The back parking lot at Haney Place Mall was packed on Wednesday, something not seen in recent years, even at Christmas.
The occasion was the opening of another grocery store in Maple Ridge.
But this one was the talk of the town. It was difficult to find a parking space. People spilled in from the streets. Politicians, past and present, were at the ribbon cutting, and Tweeted about it before and after.
Natasha Zimbaro sang the national anthem. A rock band performed, too.
Free hot dogs were handed out, for a donation, as were reusable cloth shopping bags.
The arrival of Thrifty Foods, however, was about more than good produce and reasonable prices, more than new jobs and tax revenue.
It was about the heart of downtown Maple Ridge, much ballyhooed about its deterioration over the past decade.
In more recent years, a sea change has occurred, from the newer municipal buildings, to the revamped Memorial Peace Park, and improvements to 224th Street and Lougheed Highway. Many new apartments have been constructed in and around the core, an old, troublesome one knocked down. A new bank was built on the corner of the mall lot, and Tim Hortons moved in across the street.
Still, right at the middle of it all, the mall with the brick facade remained as it had since opening in 1978 – unchanged. And the inside of the shopping centre reflected that as stores began to vacate.
Shoppers were going elsewhere, many of them out of town. There was no line-up to see Santa.
But now Thrifty Foods, taking advantage of the district’s Town Centre Investment Incentive program, has moved in, revamped the east end of the mall, and is open 24 hours a day.
Target is on target to reconstruct the west end of the mall next and open in a year or so.
And residential construction is ongoing adjacent to where the district purchased 14 lots to spur further downtown development, between Haney Place and Valley Fair malls.
More good is to come.
But for all the talk, the opening of Thrifty Foods on Wednesday was different from other store openings in that it signified a tangible milestone in the growth of downtown Maple Ridge. A major tenant saw it worthy to invest here.
We wish them much success.