Best of Richmond 2014: Shopping & Services

Robin Eder-Warren browses the shelves at Richmond Public Library. - Richard Lam
Robin Eder-Warren browses the shelves at Richmond Public Library.
— image credit: Richard Lam

Best place for moonfish, Dora piñatas and dog toys

If dollar stores had a factory outlet, a retailer on Hazelbridge Way would be the place. Dollar Smart is 99¢-and-up store with so much stuff it fills two floors. Usual dollar store goods are here—dishes, toys, stationary, and party supplies—along with clothing, auto accessories, Filipino groceries, photo frames, furniture, restaurant supplies and even luggage. Of course, not everything is a loonie, but with 18,000 square feet of displays, it’s still a discount Disneyland that should save you enough cash to afford some suman sa ibos, chicken tosino, moonfish and Mister Swifts from the frozen food section.

Best name for a contractor

Many developers are working in Richmond. Some streets have been entirely flattened and rebuilt with modern homes. With so many contractors working in a demanding market, there’s no end to the creativity these hardworking folks employ when choosing a company name. Our favourite local contractor? Fast & Good Construction Company. You want fast-track construction? No problem. You want it good? Hey—it’s in the name. This operator has avoided the trap some businesses fall into by deciding on a business name so obscure, customers never know what it means. No following trends here, just fast and good.

Best place to get cupped

If you’ve been to a local soccer pitch, you already know about cupping. Boisterous parents and enthusiastic coaches form their hands into a curved shape for extra vocal power. Another form of cupping is fast becoming more commonplace here. It’s a practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine, in which suction is created over skin using cups, boosting the circulation of qi. The therapy could soon be available at Richmond’s own Kwantlen Polytechnic University campus. The school is set to host B.C.’s first TCM program at a public institution. The B.C. government designated Traditional Chinese Medicine as a health profession in 2000, and the practice has a history dating as far back as 3,000 years. Practitioners focus on health promotion, illness prevention and treatment through natural remedies that include acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, massage and cupping. If the Kwantlen school includes a student practice, just think of all the beet-red circles covering the backs of Richmond residents. An opening date for the school hasn’t been set, but we expect to see more improvements to our citizens’ circulatory systems soon.

Best neighbourly anagram

Good luck finding two other side-by-side stores in Richmond that couldn’t be more different and simultaneously the same. At Aberdeen Centre, there’s the two-dollar store Daiso, two-storeys of cheap goodies, from houseware to toys to stationary and knickknacks, and everything in between. But next to Daiso’s second-floor entrance sits a lingerie store, named Diosa. Consisting of the same letters, but in a different order, that of course makes Diosa an anagram of Daiso.

Best big building dream

A Chinese company has big plans for North Richmond. Jingon International Development Group has made early plans public for an area west of River Rock Casino Resort known as Duck Island. The idea is a four-million-square-foot project covering nearly 30 hectares. Envisioned is a destination shopping centre and entertainment district. It could include six hotels, a trade and convention centre, along with retail, office and entertainment space. It’s the largest single application Richmond City Hall has ever received. City officials already seem on board, so as long as Jingon has deep pockets, the foundation could be laid soon. This former cement plant is now the temporary home of the Richmond Night Market. Meanwhile project developers shape their plans while perhaps watching reruns of I Dream of Jeannie.

Best cursed place Palace inside Aberdeen Centre is hardly cursed. The 100-square-foot second-floor shop has been a hex of a success, in fact. Offering a wide-array of voodoo dolls that are equal measure cute and creepy—there were no bulk pins or needles for sale nearby—the owners have reportedly been pleasantly surprised by the store’s faithful—dare we say occult-like—following. Each of the dolls are “hand-writhed from a single string of cotton or line threads,” according to the company’s website at There are several series of dolls available, each meant to “meet all your spiritual needs.” There’s the Love Series, which give the owners “all the power and fortune they need to strike the beloved ones’ heart.” There’s also the Guardian, Antidote, Strength and Spell Series, the latter including the Witch doll, which helps the owner “keep stupid people at bay, mean people at home and jerks in the dark!” The most popular in the store: a blue-caped Dracula, with its lips sewn shut, and a ninja doll, complete with a sheathed sword. Oh, by the way: it’s all a bunch of nonsense, says the company on its website. “VooDoo Palace dolls are purely our expression of imagination, creativity, and appreciation of anything cute. They are NOT for real and possess no curse effect whatsoever.” Turns out kids like them as fashion accessories or even key chains.

Best way to escape the escape game

For that, dear Richmondites, we must leave our fair Lulu Island. The real-life escape game arrived here last fall. Participants enter a specially-designed room from which they must escape by finding clues and solving puzzles. With little startup costs and the ability to charge customers nearly $25 each for 45 minutes of locked-door fun—read frustration—other entrepreneurs quickly clued in to this made-in-Asia phenomenon. Richmond now boasts a bevy of these vexing entertainment enterprises, including Trapped Vancouver, Xcape Vancouver, Exit Canada and Freeing Canada.

Best place to save your phone

People spend a ton of money on protective cases for their smart phones, but often forget about covering up their touch screens. Nothing worse than when screens get scratched by keys or when they’re dropped and skitter across the ground. A new screen is pricey. The best place to buy these screen protectors is at Lansdowne Centre, where those centre-of-hallway kiosks can seem like a godsend. At one of these booths, last seen near the food fair, they offer a wide array of cases, and for less than $10, they’ll meticulously clean your phone with some alcohol-based fluid and a cotton ball, then apply the virtually invisible, thin film of plastic. All in less than five minutes, while you wait.

Best we asked for it, you listened

In the 2012 Best of Richmond, we mentioned that No. 5 Road and Cambie would be a “Best place for a liquor store.” Well lo and behold, the Cambie Plaza Liquor Store opened up two months ago and we are delighted to report this isn’t one of those cheap Budweiser and bad plonk outlets. There’s a very nice beer selection, including Elyssian Superfuzz and Harvest Brewing’s excellent gluten-free beer.

Best comb over

At up to $200, Carpenter Tan’s combs promise more than just good grooming. For skeptical local shoppers, that’s probably a good thing. Last summer, the franchise opened its doors at Parker Place Mall on No. 3 Road. It’s one of 1,500 franchises worldwide, boasting 2,400 products for sale from around the world. According to a sales clerk, the combs are made of special types of wood, and are designed to last 10 to 20 years. Combing the scalp 50 times at night helps reduce stress, relieve the nerves and improve sleep, according to “the great litterateur Su Dongpo”, says a poster at the front of the store.

Best haircut for a Sir John A. Macdonald

Upstairs at Yaohan Centre mall is F10 Quickcut, a haircutting studio with roots in Asia. It’s a no-frills service where customers slide $10 into a “vending machine”—it has to be a Canadian $10 bill boasting the image of our first prime minister—which gives them a ticket good for one haircut. Shaggy-haired patrons then must wait for their number to be called, and voila—a hairstylist does a little scissor magic on lofty locks. The franchise began in 2006 in Taiwan, and now 100 F10 shops are scattered across the island country. The concept has since spread to Australia, and now, Richmond. F10 bills itself as a new concept of hairdressing, focusing on the haircut alone—and doing it well. Customers leave with a “professional, hygienic, entertaining and economical cut.” We’re sure our Father of Confederation would be proud.

—by Matthew Hoekstra, Martin van den Hemel and Bhreandáin Clugston

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