Appeared in the North Shore News – October 24, 2014
You can’t stop progress.
Oh, you’ve heard that? Very disappointing. I thought I’d had a brilliantly original thought for a change.
What’s seldom mentioned in stories in the media, and doubtless even less in the developers’ boardrooms and in-camera council meetings, is just exactly what and whom the wheels of progress roll over on the way to a bigger and supposedly better future.
Giuseppe the Roman Tailor has been in business in a tiny West Van store at 1348 Marine Drive for an astonishing 44 years. There’s no front counter. Giuseppe works alone over his sewing machine in back. Customers – and they include some smartset people – come in and move closer, past rolls of cloth and a rack of ready-made clothes, to shout over the machine’s hum if they want Giuseppe to hear them. He tells them to wait a minute.
Giuseppe still has a rich Italian accent. He is short on banter. He listens and responds with a few words. Some customers want made-to-measure suits. Others only alterations. He takes measurements with the air of long-honed familiarity. When Eaton’s was in business in Park Royal you might be quietly advised in the men’s wear department to go to Giuseppe for alterations. Faster.
Next door, at 1348A, is Mr. Rea’s Cleaners (“serving North Shore since 1978” says the business card). You are greeted by Mr. Hera. So I’ve known him for many years. He writes his first name on the card for my edification, Rakhshandeh.
Like Giuseppe, he too has an accent, Iranian. He is a hearty man with a big, welcoming voice. In the back of the shop is a space, seemingly barely shoulderswide, where alterations are made right on site.
Recently Mr. Hera told me of a sadness in his life. His son, a rock musician who performed under the name Rasul, real name Ali, died at age 32 four years ago.
Mr. Rea’s had to move out of its long-time 16th Avenue store a couple of years ago to make way for Fresh St. Market. Now it will have to move again. If it continues.
Like Giuseppe and all the other 1300-block’s south-side businesses, Mr. Hera was given notice a few months ago to vacate at the end of this month. Among others, after 35 years Yoko’s Haute Couture and Spa is moving close to the Pinnacle Hotel in North Vancouver. Rainbow Nails, a “newcomer” of 11 years, has moved to Hollyburn Plaza. Station Post is closing, its quaint furnishings stored until a new site can be found, so I was told.
I recently met Giuseppe on Marine Drive, one of those surprises you have when you see people out of their normal habitat. He was looking for a new location.
A couple of weeks later he told me he couldn’t find a place. “Too expensive.” Giuseppe is 70.
Mr. Hera is 72. Maybe he could get a job elsewhere in the business, I suggested. Mr. Hera roared with laughter. “I never worked for anyone!” He has always run his own businesses.
Mr. Hera and Giuseppe are being ousted to make way for Grosvenor America’s development, which will occupy the whole south-side 1300-block. Of course glossier, up-market shoppes (fancier spelling) for Grosvenor’s tonier clientele will replace them. When Giuseppe and Mr. Hera and their tiny businesses are gone, West Vancouver will suffer a distinct loss of character – and of characters, in the kind meaning, to describe Giuseppe and Mr. Hera.
Fair enough. That’s progress, right? The bigger/newer shall absorb the smaller/older, and in turn will be absorbed by the bigger still.
I doubt if the Duke of Westminster, who owns the choicest chunks of central London, and his family, the Grosvenors, have ever heard of Mr. Hera and of Giuseppe. Or maybe not even of West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
She’s more irresistible than Cleopatra – who, to be fair, is dead. But then again, so is Agatha Christie. Doesn’t stop her.
Last season Theatre West Van triumphantly staged Christie’s The Mousetrap, which opened in London 62 years ago next month. Still playing. Longest run on record, by far. If it ever closes, predicts newly enrolled Agent 6B22sn74, who took part in WV’s Mousetrap, London theatre will collapse.
This season it’s Christie’s Murder on the Nile, performed at the Kay Meek various nights from Nov. 1 to 15 (check the ad), with two matinees. Be there and be square, and join the worldwide millions of mainstream Christie fans, her appeal over generations almost uncanny.
At this writing the terrible events on Parliament Hill are still in flux, and any comment would be overtaken by events.
But hold on to this: The “peace, order and good government” in Canada’s constitution seem modest words, but they are precious attainments in a world of chaos, hatred and want.
© Trevor Lautens, 2014