All India Sweets to get plaque honouring Vancouver’s fast-vanishing Punjabi Market

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

All India Sweets & Restaurant received the historical plaque on behalf of the entire Punjabi Market in Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, April 13, 2013. Submitted photo

Vancouver Heritage Foundation doesn’t want Main Street’s slowly dissolving Punjabi Market to be forgotten.

So at Saturday’s Vaisakhi parade celebrations in Vancouver, All India Sweets restaurant — on behalf of the entire Punjabi Market — will be presented a Vancouver Heritage Foundation Places That Matter plaque.

“(The area is) changing so much now that the population is shifting to Surrey, so we thought it was a good time to recognize it,” said foundation special project co-ordinator Jessica Quan. “We’re not really just marking buildings, or places that are there visibly anymore — it’s a marker to remind people what was there before … that (the Punjabi Market) has been here since the ’70s (and) it’s been going strong for 40 years.”

“We want that history there.”

For All India Sweets restaurant owner Steve Ram, this is “huge.”

“Although Surrey’s kind of growing into the new little India … for us here, we’re proud Indians — this is a very well-known area of Vancouver,” he said. “We’re proud that we were chosen to place the plaque inside our restaurant.”

“Hopefully in the coming years it transcends change and new Indian businesses come so we can keep the Punjabi Market of Vancouver.”

Although All India Sweets is “definitely here to stay,” Ram can understand why so many businesses have moved to Surrey.

“It’s just cost of living,” he said. “Rent is so high, these buildings — even for us it’s a struggle.”

With lower rent costs in Surrey, business owners are able to buy property and instead pay into a mortgage in an area that gets more traffic year-round because of the large Indian community, he said.

“As compared to us here you see a lot (of  business) at weekends or during summer when you get a huge amount of tourists,” said Ram. “(But) we’re Indian food and there’s definitely a demand in Vancouver.”

“We’re still showcasing the area to a lot of tourists.”

Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Places That Matter project is about sharing the lesser-known history of the people, places and events that have helped shaped Vancouver since it became a city in 1886.

And by identifying the Punjabi Market, it highlights how the South Asian community first settled in Vancouver around 1890 — first in Kitsilano near First Avenue and Burrard Street before many migrated to Main Street.

“(The purpose is) to look back at the history of the early pioneer south Asians — as in Vancouver, not from Surrey,” said Quan. “(The Punjabi Market is) a destination still for Vancouverites even though things have changed.”

The plaque will be presented to All India Sweets during the Vancouver Vaisakhi parade between noon and 1 p.m. at the Punjabi Market Stage near Main Street and 49th Avenue.

Other locations that received the plaque include The Railyway Club, Trout Lake, First United Church, Jericho Arts Centre and Kitsilano Neighbourhood House, to name a few.

lcahute@theprovince.com
twitter.com/larissacahute

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