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Vancouver resident wants Shoppers to adopt Main Street feel

New drugstore close to Heritage Hall, eclectic clothing stores

You're welcome here but you need to make more of an effort to fit in.

That's what one resident of Riley Park has twice told a newcomer to his neighbourhood.

Mark Stoakes, who's lived near Main and 18th Avenue for 17 years and participated in developing planning visions for the community a decade ago, would like to see the new Shoppers Drug Mart at 3333 Main do what it can to make its appearance from the street better reflect the historic and eclectic character of one of the city's oldest streets. "We can't stop development, and that's fine," the support manager for a software company said. "But they are one of the first, not big box, but chain kind of stores to go in on Main Street, so they will have a big influence on how future ones might think that they're going to develop there."

Stoakes emailed Shoppers's head office Jan. 29 and welcomed the company to the neighbourhood. He noted the new drugstore is close to an old post office that's now Heritage Hall and that Main Street is known for its mix of interesting restaurants and independent shops with creative window displays such as Front and Company. He also noted that various levels of government recognized the significance of Main Street with transit and design upgrades, and that the tiny triangle park at Main and 18th is going to be the site of a public art installation that's meant to reflect the "kitschy nature" of Main Street.A customer representative thanked Stoakes for his feedback back Feb. 3 and said his comments had been recorded "for future consideration," according to emails forwarded by Stoakes.

Tammy Smitham, director of communications and corporate affairs for Shoppers, noted the drugstore is merely leasing a space in a new condo building developed by Bastion Development and designed by Hotson Bakker Boniface Hadden Architects. The design was approved by the city.

Shoppers has worked to complement neighbourhoods in other instances when it was constructing its own buildings. "There have been instances where we've done historic murals on the side of the building," said Smitham. "It's also fairly consistent from our brand perspective to show that our signage and the look of our stores is consistent across our brand."

But Stoakes, who isn't a fan of the 3333 Main development and feels it doesn't fit with community-developed visions for the area, wants Shoppers to do what it can to fit in. "First of all, all you see is big glass and fluorescent lights," he said. "Even just changing the lighting at the front of the store so that it wasn't the cheapest possible looking visage, and then they could get somebody in there with a bit of imagination that would just say, 'OK, we'll try to do a nice bit of window dressing.'"

Smitham hadn't previously heard Stoakes's suggestions but said she would forward them to Shoppers real estate department.

Restaurateur Mark Zalman of Slickity Jim's Chat 'n' Chew, which operated near what is now a Tim Hortons at the corner of Main and Broadway after a fire forced him to relocate, believes Stoakes is making "an incredible leap of faith" by appealing to the national company. "It would be kind of ideal as far as sort of having corporate responsibility to the diversity of the neighbourhood," said Zalman, whose restaurant is now a block south of 3333 Main. "But I would be flabbergasted if they actually cared."

But Heather Baker, owner of A Baker's Dozen antiques, which has operated nearby for 30 years, says she doesn't mind the vaguely retro-looking tile exterior of the new development that replaced Coastal Ford. "They're an improvement over that god-awful car lot," Baker said. She can dress her "big stage windows" with style but understands Shoppers' economic need to light its shop with fluorescents.

Twitter: @Cheryl_Rossi