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Vancouver sandwich shop closes following prolonged battle to stay afloat

The downtown café had been in business for two decades

Despite rallying financial and emotional support online and in person, a longstanding Vancouver cafe beloved for its sandwiches has closed its doors.

Finch's Tea House at 365 W Pender St in Downtown Vancouver shuttered near the end of March, confirmed an employee V.I.A. spoke with in person at the sandwich shop's Strathcona café location. 

Owner Sheryl Matthew and her ex-husband built the business themselves (including doing 90 per cent of the physical renovations), opening the doors to Finch's on West Pender in 2004. For years, things went well the sandwich shop became a local staple; they often had lines out the door for hours during busy lunches.

In recent years, though, there has been a constant series of outside forces that damaged the business, financially and physically, Matthew, who now owns the business alone, told V.I.A. in a December 2023 interview.

"In short, Finch's was just fine before COVID-19," she said.

Among the issues Matthew cited were constant vandalism, rising food prices, increasing staff costs, city construction, government loans given during the pandemic, and the growth of the DTES.

For more than a year, Homer Street, directly next to Finch's on Pender, has been under construction. Some of the items from the site went through her window, Matthew told V.I.A. this past winter.

"It's been a mess," she said at the time.

Overwhelmed by debt caused by pandemic loans and financial losses and the cost of repairs due to vandalism and the ongoing construction, Matthew created a GoFundMe campaign in late 2023. Hoping to raise $90,000 to pay off debt and stay afloat, the crowdfunding effort has raised $15,670 to date.

Soon after, the building that houses Finch's Tea House was covered in scaffolding, obscuring the quaint space's exterior.

Matthew described the experience in a January 2024 update to the GoFundMe page: "Right after launching this campaign [...] the city demanded our landlords cover the bottom of Finch’s downtown building in scaffolding…including metal panels completely covering our windows."

It was "basically like being inside a shipping container," described Matthew of the cafe that was once a bustling spot, frequently used for film shoots, including the TV series Yellowjackets.

A temporary red banner hanging above the entrance indicates the café is open for business, however, as of now, the doors are permanently closed.

Finch's did not put up a notice or closure letter at its now-closed West Pender location and has not updated its social media, website, or GoFundMe page with information about the closure. 

The remaining Finch's is the market-café at 501 E Georgia St. The menu is largely the same, featuring Finch's iconic sandwiches and salads, though the room is more spacious and the neighbourhood significantly less commercial. 

V.I.A. reached out to Finch's via email to inquire about the closure but did receive a reply. 

With files from Brendan Kergin

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