Main Street’s Coffee Block

In Vancouver it isn’t uncommon to see a coffee shop juxtaposed to a coffee shop juxtaposed to a coffee shop across the street from a coffee shop, especially in my neighbourhood, Mount Pleasant.

And yesterday things in my community just got a bit darker, frothier and sweeter, as Forty Ninth Parallel Coffee Roasters opened their newest location at the corner of 13th – wait… Thirteenth – and Main. Now, this wouldn’t be a big deal under regularly caffeinated circumstances; however, at the other end of the block sits perennial coffee powerhouse, Starbucks, and across the street from the Seattle-based coffee company’s 423rd most popular location beams JJ Bean, which is the unofficial epicenter of Hipsterism in Vancouver.

Ladies and gentlemen, we may or may not have a coffee market share death match on our hands.

Here are some observations and semi-judgments I’ve made of these three fine businesses that might help you choose which one to visit.

JJ Bean

Coffee and Food: Their food is made every day at their Railtown location and their baked goods (I prefer the cheddar chive scone) are made fresh every day in their cafes. They have Single Origin Coffees and Blends. I like dark roast coffee – black, no sugar – and there brew is of fine quality.

People and Service: The nicest pierced and tattooed hipsters you’ll ever meet. Though I can’t determine if, when things come quickly, the staff is just being ironic…

Interesting Advantage: A Viva Vancouver project has transformed a space (parking spots) into a people place right in front of JJ Bean, which has tripled their outdoor patio space. Now, I’m no conspiracy theorist, but it’s a bit weird how the Viva project perfectly matches JJ Bean’s colour scheme.


Coffee and Food: Their food not only “tastes better” but it “is better”, says Starbucks. They even make it with real ingredients. I’m not a huge fan of their coffee, as it’s bitter and not always Fair Trade – my awesome colleague, Aleasha, however, loves their lattes and I trust her judgment. And, thanks to fantastic training processes, you can get the same venti low fat soy double foam cinnamon latte at Main & 14th, in New York City, Seattle, Paris, or Buenos Aires (I have no idea if Starbucks has locations in any of these cities).

People and Service: Well trained, uniformed, but a bit alienating for people who don’t speak American Interpretation of The Italian Coffee House – luckily, the well trained staff at Starbucks understand “medium” and “pointing to the cup you want”.

Interesting Advantage: Vancouver Police Officers love to begin/end their shift at this Starbucks. They also have free WIFI.

Forty Ninth Parallel

Coffee and Food: Delicious. This morning I had a nice, rich dark roast coffee and a tasty doughnut – no, this is not a highly recommended way to start one’s day, but I needed to do some sampling before signing off on the deliciousness of Forty Ninth’s creatively roasted coffee and Lucky’s homemade doughnuts.

People and Service: While it’s too early to make a full-on judgment, I can safely say that Forty Ninth blends Main Street Hipsterism with Vancouver’s style of Businessified Caffeinery (e.g. everything in the shop is branded and for sale) with pretty great results.

Interesting Advantage: See above comment about Lucky’s doughnut shop. Also, the motif makes me feel like I’m in at the intersection of Hipsterism and cowboys … in the future. Truly, this winning combination of seemingly incongruent things/ideas achieves what Stephen King couldn’t with his The Gunslinger experiment.

So, when you visit Main Street between East 13th and 14th Avenue, how will you decide where to spend your coffee break?

Kurt Heinrich: Trendsetter

Dear The New York Times Fashion Section.

Hi guys and gals. John here. Thanks again for all the fan mail. It really keeps us going. So, you know how your editorial department asks for our advice on a lot of story angles? Well, you kinda missed a pretty important one. As it happens, Kurt G. Heinrich is a fashion icon. Recently, you published an article called “The Art of the Pants Roll” and showcased the myriad “new” and “hip” and “trendy” and “cool” and “New York” and “fashionable” ways people can roll up their pants and, by doing so, be part of NYT-approved high-culture.

But there is a problem. Once again, you’ve stolen ideas from the Daily Gumboot. For you see, pals, Managing Editor Kurt Heinrich has been rolling his pants* up for years. Here on the West Coast – or FashionMeccaTrendsettingAwesomeTown – we call the look “The Huck Finn”. Your “pants roll” idea is cool too, though.

Anyway, there’s no need to send a written apology or anything. We know you feel bad enough already. But if you’d like to send Kurt a nice pair of rollable pants we wouldn’t hold it against you.

Thanks for your time and for the memories. Have fun with it.

Kind regards,

John Horn, Editor-in-Chief

*photographic evidence to follow…

Kurt Heinrich: trendsetting in 2008!

The New York Times's Fashion Section: Two Years Too Late!

Hipsters and Brunch Lovers Take a Hit

Fire sucks sometimes.

Fire sucks sometimes.

The fire started around 4 AM on Thursday morning in Kishu Island Restaurant, located in the hipster nexus of Main and Broadway. It soon spread to other wood framed stores nearby, eventually culminating in a blaze which destroyed the Kishu Island and Slickety Jim’S as well as the United Professional Accounting office, Lugz’s Coffee and the Militant Penguin clothing store that sold 70’s clothing.

The fire took 40 firefighters and 6 firetrucks hours to fight and was finally extinguished around 9 AM.

While the fire crews battled the flames, thousands of commuters stood impatiently, checked their watches, and tried not to get too pissed off  at bus stops along Broadway as their blurry-eyed commute seemed to stretch on into infinity.

No one likes to have their early morning commute disrupted. But what makes the whole fire so unfortunate is that its the second to occur on the thriving hipster meca affectionately known to some as “SoMa”. Here’s what the Vancouver Sun had to say about it:

The fire was the second on Main Street in two days, after a soon-to-be demolished social housing building was destroyed off Main and 33rd Wednesday.

The affected corner of Main Street and Broadway has been a lynchpin of the recent Main Street renaissance, which has seen an area that was at one time an area best steered clear of turned into one of the city’s most popular destinations. With its cafe culture, oddball stores and hipster residents, the area known as SoMa is popular with tourists and locals alike.

I have to admit I’m a Commercial Driver at heart (no offense to the hipsters – but I lean more towards the bohemian young professional style), but I certainly recognize the value of the Main and particularly Main and Broadway to that community. I’ve dined in the now destroyed (RIP) Slickety Jim’S. The name says it all. I remember relishing their

Poor Slickety Jim'S!

Poor Slickety Jim'S!

amazing Benedict while my friend had the “We Don’t Need No Eggs and Bacon”. The hip interior and electic crowd was symbolic of the entire area and formed beloved meet-up place  for the entire community.

It’s for this reason that I don’t doubt the whole Mt. Pleasant community is going to be feeling the after effects and loss from this fire long after the flames have been licked and the rubble cleared away.