New West has you covered with family fun activities all day long across the whole city. The main celebration at Queen’s Park is from 11:30am – 3:30pm and is sure to get year 150 off to a great start. This celebration will be bigger than it’s every been before, taking over the entire Queen’s Park with entertainment including:
Starting at 2pm, the New Westminster Multicultural Festival kicks off down at Westminster Pier Park. This event will be full of performances from around the world, including world music, dance interpretations, vocal performances, and more. Don’t miss out on trying the delicious ethnic cuisine available as well. The last two hours (from 8pm-10pm) will feature ZUMBA public dancing, leading right into the fireworks. The Hyack Festival Association is putting together the fireworks show, so make sure to be down at the riverfront by 10pm to get a good view!
If you have kids with you, consider checking out the Canada Day Celebration at the Fraser River Discovery Centre. With special events from 3pm-9pm, bring the whole family down to enjoy activities such as sturgeon puppet shows, jigsaw puzzles, the toddler corner, a scavenger hunt, prizes and so much more!
(Tej’s first day at Tourism New West!, The NewsLeader 2007)
June 18th, 2017 marked 10 years exactly since Executive Director Tej Kainth first joined Tourism New Westminster. At the time, she was hired as the Marketing & Visitor Services Coordinator – the first full-time staff member in the organization’s history.
Since then, Tej has been the driving force for local tourism through innovative marketing and revenue-generating programs – both of which help support this non-profit’s limited budget. Five years later, she was officially named executive director.
While chatting with Tej recently on a mild spring evening, it quickly became clear there’s nothing else she would rather do and nowhere else she’d rather be. Tej lives and breathes New West and – as a local taxpayer and consumer of the city – is a perfect representative of leading by example.
“I was born and raised here – this has always been my home. Almost every dollar I earn goes back into New West,” Tej explains. “I’m as New West as New West gets.”
(Tej as the May Queen, 1993)
To back up this claim, one has only to look at her family and her own past. At the age of 11, Tej was named New Westminster’s 123rd May Queen. Six years later, she was given the title of Miss New Westminster Deputy Ambassador. Her ancestry and family ties to the Royal City date back more than a century to 1913.
“I respect the past, and am proud of where I’ve come from – but I’m also excited about where the city is headed,” she adds. “We have such an incredible history, but I feel like New West has also had a rebirth. It’s an exciting time to be here, and moving forward.”
Along the way, Tej pays credits to those who helped to advise, guide and support her – most especially during those early and formative years.
“I’ve been so blessed and truly feel as if this job was tailor-made for me,” she says. “And I have so many people that I’m grateful for – for their support, wisdom and experience – including all my past and present board members, City staff, local business owners and, of course, my colleagues in other communities who have become friends.”
(Winning Marketer of the Year, 2013) (Torch Relay Committee, 2010) (Launching Historic Walking Tours, The Record 2009)
In her role, Tej also works to represent New Westminster beyond the city’s borders through key community networks such as the BC Destination Marketing Organization Association, the Lower Mainland Tourism Alliance and broad-based efforts such as the culinary-focused West Coast Food. She also delivers WorldHost workshops to ensure local tourism and hospitality staff members have the necessary world-class customer service training to welcome visitors.
Above all else, Tej seems to place the greatest emphasis on two particular points: driving visitation to the city, and encouraging and maintaining positive relationships.
(Feast on the Fraser, The Record 2016)
While New Westminster has always had its own events and traditions, these have grown exponentially over the past few years. Ten years ago, there might have been two or three events a month; this number has now grown to two to three events a weekend. Add to this New Westminster’s emergence as a culinary and cultural hub, and it’s a recipe for tourism growth and opportunity.
As for relationships, Tej wholeheartedly believes that a destination’s success depends largely on its people.
“For me, relationships are a key ingredient for developing tourism,” she explains. “Our relationships give us a push, nudge, inspiration and motivation to keep thinking outside the box and position us as an exciting and evolving destination with so much to offer.”
(Aboriginal Tourism Conference, 2014)
Indeed, over the past decade or so, the city has benefitted from a growing visitor market. More people are visiting New Westminster, and these people are staying longer. Day trips are turning into overnight trips. One-night stays are becoming multi-night stays. All of this, of course, brings in more dollars to local businesses – from hotels and restaurants to the city’s arts, culture and retail stores.
As part of its marketing efforts, Tourism New Westminster works to create awareness and drive visitors to the city – as well as work with media, local businesses and other local organizations to create market-ready products and deliver experiences and services that are considered distinct and unique.
One of these key efforts includes a new 150 Bucket List of experiences to help celebrate both Canada’s 150th birthday and New Westminster’s many products and offerings.
The organization also operates a year-round Visitor Information Centre that serves thousands of visitors each year. A second Visitor Info Centre will also open as of July 1st at the River Market for the summer season – along with pop-up visitor centres at some of New West’s major events and festivals.
“We work hard to market the city, but it’s impossible to do it all – and that’s where locals come in,” Tej says. “They’re our ambassadors, and our best resource to promote New West. After all, what visitors want is an insider’s view. That’s also where the idea of the 150 Bucket List guide came from. It’s about authentic experiences, and that’s what we have here – amazing, authentic experiences. And it’s important to let the world know.”
The rebranded New West Farmers Market takes place every Thursday afternoon, 3-7 PM at Tipperary Park. Stop by to check out some of the best fresh and local food products, as well as many artisan shops. Don’t forget to grab a meal from one of your favourite food trucks set up as well.
During the summer, New West Craft moves to the Boardwalk! Take in the sunshine and riverfront views as you shop. You’ll be able to find locally made products from jewelers, knitters, and all-around crafters! Mark it down for every second Saturday from 11-4pm at the River Market on your calendar!
The Arts Council of New West is bringing back Music by the River this year, running each Thursday evening (5-8pm) in July. The music will range from live performances, DJs, and busking, with special guests ‘I M U R’ performing July 13th. There will also be local artisan vendors to shop through, live paintings, and more. They’ve even licensed all of Westminster Pier Park and will be serving New West’s own, Steel and Oak Brewing Co. beer and Pacific Breeze wine.
Get excited for this all new summer festival! The redesigned Front St will be having a weekly event each Friday throughout the summer (starting July 7th). Each week from 5-8 PM, Front Street will feature artisan vendors, live music, and yes – beer from New West’s own, Steel & Oak! In fact, all of Front St has received a liquor license for the event, meaning you can grab your wine or beer and walk throughout the event. Best of all, the entry is free and being just steps from the New Westminster Skytrain station, there’s no reason to miss out on this exciting new event.
It’s no surprise party, by now everyone has heard that it’s Canada’s 150th birthday on July 1st and just like any milestone birthday, New Westminster is going all out. This year, the main activities are taking place at Queen’s Park, from 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM. There will be art and cultural workshops, community group presentations, and live performances. New West will also have fireworks at 10:00 PM down at the water between the River Market and the Inn at the Quay. Come out and help celebrate this iconic birthday!
BC Super Week, the most prestigious road cycle series in North America is coming to New Westminster for the first time. This free event is on July 11th and is sure to be action-packed fun for the whole family. The main event will feature teams from 13 countries around the world, as they complete 45-55 laps around the circuit. There will also be a kids race, which all youth can enter for free! The kid’s race opens the event and starts at 4:45 PM, with the overall event carrying into the night. Get excited to come out and cheer your favourite cyclists on!
On July 22nd from 12pm-9pm enjoy live concert performances, the Red Truck Beer Garden, delicious food trucks plus a host of interactive exhibits and art installations, all located in the heart of Uptown New Westminster. Set a reminder because you don’t want to miss out on the collection of local artists, including Daniel Wesley, Youngblood, Big Easy Funk Ensemble and the New Groovement.
After a two-year hiatus, the people have spoken. One of the most asked about events for New Westminster is making its return following many requests from the community. On July 23rd, the Show and Shine car show is being held in the Justice Institute parking lot, with 200+ vintage and unique cars expected to be on display. Car lovers everywhere will want to make the trip and spend the afternoon in the shining sun. Don’t miss the food trucks in attendance as well!
This didn’t become one of New Westminster’s most popular festival by mistake. Join the crowd and discover for yourself why the Columbia StrEAT Food Truck Festival is so much fun on July 29th. Not only is it the largest one-day event of its kind in North America, but the range of delicious food creations will keep you busy for hours. With food truck choices ranging from waffles, japadog, dim sum, schnitzel, ice cream and more, the only problem you’ll have is choosing when to stop!
This August, on the second weekend of the month (12th & 13th) the best of New Westminster’s art and culture talent will be on display. This is your chance to get a closer look at why the city is revered for its cultural scene, with many of New West’s best opening their studios for free viewings, classes, and more. There will also be a launch event at the Anvil Centre on August 11th. Stay tuned for a complete list of participants.
One of the lower mainland’s biggest pride festivals, the week of August 12-19th is sure to be one you won’t want to miss! While there are events throughout, the ‘New West Pride Street Festival’, on August 19th is a big celebration capping off the week. It is a family friendly event with a focus on community. There will be multiple stages for live entertainment, a children’s area, various vendors, extended patios, a drag show, food trucks, and much more. The street party has been one of the most exciting days in New West in previous years so mark your calendars!
Celebrating BC and World River Day, the Fraser River Discovery Centre (FRDC) and Port of Vancouver put on RiverFest, September 19-23. This family-friendly event is filled with informative and enjoyable entertainment. While specific details have yet to be released, the FRDC has promised to build off the previous year’s successful events, which included live music, art, children’s activities, and more. Stay tuned for more details on one of New Westminster’s premier events for the whole family.
What better way to see off summer than to explore and enjoy the culinary scene of New Westminster. Feast on the Fraser (Sept 21-Oct 1) is a celebration of some of the best restaurants in the city and sees them being paired up with local businesses to create unique and can’t-miss events. With an abundance of high quality, locally-grown food from the Fraser Valley, ‘Feast’ focuses on creating dishes that include these ingredients. Stay tuned for an announcement of events later in the summer.
1. Father’s Day Aboard the Paddlewheeler
Take Dad aboard the Paddlewheeler Riverboat for either a special brunch or evening BBQ.
3. Brunch = Love
Take Dad out for brunch at one of New Wests brunch places:
El Santo | 680 Columbia Street | Brunch Hours: 11:30am – 3pm
The Boathouse | 900 Quayside Drive | Brunch Hours: All Day
Amelia’s Cafe | 538 Sixth Street | Brunch Hours: All Day
Hub | 344-800 Carnarvon Street | Brunch Hours: 10am – 2pm
Browns Social House | 296 East Columbia Street | Brunch House: 10am – 2pm
4. Make Dad Laugh – for FREE!
This Father’s Day weekend (June 16-17) Dad gets in free to Laffline’s Fathers Day Giggle! Headliner Patrick Maliha is the world record holder for most impressions in one minute. Joining him on stage is Byron Bertram as the MC.
1. Spend Some Time Exploring the New Businesses and Refreshed Energy in the Area
With so many new businesses opening up in the City, the vibe of the Downtown area is rapidly changing and for Angie Whitfield from the Downtown New West BIA, that is the best-kept secret in the city.
2. Pick a Neighbourhood and Create Your Own Food Tour
Christina Anderson from Tourism New Westminster says that the food in New West is the city’s best-kept secret – there are many really good, authentic restaurants to choose from. One restaurant that Stephanie Vu, owner of Old Crow Coffee Co. thinks the best-kept secret in New West is Wild Thyme – a modest Lebanese restaurant on 12th Street.
3. Get Outside and Explore the Beautiful, Scenic, Parks in New West
Landing Park and Hume Park to be exact, these are the two best-kept secrets in New West as picked by Jorden Foss, owner of Steel & Oak Brewery & Jen Arbo from the New West Farmers Market
4. The Immense Amount of Live Music, Performances, and Art Shows
“There’s always something cool happening here, whether it’s live music, performances, art shows… there’s a big creative scene that might be hard to see at times, but it’s here.” – Jorden Foss, Steel & Oak Brewery. While you’re out discovering the art scene, Sarah and Gorden from the New Media Gallery suggest it as the City’s best-kept secret.
5. Explore New West’s Charm & Character
“In many ways, I think all that New Westminster has is kind of a secret to a lot of people.” Well said Alejandro Diez owner of El Santo.
When local restaurateur Alejandro Diaz first visited Canada at the age of 14 from his hometown of Mexico City, he knew it wouldn’t be his last time. He instantly fell in love with the country and its culture.
So after finishing university back home in Mexico, he packed up his bags and made the move up north. That was 23 years ago. Of Canada’s wide open spaces and places, he chose to settle in the Lower Mainland for its milder climate, four seasons, culture and multiculturalism.
Since moving here more than two decades ago, Alejandro has worked at various hotels in both operations and finance. His most recent position in the local tourism industry was the Director of Finance for Delta Hotels. That was about two years ago.
In November 2015, he officially switched professions, roles and titles – jumping from senior management to the owner of one of Metro Vancouver’s most acclaimed restaurants: El Santo.
I sat down with Alejandro to chat with him about his restaurant, and what drives him day in and day out to make El Santo one of New Westminster’s most popular eateries.
What motivated you to switch careers, from a corporate job to becoming a full-time restaurateur?
It’s really simple – I wanted to share my passion for food and showcase real, authentic Mexican cuisine. I’ve always had a passion for food and for people, and this is a great way to bring the two together.
Of all the places in the Lower Mainland, why did you choose to open your restaurant in New Westminster?
I live in New Westminster – and have lived here for the past eight years. So when I decided to open a restaurant, it made perfect sense to open it in New West. I also wanted to be part of the community here, and showcase Mexican food to my home community.
For me, being part of a community is really important. The community gives so much, and it’s nice to give back.
At El Santo, we also support the Canucks Autism Network (CAN) by hiring people with a spectrum of autism. We also support CAN by doing fundraisers and to create awareness. My son is on the spectrum and that is why I have such a strong relationship with them. And we’re proud to be part of this network, and support the community around us.
How have you seen your business grow and evolve over the past few years?
I’m really happy where we are right now in terms of business. We were recently voted the best Latin restaurant in Vancouver by Vancouver Magazine – and that’s quite an honour and we’re very proud of that. Of course there’s the business side of things and that’s always hard when you’re starting out.
We’ve been open less than two years, but business has been good considering that. This is a long-term investment, and I didn’t expect to see great change or growth right away. After all, nobody opens a restaurant to become rich – it’s about passion.
Speaking of passion, what do you like best about your job?
Talking to people and making people happy, seeing them eat my food and enjoying it. Also, the fact that I have a chance to showcase Mexican food – that’s also one of my favourite parts, and it’s what made me open El Santo.
When I think “Mexican,” I think “fresh.” And that’s what we do here – fresh. We feature different Mexican regions and have seasonal menus depending on what’s fresh and available at the time. We focus on seasonal as much as possible, and buy from local farmers markets and suppliers as much as possible. And everything we serve, we make in house.
In your opinion, what is New Westminster’s best-kept secret?
It’s interesting because I think not very many people know about all that’s happening in New West. When people from Vancouver come here, I always hear them say the same thing: “Oh, there’s so much character. There’s so much around here. There are so many restaurant options.” So, in many ways, I think all that New Westminster has is kind of a secret to a lot of people.
El Santo is located in historic Downtown New West at 680 Columbia Street. Drop by and visit Alejandro and Chef Shane King, and sample some fresh and authentic cuisine from various regions around Mexico.
Did you know? In 2015, tourism contributed more to GDP than any other primary resource industry, including oil & gas extraction, mining, forestry & logging, and agriculture & fish. (Source: Destination BC)
#MadeInNewWest #BCTourismMatters #ExploreBC
Though some variation of farmers markets have likely been around for centuries, they seem to have come a long way over the past decade or so when it comes to the diversity of products, food vendors and entertainment – including live music, children’s activities and more.
As trends around sustainability, farm to table and sourcing local continue to grow and expand, Farmers markets also seem to be fast growing in popularity among locals and visitors.
Enter the New West Farmers Market. Previously known as the Royal City Farmers Market (up until a few weeks ago), the newly-named New West Farmers Market showcases the best of local and draws both residents and visitors to the city.
As president for the past two years and the market manager for an earlier four of the market’s previous nine years, Jen Arbo has seen the market develop and evolve over time to include more diverse vendors, food trucks and offerings
I had a chance to sit down with Jen Arbo to learn more about her role and about the market.
Can you tell me how many vendors you have, and some of the offerings at the New West Farmers Market?
We have a roster of approximately 100 vendors, and about 35 to 50 vendors show up at every market. The vendors rotate, so the products are always a bit different – which means it’s worth coming week after week to see who’s here and what’s available. You never know what you might find, so it’s always worth a visit. From fresh produce to local brews, bakeries and food trucks – there’s lots on offer.
Why was the name of the market changed from Royal City to the New West Farmers Market?
We love the nickname “Royal City” for New West, but found it was an extremely local moniker. It seemed very few people outside our city recognized that term. Instead, many of our market visitors – and even some vendors – have always referred to our market as the New West Farmers Market.
So we just thought it made more sense to rename it “New West” so we could better promote the market to vendors and visitors. We’re thinking the name change will also help people more quickly figure out where it is… and this – along with our calibre of vendors and products – will continue to bring more people here from outside the city to enjoy the market, and everything else that New West has to offer.
How would you describe your role with the New West Farmers Market?
We have a market manager – so I would say my role is to support her and advocate on behalf of the market through applying for provincial grants, and working with the appropriate contacts at the City and other partners to help the market with any permits, promotions, regulations… that sort of thing.
My role as market president is as a volunteer, so our market manager handles more of the day-to-day operations – and I do my best to support her and ensure that our strategic plan is being implemented. Each day is a bit different for me, but there’s always lots of strategic thinking and planning involved to make sure we’re operating the best we can and following our strategic plan.
What would you say is the best part of your job?
It would be the opportunity I have to connect with the community over food. We have some amazing food vendors here; and I really believe that there isn’t much that good food can’t complement and amplify.
I’ve lived in New West for about 20 years, and this is my home. So it’s also really special to be so involved and to connect with my fellow residents – and with visitors to our city – over some incredible and healthy food. We’re the only Farmers market in New West, and I think there’s something special in that too.
In your opinion, what is New Westminster’s best-kept secret?
Hume Park. It’s probably one of the best parks in New West. There’s something for everyone – sports fields, a spray park, a pool and playground, trails, a creek, an amazing salmon ecology… there’s just so much there. You can easily spend the entire weekend at Hume Park. It’s probably the best hidden gem in the community.
The New West Farmers Market takes place every Thursday from 3pm to 7pm at Tipperary Park at 315 Queens Avenue. New West will also be home to Fridays on Front – a weekly night market on the newly developed Front Street Mews – every Friday evening (from 5pm to 8pm) from July 7th to August 25th.
Did you know? BC’s tourism industry had an exceptional year in 2016 with a total of 5,532,065 overnight international visitor arrivals – including 3,620,975 US visitors, 1,200,481 from Asia Pacific and some 535,238 visitors from Europe.
#MadeInNewWest #BCTourismMatters #ExploreBC
The September 2014 opening of the sleek and modern Anvil Centre brought with it more than just an impressive conference centre. Tucked away among its four floors and 18,000 square feet of multi-faceted space is the New Westminster Museum and Archives, the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame… and, notably, the New Media Gallery.
The gallery is run by the seasoned team of Sarah Joyce and Gordon Duggan. Each has decades of experience in the international art world. Since opening its doors three years ago, the gallery has welcomed almost 50,000 visitors to experience the innovative work of 80 artists in 13 popular exhibitions, each eight weeks long.
Sarah and Gordon work in partnership to build and curate exhibitions of international contemporary art, and set the gallery’s direction and vision on behalf of the City of New Westminster. As experts in the area of new media art, they were first consulted by the City’s Art Gallery Task Force during the gallery’s formative stages. Later, they were hired as the gallery’s founding directors and curators.
“We always say it was a very brave decision for Mayor and Council to open not just any art gallery, but to go out on a limb and focus on contemporary, international new media art. By doing this, the gallery has become a draw for the City,” says Sarah. “We present some of the world’s most prominent artists in this modest gallery. There’s no other civic gallery in Canada focusing solely on new media art, or – quite possibly – in North America.”
In the world of art, “new media” can refer to a broad range of practices such as video, sound, light, smell and bio art (e.g., genetic material). The gallery’s works and exhibitions often have a strong connection to science and technology, linking it with the explosion of new innovations.
“One could argue that the history of art is the history of new media. Artists have always sought out innovative materials and ways of working to create something new and thought-provoking – we see this throughout history,” explains Gordon. “Artists often feel compelled to push boundaries and experiment with new technologies. The New Media Gallery tries to reflect this story.”
Another way the New Media Gallery stands apart comes from Sarah and Gordon’s strong belief in the power of personal engagement. From day one, they have offered personalised curatorial tours and gallery discussions that respond to the needs of each visitor. The goal? To develop an ongoing love and knowledge of contemporary art, and encourage regular visits to the gallery.
“Every person who comes in talks to one of us, and we listen to our patrons, answer their questions and guide them through the exhibition while gauging their level of knowledge and interest,” Sarah explains. “It is an unusual way of working for a curator, but we can now say we know our audience better than anyone – why they are here and what interests them. And through this process, we encourage a connection with arts and culture.”
What’s their favourite part of the job?
For Sarah, it’s connecting and engaging with the audience, and seeing them come back time after time for the gallery’s evolving exhibitions, with each exhibition often times connecting with the next.
As for Gordon, he references the “incredible satisfaction” in completing an exhibition and then opening it up to the public because, he adds, “without an audience and their feedback and interaction, it’s all just an exercise.”
Both Sarah and Gordon also have their own ideas on what they think is New Westminster’s best-kept secret. Gordon’s reply is quick and concise… “Well, the New Media Gallery, of course.” Sarah acknowledges the forces behind this creation.
“There was a real belief by the Mayor, Council and the City that they wanted to support something that connected with the international community of art right here in New Westminster, something that would be a draw and contextualize the City, and that’s just what they’ve done… it’s been really exciting to be part of that.”
The current exhibition at New Media Gallery is Bridge, and covers the concept of “bridges” in all their forms, physical and otherwise – and how they have the ability to connect and divide us. Bridge will be on display until July 16th at the gallery, located on the third floor of the Anvil Centre at 777 Columbia Street.
Did you know? In 2015, the tourism industry generated a total of $15.7 billion in revenue for the province. (Source: Destination BC)
#MadeInNewWest #BCTourismMatters #ExploreBC
When business partners Jorden Foss and Jamie Garbutt first opened the doors to Steel & Oak on June 23, 2014, the intention was to simply follow their passion for brewing European-style craft beers. What once began as a hobby of creating small batches of beer in their backyards has now developed into a full-grown business with a staff of nearly two dozen.
Without hesitation, Jorden Foss largely credits the success of his business to the city that he was born and raised in: New Westminster. As far as Jorden and Jamie are concerned, the City of New Westminster was the only option for their new venture.
“Steel & Oak is a labour of love, and we’re as local as it gets – we really do bleed New West and we also knew that we would be very well received here,” Jorden says. “It’s a tight-knit community that helps and supports its own, and we – in turn – wanted to give the community a new place to come and hangout, somewhere kind of relaxed and cool.”
Indeed, the community has come out in support of this new venture – and in droves. As an example, during its first year of business, Steel & Oak brewed about 50,000 litres of beer. Today – less than three years later – that number has expanded ten-fold to 500,000 litres per year.
Not only is Steel & Oak the only brewery in New Westminster, but it’s also one of only a few that locally specializes in crafting German-style beer. Because of this, Steel & Oak has also found its niche in the wider markets of Vancouver, Vancouver Island and BC’s interior, as their signature European lagers and hefeweizens have quickly set them apart from other breweries crafting West Coast and North American-style beers.
“We didn’t know how well received our beers or our Tasting Room would be, but it’s been incredibly busy almost from the very beginning,” Jorden adds. “Our first month or two, we actually ran out of beer so we had to quickly add capacity and we’ve grown a lot – beyond what I had ever imagined.”
When asked about his favourite part of the job at Steel & Oak, Jorden revealed two clear answers. The first, as might be predicted, is sampling the new beers made by his team – “especially,” he says, “when they knock it out of the park.”
The second, he explains, is the pure joy and satisfaction he gets from quietly listening and watching his patrons enjoy nearly every aspect of the intimate Tasting Room and the range of beers.
“That’s one of the best parts of the job,” he says.
As for New West’s best-kept secret? Jorden has two.
For something tangible that you can see and do, he cites Landing Park in the Sapperton area. This eight-acre regional linear park sits along the Fraser River and offers a scenic one-kilometre walk with bridges, benches and views of marine birds and tug boats along the way.
New West’s second best-kept secret, in his opinion, is the city’s arts scene. “Most people don’t realize how many artistic and creative types have moved into New West over the years. There’s always something cool happening here, whether it’s live music, performances, art shows… there’s a big creative scene that might be hard to see at times, but it’s here. It just needs to be experienced.”
You can find Steel & Oak at 1319 3rd Avenue, less than a two-kilometre drive (or a 15-minute walk) from the New Westminster SkyTrain Station.
Did you know? According to the most recent figures (2015), BC’s tourism-related businesses employed some 127,700 people – a 1.2% increase over 2014 and a 16% increase since 2005.
#MadeInNewWest #BCTourismMatters #ExploreBC
New Westminster is quickly evolving into a culinary hub in its own right within the Lower Mainland. Whether it’s authentic Mexican food, gourmet burgers, craft beer or a local roast – the Royal City is becoming known as a foodie destination for its array of unique offerings.
One local café that so perfectly represents the community, culture – and culinary evolution – of New Westminster is Old Crow Coffee Co., situated across the Fraser River at 655 Front Street in downtown.
When Stephanie Vu first opened the café in March of 2015, she and her business partners envisioned a motorcycle café – a sort of transient spot for motorcycle enthusiasts and riders to stop in for a good cup of coffee en route to their next destination. This makes sense when you consider Stephanie’s background.
Prior to Old Crow, she was in a metal apprenticeship program with a strong interest in automotive and motorcycle repair. This – coupled with her love of coffee and coffee shops – led her and her partners to a dream hybrid of the two: a motorcycle café that serves bikers and showcases unique motorcycles.
However, almost since day one of opening, Stephanie explains that the café took on a life of its own. Instead of a temporary resting stop for wanderers, Old Crow Coffee organically grew to become something even bigger and better: an important cornerstone and meeting spot for the community.
“I’m really proud of the café and space that this has become,” says Stephanie. “Old Crow Coffee has grown into a shared space for arts, culture and the community – especially our back area, which has been used for all kinds of community events, performances and workshops.”
Having been born and raised in Southern California and as a relatively new transplant to the Lower Mainland, one might wonder why Stephanie chose New Westminster – of all places – to open her dream café. The answer, though, is simple: “I love the charm of New West, all the character here and the sort of unique big small town of this community.”
Indeed, this café so seamlessly blends into the area, Front Street itself and the character-filled building it occupies, one would think Old Crow has been here for nearly as long as the city. Stephanie explains that the name, too, fits with the feel of the old building, the neighbourhood and the history of BC’s oldest city.
“A long time ago,” she says, “I heard an old English proverb: ‘Old crows are hard to catch’ and that stuck with me. Plus, I love crows. So we felt the name just perfectly captured and fit into everything around us – and made sense for us.”
With two years of experience under her belt as part owner and full-time barista at Old Crow Coffee, I asked Stephanie about her favourite part of the job. Without hesitation, she said it’s the people.
“It’s 100% knowing the people in the area, getting to make those connections, learning about the community and what they need, and working to better align to what they need.”
A key priority for Stephanie, she says, is creating a safe space for everyone, being inclusive to all and – most importantly – engaging the community, whether it’s through casual and impromptu coffee tutorials to customers in the café or offering up the space in the back for important community and neighbourhood events, such as open mic nights, presentations and other events.
As for New Westminster’s best-kept secret, she gave a generous shout out Wild Thyme – a modest Lebanese restaurant on 12th Street that she says serves the “most amazing” food, and is hands down one of the best restaurants she’s eaten at in her entire life.
But, she adds, “people are quickly catching on.” The same, of course, could also be said about New Westminster – and the city’s growing status as an emerging culinary and coffee destination.
Did you know? In 2015, some 18,938 tourism-related businesses were in operation in British Columbia, a 1.4% increase over 2014.
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