COLUMN: Rediscovering the ‘warmth’ of a village

It’s seems odd that, despite driving past something virtually every day, you never really notice it.

It’s seems odd that, despite driving past something virtually every day, you never really notice it.

Such is the case with “downtown, old town” Abbotsford. There is not a day I don’t drive through, yet rarely do I stop, other than occasionally at the Royal Bank on South Fraser Way or now and then at Hub Sports to score a new fishing lure that doesn’t lure a fish.

Long gone are the days when Gosling’s used to be the ultimate department emporium; Marshall Wells the local hardware store; and Little Mountain Dairy “the” coffee shop on Montrose. Also consigned to the history of Essendene Avenue is Gilmours, Ken Adrian’s super market and cross-street rival Walker’s Grocery Store.

I remember too, in a time before the malls, the days when most Christmas shopping was done along the three or four blocks of the village, carols playing from the storefronts and windows decorated. I still wear now and then a heavy leather belt with a big brass buckle bought at Viola’s Boutique back in the early ’70s.

So it was with some measure of appreciation that I walked a block of Montrose on Saturday, enjoying what appears to be a resurgence of the village atmosphere emanating from the rebuilt or renovated “heritage-style” shops.

To those who operate businesses in the old village, please accept my apologies for ignoring you for so long, and for neglecting to recognize what a great job developers and the business owners have done to revitalize and return a sense of hominess to our city.

Certainly over the years I have noticed the great improvements, but almost always with little more than a glance as I passed through. However, this weekend I was drawn to the Farmers’ Market that has for the past eight years called ‘home’ the alley at the north end of Montrose. Thus the reason for my walk along the street, and a new-found appreciation for our community.

It seems, however, that I am not alone in rediscovering “Abbotsford.”

While talking to farm market organizer Bruce Fatkin, who extolled the weekly success of the Saturday event, he pointed out that they have begun to hold midweek markets beside city hall. What makes this remarkable is that, according to their ‘polls’ more than 80 per cent of those who attend the Wednesday market are “new faces.”

So I have to assume if the vast majority of market visitors haven’t been to the Montrose market, they likely also haven’t spent anytime experiencing the charm of Abbotsford’s revitalized village, and that, as I have now discovered, is an opportunity missed.

This may soon change because, when reading this Sunday’s Vancouver Province, I noted an article announcing a weekly feature that will describe in detail a dozen “special streets” across the Lower Mainland. Abbotsford’s Montrose is one of those to be featured – listed as number eight in the series.

The Province described the streets it will feature as “beneath every skeleton beats a heart, and behind every street beats a community.”

The ‘new’ Montrose, and its neighbouring shops and streets, is all of that.

So I encourage you, if like me you usually just pass through, to stop, smell the coffee and spend a few moments appreciating a sense of community and ‘small town shopping’ that, despite their convenience, isn’t available in the relative anonymity of malls and big box stores.

markrushton@abbynews.com

Just Posted

Satwinder Bains of Abbotsford is the recipient of the 2021 aculty Service Excellence Award from University of the Fraser Valley. (UFV photo)
Satwinder Bains receives UFV Faculty Service Excellence Award

Bains has guided South Asian Studies Institute as director since 2006

The City of Abbotsford has prepared a draft Urban Forest Strategy that is now headed to public consulation.
Draft plan adopted for managing Abbotsford’s urban forests over next 25 years

Urban Forest Strategy now heads to public-consultation process

Country music star Chris Lane stops in Abbotsford next February. (Submitted)
Country music star Chris Lane coming to Abbotsford

Multi-platinum artist bringing ‘Fill Them Boots’ to Abbotsford Centre on Feb. 19, 2022

The Abbotsford International Airshow is back for 2021 with the ‘SkyDrive’ concept.
Abbotsford International Airshow returns for 2021 with ‘SkyDrive’

New format features a drive-in movie type experience, show set for Aug. 6 to 8

The intersection of Blueridge Drive and Blue Jay Street is one of three intersections in Abbotsford approved for traffic lights this year. (Google Street View)
Traffic signals approved at 3 Abbotsford intersections

Projects part of $1.45M in road upgrades around community

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read