Despite the challenges facing downtown Maple Ridge, three businesses are investing in the area.
Oyxgen Yoga and Fitness will be doubling the size of its studio when it moves off 224th Street and over to Haney Plaza in September.
And at about the same time, Meridian Meats and Seafood will be opening its new, larger shop at Dewdney Trunk Road and 227th Street, a block from its current location.
And for Maple Meadows Brewing, the downtown was just the place to set up a new brewery.
All this while the City of Maple Ridge embarks on a strategy to end homelessness, which has plagued the downtown for more than a decade.
Brewery owner Carlo Baroccio said the developing downtown made it worthwhile, choosing rustic Maple Ridge over trendy Coquitlam.
He opened the operation in March in a small location in a strip mall in the 22700-block Dewdney Trunk Road, just east of Fire Hall No. 1.
The operation is a micro brewery with no bottling capacity, leaving the brewer to rely on the storefront to bring in the cash.
But it was Maple Ridge’s CS-1 zoning that made it happen. That allows Baroccio to produce beer in a commercial area – while benefitting from the urban environment and customer base.
He couldn’t do that in Coquitlam, or Port Coquitlam or Pitt Meadows.
“So far, I don’t have any issues,” with the downtown, he said.
“The city officials were really helpful.”
Baroccio can produce about 2,100 litres of beer a month and is currently producing four types.
With the offerings of fresh poutine from a food truck across the street, visitors can sample the new brew and have it soaked up by the fries.
Dainia Leong, who runs Oxygen, along with locations in Port Moody and Port Coquitlam, said she wanted to stay in the downtown because it’s central.
The studio will be 2,000 sq. feet, double the size of the existing one, and will be next to her husband, Brendon Leong’s Carlson Gracie mixed martial arts gym.
Oxygen has been in its present location, across from Memorial Peace Park, for seven years.
“Time for a change,” she said. “We’ve been broken into three times in our current location.”
The new location will have better security and a new heating and ventilation system for more comfort while exercising.
Brendon also moved to the mall last year from 225th Street, a move which he called “super positive.”
When the two-storey Meridian Meats building opens next fall on 227th Street, it will serve as the company’s head office for the six Metro Vancouver Meridian locations. It will also have a new name, Meridian Farm Market. Instead of just meats and seafood, the new barn-like building will include an artisan deli, a bakery, fresh produce and groceries.
That larger selection requires hiring more people, about another 30, by this fall.
Meridian said it was market demand that prompted the change. After opening farm market stores in Tsawwassen and North Vancouver, they learned the market was asking for a broader range of items.
“Our customers have helped us decide how to grow and change our business,” said Meridian president Josh Penner.
The busiest time of the day is after 3 p.m., when parents and kids are heading home. Having a convenient location allows people to stop by and restock without making a separate trip to a big-box store, he said.
The store will also carry organic, natural, gluten free and non-genetically modified foods.
“We’ve specialized in free-range meats for years now,” Penner said.
Now, Meridian is specializing in all types of natural foods, from goji berries to grass-fed milk.
“It’s a privilege to have our flagship store and office located right here where we live. And it’s exciting to be part of the city’s economic growth and development,” said Penner, who owns the business with his brother Kevin and brother-in-law Brody McDearmid.
Renovations are also underway to The Witch of Endor pub, just a few steps from the Meridian construction, while next door to the pub, is a cooperative office business called Work Here, which rents out office space to small start ups.
Ineke Boekhorst, with the downtown business improvement association, added that The Ridge Studios [a film studio] is now underway in the old Haney Bingo Plex building across from the former Target, which was recently acquired by Walmart and will reopen within a year.
“It definitely will attract a lot of people to our town,” Boekhorst said of Walmart.
Meanwhile, Rexall Drugs has opened in Haney Place Mall.
Maple Ridge council is also considering proposals to buy and develop the three acres it has for sale on Selkirk Avenue between Haney Place and Valley Fair malls. However, dates or decisions aren’t confirmed.