The building at 2601 Quebec Street has stood on the same quiet corner of Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood since 1922. When the property recently became available, all it took to win it over was one person sliding a letter underneath the front door. But what separated Colette Griffiths and Christopher Allen from the other 15 curious inquirers? Easy. The previous owners thought Allen’s handwriting was the nicest.
After a year of renovations and jumping through zoning hoops, The Federal Store opened in November 2016, just a block away from the cultural vein of Vancouver’s food and drink scene, Main Street. Departing from the area’s fast-paced atmosphere, owners Griffiths and Allen view their new space as more of a refuge. Their unique mercantile offers a wide array of premium retail food and household supplies displayed throughout the cafe. Alongside Bows & Arrows Coffee Roasters offerings, the fresh food selection currently centers around bread and pastries all made in-house. Asked to describe their space, Allen answered that they are “purposefully oblivious…the space will become what it will be.”
The design of the shop is entirely from the brains of Griffiths and Allen. Having come from a product development background, Allen is described by Griffiths as a perfectionist. The result of their work—and that perfectionism—delivers beautifully, with captivating visuals and a comfortable layout for patrons. The striking design of the floor is made up of hundreds of individual tiles, hand-cut and sanded by the two of them. Being that they always wanted to open a space involving food and coffee in some form, their prideful glances around the room show that the pair feels it was well worth the effort.
“We want to do things well, but appear simple,” said Allen, adding, “Bows & Arrows is great coffee, but we’re not a coffee shop.” The pair's hope is to slowly expand as the business continues to find its legs. An expanded menu, more local vendors, seasonal offerings, pop-up events with local artists, and maybe a small beer and wine menu down the road. They want the experience to be “interesting and memorable” and for customers to feel comfortable there, Griffiths says. “Customers say it feels like hanging out in our kitchen.” Now with an oasis nestled in the heart of Mount Pleasant, their customers can agree Vancouver is lucky that Allen took his time writing that letter.
Peter de Vooght is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Read more Peter de Vooght on Sprudge.