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by Debra Mattson

Have you ever spent the afternoon having tea in Oak Bay Village? Perhaps you've rented a movie in Cook Street Village? Now may be the time to stop for some jerk chicken or attend a parenting workshop in Quadra Village. "Where?" you ask. The shops and community gathering places along Quadra Street from King Street to Tolmie Avenue have long been affectionately known as Quadra Village and this area may be one of Victoria's best kept secrets. As Peter Basi, owner of the B&V Market says, business owners and neighbourhood dwellers "know each other's stories." Community is a difficult word to define but whatever it means to you may be exactly what you'll find along Quadra Street.

The Wooden Shoe - stocked up for the holidays
Wooden Shoe
Photo: Rahnghild Watson Reinartz

Quadra Village is a mix of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds. You need only spend sometime at Quadra Elementary to realize the multicultural community surrounding Quadra and Hillside. According to Principal Scott Ritter, the school boasts students who speak 18 languages other than English and of their 402 students, 55 are currently receiving support for English as a Second Language and 45 students are members of Canada's First Nations. Over the past few years the school has sponsored musicians, storytellers, authors, dancers and actors to share their messages of unity through diversity. They have had teacher professional days which focus on combating racism and bullying. Last Spring their Parent Advisory Group organized a First Nations celebration evening that included traditional foods, dancing, a carving demonstration, an archaeological dig and more to help build awareness and understanding in the school community.

Quadra Village also boasts the recently renovated Blanshard Community Centre. In the 1970s the community began to rally to provide a safe place for its members to meet. Since its inception the centre has offered different workshops, pro- grammes and youth and family counselling. They also maintain a nonprofit food store where low income families can buy individual items for much less because the centre buys from case-lot sale. There are many cultures represented at the community centre and its local vicinity including Chinese, Cambodian, Vietnamese, East Indian, Iranian, Egyptian, Central American, and the list continues. Events held at the centre are more social-based than fundraising-based because the centre's mandate is to give back to the community rather than take from it.

"One stop" at Mr. T's
Mr. T's Caribbean Restaurant
Photo: Rahnghild Watson Reinartz

Some of you may know Quadra Street and its stretch to Cloverdale as one of the most traffic accident-prone areas in Victoria. ICBC recognizes this and many Quadra Village community dwellers have gathered together to support a plan to slow down and beautify this stretch. This plan includes medians with shrubs and flowers, parking on both sides at all times, left-hand turning lanes, and a slower speed limit. This will promote a walkabout day in Quadra Village. Leni Hoover, Executive Director of the Blanshard Community Centre, hopes to see no empty store fronts along Quadra and her wish may be coming true. Wander down Quadra now and you will find Mr. T's Caribbean restaurant and grocery store. The owner moved the location from Tillicum Mall to Quadra and Hillside two years ago and is pleased with the move. Both Peter Basi from the B&V Market (formerly Agit's) and Anne Marie Turner from Mr. T's agree that they have many regular customers. Some people come from Nanaimo and Seattle to pick up food from Mr. T's and Basi says that he has customers from up-island and Salt Spring and Quadra Island. The B&V Market carries many speciality ethnic items including East Indian spices and Jamaican foods. Basi knows his customers and their families and tries to relate to the parents in the community by talking to them about their children's lives.

Growth is evident in Quadra Village. Not only were the community centre and B&V Market recently renovated but so too was the Filipino Oriental Village grocery store at Quadra and Tolmie. Owner Dick Peralta and his wife heard many people talking about the lack of Filipino movies and grocery products in Victoria so they took it upon themselves to fill that need. The store first began adjacent to another larger store and offered a handful of Filipino videos for rental but has now taken over the entire space to meet the community's needs. They also cater to Spanish, Portuguese, Asian, and Thai markets. Peralta remembers and pays tribute to the history of the store by keeping a photo album of its development over the years and maintaining two clay statues of lion's heads at the front of the building first placed by the original Portuguese owner.

The Sikh Temples located on Topaz and on Graham Street are also an integral part of Quadra Village. Kamal Panesar, from the Victoria Immi- grant and Refugee Centre, attends the Temple and speaks of the strong sense of community found during services, in the communal kitchen, and at the Temple's own seniors' centre. This centre offers people a place to visit and play cards or watch T.V. so that they are not alone. Many volunteers help to provide vegetarian meals to those who are in need and a children's programme, music classes, and language classes all add to the community flavour.

All of the store owners in Quadra Village recognize the need to maintain their long term customers and also attract "walk-bys". Blanshard Community Centre consistently offers what its community members request. Maybe it's time you explored the diversity and true community spirit of this area. If you're looking for a change from the typical "Victorian" experience you may want to try stopping by the Crescent Deli for a samosa or a bowl of wonton soup at Wing's. Much community spirit - how- ever you define it - awaits you in Quadra Village!

Debra Mattson is a freelance writer and a volunteer at the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre.

On route - the Italian Bakery
Italian Bakery
Photo: Rahnghild Watson Reinartz

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