008 the Dunbar DQ store was new to the area; DQ’s corporate office made the decision to put in a small-scale treat centre rather than a full service DQ grill.

Dunbar’s DQ has succeeded thanks to exceptional products and outstanding customer service.

Simon and Jessica work as a team – he makes the cakes and she decorates them. Customers can order from the extensive designs offered or they can request a custom cake.

He makes the ice cream cakes three times a week for optimum freshness. The store was originally equipped with three display cases but due to the popularity of the cakes he expanded to five cases. “My cakes have to be the freshest in town. I make them as I go. I don’t have the space to store them.” In addition, he also makes the DQ Sandwiches and Dilly Bars.

Dunbar DQ’s top seller is the Dunbar Special Blizzard. Simon laughs and says, “It is also known as the Simon Special.”

This popular Blizzard is created with Reese’s peanut butter, a cookie layer and a shot of liquid peanut butter sauce.

Simon is extremely warm and jovial and is instantly likeable. He and Jessica are originally from Vietnam and both were boat people. Jessica started her new life as a Canadian in Edmonton while Simon lived in Halifax. They met in Vancouver in 1989 and married soon afterward.

Simon bounced around between foster homes and group homes until he was adopted at age 12. He has only positive words to say about his Canadian parents. Regarding his tough early years Simon says, “It made me wiser and stronger. I didn’t have anything until my parents took me in and gave me unconditional love.” His optimistic attitude did not allow him to give up. Simon is very humble and wants to share his story to let others know that it is possible to turn your life around.

Like many small business people Simon works incredibly long hours. For many years he clocked 16-hour days and it caught up with him. He was missing spending time with his young son and he decided he couldn’t do that anymore; he has managed to shorten his days to a mere 12 hours. He smiles and says, “I am blessed and I am happy.”

He doesn’t know where he and Jessica would be without her parents who help with their 8-year-old son TJ. Simon is also extremely grateful for his older daughter Vanesa who is now in nursing school; she assisted her mother and father for many years at the shop. TJ also likes to lend a hand sweeping floors and cleaning windows. Simon believes in starting early to instill a strong work ethic.

“I feel so blessed that I am part of this wonderful community.” Simon Tran

Dunbar DQ believes in giving back to the community that actively supports them; one way they do this is through donations to schools. Simon mentions all of the school kids who come by for treats. He says, “May is my favourite month when students I have seen grow up come in to tell me where they are going to university in the fall. Some will return later to tell me how they are doing.”

Celebrating a 10-year anniversary is a milestone for any business. For Simon the most important message to communicate to Dunbar Life readers is his how thankful he is for their patronage. He says, “What I most appreciate about Dunbar is the people – the families and the kids who have supported me for the last 10 years. Please mention that, won’t you?” I remind Simon that what you give out is what you get back – he likes that.

Dunbar Dairy Queen/Orange Julius
3380 Dunbar Street, Vancouver BC V6S 2C1
Telephone 604-733-2884


Stong’s Market

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

A Grand Return to Dunbar.

It was a perfect spring day – the sun was shining, music was playing and it felt like a big Dunbar block party when Stong’s Market officially re-opened on May 13.

John Roden, Stong’s marketing manager reports, “It was great to see the fun and excitement as kids were high-fiving Spiderman and people were spinning the prize wheel. We couldn’t have asked for a better grand re-opening celebration.”

There was a noticeable absence in the neighbourhood last May when the grocery store closed due to redevelopment of the 4500 block of Dunbar Street. Remarkably, Stong’s was only gone for seven months while the new location at West 27th Avenue and Dunbar Street was being completed.

This is the fourth time Stong’s has relocated on Dunbar Street in 62 years.

Stongs Market Cori Bonina Dunbar LifeThe original 1955 location was situated where BMO now resides. In 1960 Stong’s moved to 4326 Dunbar (now home to Shoppers Drug Mart). In 1980 it moved south to its former location across from Dunbar Theatre. The new Stong’s is in almost the same location as the original 1955 store.

Stong’s president and owner Cori Bonina holds the honour of being the fourth generation owner of this family business. Her great grandfather Carson Stong opened the first Stong’s Market in the early 1890s in Toronto with his brother Joe. With the onset of the Depression in 1931, Carson moved to Vancouver and set up two of the first open-air markets in Vancouver. His son Ralph opened the first Vancouver Stong’s Market in 1955.

Ralph’s son-in law Bill Rossum (Cori’s father) took over as general manager in 1971. Cori joined forces with her father and became general manager in 1997; she took over as president in 2001. Her son Carson is carrying on the family legacy; he is the manager of Stong’s new Northwood location in North Vancouver.

2016 was a monumental year for Stong’s. The Northwood location opened in May and in December the Dunbar village store had a soft re-opening.

Frank Rainey, director of store operations, mentions that designing Stong’s from the ground up was a wonderful opportunity. He says, “We are proud to have evolved into a 21st century grocery store where customers can expect an elevated shopping experience.”

Stongs Market butcher Dunbar LifeThe attractive Dunbar village store has increased in size by 6,000 square feet and features modern elements such as concrete floors, exposed ceilings and a West Coast feel through the use of wood panelled walls, but at the same time the past is still very much present. Champion, the beloved coin-operated horse, awaits eager young riders. John says, “Parents bring their children to ride on the horse they rode as a child.” Historical photos are also nicely integrated to celebrate the store’s rich past. Another nod to the past is a free cookie at the bakery for little ones.

Specialized departments surround the periphery of the shop. If you are looking for magnificent floral arrangements head to Stems, located at the store’s entrance. Five floral designers are on staff to create wow factor custom bouquets.

The introduction of a stone oven pizza is proving to be a big hit, as is Edibles, the expanded deli where customers can choose from a large selection of take home prepared foods including many offerings from Stong’s own brand, Cori’s Kitchen. Frank mentions that Stong’s roasted chicken continues to be one of the favorites with their customers.

In a rush and need to grab a meal on the go? Head to the panini counter or pick up some freshly made sushi. If baked goods are on your shopping list the in house bakery is sure to please. As a side note, the tantalizing aromas circulating from the various departments can lead you on a hunt to track down what’s cooking.

Tip: There is plenty of spacious free underground parking on site.

A wide selection of products from major national brands to an extensive selection of unique, gourmet, natural and organic products can be found. Stong’s takes pride in supporting local suppliers of all sizes; work is well under way to expand the selection of local produce as they have been reaching out to a lot of local farmers.

Stong’s also supports many local small suppliers looking to develop their product; it was the first store to offer Lesley Stowe Raincoast Crisp crackers, which are now sold throughout North America.

“Stong’s staff are passionate about their departments. They love what they do.” Frank Rainey

As anyone who shops at Stong’s knows, it is a community hub where you run into friends and neighbours in the aisles. With the introduction of Replenish café, customers can catch up over an impromptu coffee and light snack. On warm days roll up garage doors open with additional seating outdoors.

Stongs Market Cori Pizza Dunbar LifeNo time to go grocery shopping or perhaps you can’t make it out of your house? No worries, Stong’s Express is an online shopping service which offers next day delivery to most of the Lower Mainland with dedicated personal shoppers and trucks on the road seven days a week.

John aptly points out, “Stong’s is the heart of the community. There is an emotional connection to this store.” Without a doubt, Stong’s short-term closure reinforced Dunbar residents’ vested interest in their market. They love to shop locally and support independent businesses, and are extremely happy to have their favourite grocery store back.

Stong’s Market
4221 Dunbar Street
Vancouver, BC V6S 2G1
Telephone 604-266-1401

All Nations Stamp and Coin

Monday, June 19th, 2017

Brian Grant Duff, All Nations Stamp and Coin, Dunbar LifeKeeping the Hobby Alive.

Stamp and coin collecting has been Brian Grant Duff’s lifelong hobby. As a young boy he was hospitalized for a lengthy period and his grandmother would visit him regularly with gifts. When the novelty of comic books wore off she began bringing him stamps and coins, which were instant hits. Little did Brian realize the introduction of this hobby would lead to him becoming a stamp and coin dealer.

At age 14 he ran his first stamp approval business. This involved sending selections of stamps to other collectors on approval – they would purchase the ones they wanted and return the rest.

Following high school Brian began an arts degree in English and History but abandoned his studies to run and eventually own stamp and coin concessions at both Eaton’s and The Bay. Eaton’s also sent him to Toronto to run the stores and auctions in that city.

In 1998 an opportunity arose to purchase the well-established business All Nations Stamp and Coin shop which was originally located in downtown Vancouver. Brian simultaneously juggled his work at The Bay with ownership of All Nations for ten years.

In 2008 he moved the shop to Dunbar (where he resides with his family) to the former home of The Silver Shop. Brian says, “To this day people still drop in looking for the previous owner Murray James.”

He brought to the business his vast experience of buying, selling, and auctioning Canadian and worldwide stamps, collections and postal history.

“This is a labour of love. I want to keep the hobby going.” Brian Grant Duff

Stamp collecting has been around since shortly after the inception of postage stamps. The world’s first stamp was issued by Great Britain in 1840. As the originator of postage stamps, Great Britain did not put the country’s name on its stamps — the tradition continues to this day.
Like other retail storefronts, online shopping has impacted All Nations walk in business. Brian has cleverly adapted his business and holds a live weekly auction every Saturday at noon. He says this is now the largest part of his business. He curates and publishes a list on All Nations’ website of the postcards, stamps and coins up for auction.

“Collecting is a great tradition to carry on. Collectors of all ages come to see me for stamps; young collectors are looking for coins more than stamps at the moment. The market is looking for gold and silver,” he says. Only Canadian coins minted before 1968 are silver; coins minted after 1968 are composed of copper and nickel.

Some of Brian’s customers have been loyal to him since his Eaton’s days more than 30 years ago.

He explains, “It’s about building a clientele who trust you.” Collectors come from far and wide, from Bellingham to Yukon, and on auction days bids come from across the country.

All Nations Stamp and Coin DunbarChoosing the theme of a stamp collection is part of the fun – some collectors focus on stamps from their home country while others select a favourite topic such as ships, trains, birds or royalty. Brian mentions Mrs. Eaton enjoyed collecting frog stamps.

Are you thinking about selling your collection or perhaps just a few pieces? This can be the right move if you realize you’ve gone as far with your collection as you are likely to. Sharing your material with other collectors who have been searching at length for material you possess can be very gratifying.

Tip: Don’t clean coins if you are planning on selling them.

If you have a coin or stamp you are curious about Brian and his staff offer a free quick look over; if you are seeking a detailed appraisal the cost is $1 per minute.

As a history buff Brian is excited about Canada’s 150th birthday and mentions the opportunity for plenty of historical tie ins for his business. In the past he has sold some unusual items including a Gassy Jack Deighton letter and signature from 1875, the year the Gastown founder died. Brian mentions the document yielded a fair price at auction.

Only a couple of stores in Vancouver continue to still sell stamps and coins. Brian points out All Nations Stamp and Coin is a member of the Canadian Stamp Dealer’s Association. He says, “I am a stamp and coin resource. I can help people locate what they are looking for, and if I don’t have the answer I will refer them to someone who does.”

Brian concludes, “I always welcome people to join in our merry band of collecting. It is a way to relax and take control in a chaotic world.”

All Nations Stamp and Coin
5630 Dunbar Street
Vancouver, BC V6N 1W7
Telephone 604-684-4613

All Nations Stamp and Coin, 5630 Dunbar

Pacific Spirit Park Society

Monday, June 19th, 2017

Krista Voth, Pacific Spirit Park, Dunbar Life

Champion of Dunbar Village.

Dunbar is privileged to have magnificent Pacific Spirit Regional Park backing onto the neighbourhood. Twice the size of Stanley Park, it boasts 78 kilometres of forested trails frequented by walkers, runners, bicyclists and horse riders.

Established in 1989, Pacific Spirit Regional Park was originally part of the University Endowment Lands. It was created as a natural forest preserve and is part of Metro Vancouver’s park system. Covering 763 hectares, the park consists of foreshore (including Wreck Beach), forest and Camosun Bog and is home to a variety of birds, small and large mammals and amphibians.

A number of rare native plants and some of the few remaining old-growth trees in the Lower Mainland can be found in Pacific Spirit Regional Park. The biodiversity of this rich ecosystem is threatened by the spread of invasive plants, especially English holly and ivy. However, all is not lost. The community is fortunate to have the dedicated Pacific Spirit Park Society (PSPS) led by program coordinator Krista Voth along with a committed board of directors and an army of volunteers (totalling 275) who act as public stewards of the park.

Krista is a former Waldorf and Montessori teacher. She is studying geography at UBC and has a keen interest in the way urban parks are used and cared for by the public. Beyond her course work in the Environment and Sustainability program, her research focuses on citizen science data collection and social inclusion in public parks. She is always looking for new ways to educate people and her enthusiasm is contagious.

PSPS provides opportunities for volunteers to engage in stewardship projects and citizen science data collection, as well as offering a variety of volunteer run education programs.

Krista mentions that approximately 80 per cent of the volunteers in the stewardship and data collection programs are youth and young adults between 14 to 25 years of age. There are a number of ways volunteers contribute to Pacific Spirit Park Society.

Eco Team volunteers meet on Saturdays from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. to remove invasive plants and help plant native species. Between 30 to 50 people come out each week to lend a hand and keep the Himalayan blackberry, holly and ivy at bay. Volunteers also assist in mapping illegal trails created by walkers and cyclists; they close off the trails by replanting and fencing them.

The Eco Watch program provides opportunities for volunteers to map and monitor the spread of invasive plants and to test the water quality in two of the Park’s streams that support salmon populations. Volunteers gain experience in the environmental science field and develop GPS mapping skills – the intention is to evaluate the effectiveness of the invasive plant removal programming and monitor the health of wildlife habitat.

Krista is excited to report that PSPS has recently received a TD Friends of the Environment grant to help fund their newest program: Eco Kits. The interactive educational kits include activities and lessons that are perfect for teachers and students visiting the park. Currently, bog and forest kits are being piloted and this fall the selection will expand to include streams and ponds.

Another popular program is Eco Walks, a partnership between PSPS and UBC’s Tapestry independent retirement community located near the park. PSPS offers a monthly nature walk and talk to a maximum of 15 people – Krista says there is always a waiting list.

Volunteer recruitment happens naturally. Like the spreading ivy, volunteers spread the word about their positive experiences and bring new helpers into the fold.

Krista says, “There is no minimum commitment of time, it’s all a matter of personal preference. Some volunteers come once, while others return week after week. People come from as far as Burnaby, Richmond and Surrey to offer their services. Some are students who are looking to fulfill volunteer hours required by their schools, others are retirees or people who don’t have yards.”

“Volunteering with PSPS helps people get out in nature who might not otherwise get a chance.” Krista Voth

The society partners with many local schools including Immaculate Conception School, Lord Byng Secondary, Queen Elizabeth Elementary, St. George’s School and University Hill Secondary. It has also formed a network with Eastside schools.

As well, PSPS partners with South Vancouver settlement agencies, new immigrants and international students. These groups are eager to participate in order to learn more about nature and Canada.

Krista mentions, “It is very satisfying for volunteers to see the results of their work.” She would like people to know that PSPS always welcomes new volunteers.

What does Krista find most rewarding about her work? “Definitely working with the volunteers. My favourite day is Saturday. I come home saying, ‘I have the best job in the world.’ People come out in all weathers – it’s a real highlight.” she says.

Thank you to these Champions of Dunbar Village who contribute countless hours for the betterment of the community. Like the name of the park, your boundless team ‘spirit’ is recognized and appreciated.

Pacific Spirit Park Dunbar


Monday, June 19th, 2017

Story by Sue Dvorak.

Moving is found on ‘most stressful life events’ scales but needs to be moved up. From start to finish, moving is an extremely exhausting and generally overwhelming endeavor.

Oh sure, some moving appears carefree, almost entertaining. Visit a university campus in spring to see a very relaxed looking young person “moving out” of residence, wandering by carrying a popcorn maker in one hand and a laundry basket overflowing with shoes, a dragging towel, one music speaker and some binders tucked under the other arm. This person is not stressed, though his look-alike parent packing the car nearby usually appears a bit more intense. I was at UBC recently when a compact car drove by with two young men each perched in a fully opened back window, clutching a large sofa balanced along the top of the vehicle, a furniture-moving technique not endorsed by ICBC. Or anyone.

Even these haphazard moves gradually develop a system, becoming more streamlined and efficient. People get some large reusable bins, develop packing patterns and invent a few techniques of their own. Our son uses large black garbage bags to move almost anything. Garbage bags have the advantage of being very stackable, from floor to ceiling in the back of a car and the disadvantage of being mistaken for garbage. Attentiveness is crucial during a move: last year two baskets of clean family laundry were almost driven to another province after being packed into the back of our vehicle by a hard-working but inattentive helper.

Moves continue over the coming years: to shared apartments, a downtown high rise, a condo, a townhouse. Eventually “It Happens.”

‘It’ is very traumatic and a sure sign of becoming established. ‘It’ is when you can no longer move yourself using just a vehicle, when friends are no longer willing to help you move in exchange for a case of beer. ‘It’ occurs when you actually need to hire a real moving truck and, gasp, movers!

Years back my husband found this a most distressing situation, one he had great difficulty coming to terms with. Never mind that we had a toddler and a baby in tow; the babies we could adapt to, but professional movers we were not ready for.

We keep living our lives and at some point, many people move into a house. If purchased there is the hefty financial consideration much discussed in Vancouver. Yet beyond that, beyond the finances and finishings and appliances of the purchase or rental, there remains the matter of a home. Home, where our lives happen, where weekend mornings unfold, where children grow up, parties are hosted and ordinary suppers take place, chores repeated, “stuff” accumulated and people come and go.

The ultimate “moving” then is that which my parents are in the midst of doing: moving out of their family home of the past 49 years. My father just marked the occasion perfectly by writing a poem about a tiny fir seedling they planted years back, now towering over their house, and how their family life grew up there along with the tree. They are doing an amazing job of staying focused and on-task while all around memories beckon and heartstrings tug. The “stuff” surrounding them marks time and tells a story but still needs sorting. The memories need sorting too. Well, that and the four extra mattresses, full dining set, crazy number of pillowcases and the casserole dishes. Good thing older people are mature, tough and wise.

Moving through a lifetime of living will get you that.