Popular Granville Island newsstand given 60 days to close up shop

Click to play video: 'Customers upset lease of longtime Granville Island newsstand not being renewed'
Customers upset lease of longtime Granville Island newsstand not being renewed
WATCH: The Smoke Shop has been a fixture near the entrance of the Granville Island Public Market for 30 years. But now it has 60 days to leave the premises. Neetu Garcha has details on why it's being forced to leave from both the stand's owner and the landlord – Feb 17, 2022

The owner of a popular and long-running newsstand in Vancouver’s Granville Island says she feels like she’s been misled and bullied, after being given a two-month notice to move out of the Public Market.

Officially known as the Smoke Shop, but known to locals as the “tuck shop,” the business is functionally Granville Island’s only corner store.

“This store has been here for over 30 years. We provide all the necessities. Anything — medicine, lottery tickets. That’s its reason to stay,” owner Chia-Ning Chen told Global News.

Chen’s lease expired in 2019, and she says she’s been trying to renew it with landlord the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) since then.

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She said her multiple attempts to have the issue resolved were put off first with claims that officials were busy with other matters, then due to the pandemic.

“I asked them again, last year in December, saying is there anything going on with my lease, is there any problem? They kind of assured me no, there’s no problem, we’re going to contact you soon,” she said.

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Vancouver tourist site Granville Island gets $22M lifeline from federal government

Then, last Friday, she was told her lease would not be renewed because it did not align with the Granville Island 2040 strategy, which will focus on food, art and culture in the market.

“I was shocked. I think I’ve been bullied by CMHC,” she said.

“And this misleading has caused me to stay here during the pandemic, paying the rent every month. So they get all the rent, and now the economy is almost back to normal and I don’t have the opportunity to make up my loss during the pandemic.”

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News of the eviction has spread quickly through the tight-knit community of Granville Island regulars and business opreators.

Howard Pendleton told Global News he frequents the shop to pick up a specialty item — British newspapers.

“We’re often here three times a week and we’re very sad to hear that this is the case,” he said.

“She’s looked after us for a very long time, so we’re very sad for her.”

Jerome Dudicourt, who manages Oyama Sausage, said Chen’s shop offers an important service for workers on the island, who can’t get odds and ends like batteries, combs or cigarettes anywhere else in the area.

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And he said the one thing Chen gives away for free will be missed even more.

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“They really have to think about what this business brings to the market. It’s community,” he said.

“You come here, you just relax. This place is very important. Sometimes I need a little snack, a little candy, sometimes we just talk.”

Granville Island general manager Tom Lancaster told Global News the decision not to renew the lease was only made the week before Chen was given her notice.

He noted the Smoke Shop had received federal rent relief, and that the time Chen was being given to move out had been doubled from 30 to 60 days.

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“If there was disrespect that is felt I feel terrible about it,” he said.

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Lancaster said the island’s leadership had been in the middle of trying to make long term planning decisions under the 2040 plan when Chen’s lease had initially expired, decisions which were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But he said the research that went into the 2040 plan highlighted “food-related uses” and arts and culture as key to Granville Island’s brand and future.

“Granville Island is the place where we want to support small businesses that are trying to find a foothold to do something new and innovative, exciting, new businesses where an entrepreneur wants to come in and try something completely different,” he said.

“There’s a lineup of folks who want an opportunity to try out their new business, mom and pop, young people, lots of people who are banging on the door.”

Lancaster said there were no plans not to renew any other expired leases.

That’s cold comfort to Chen, who said she doesn’t know if she’ll be able to move all of her back-stocked product before she has to shut down the business, or what she will do next.

“I feel kind of hopeless,” she said.


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