Heartbreak On Main Street: The Decline Of Vancouver’s Little India

Vancouver's Little India

Once the epicentre of Vancouver’s Indo-Canadian community, the Little India Punjabi Market is on a steady decline.  

While there are a multitude of fantastic markets in Vancouver, this one holds a special significance. During the influx of South Asian immigrants in the 1970s, this section of Main Street became a vibrant part of the city’s diverse culture.

It offers a vast array of spices, food, clothing, and more. As a result, it’s a staple for those wishing to visit a unique shopping centre. Today, the area is comprised of just a few city blocks, from 48th – 51st Avenue on Main Street.

Due to gentrification, many historical gems and cultural areas, including Chinatown, are fading away. As the housing crisis continues to worsen in Vancouver, the fight to maintain these areas is losing the battle.

RELATED: The History Behind Vancouver’s Little Tokyo

These areas have a strong, cultural significance to Vancouver, and many are worried that the city is losing its history and spirit. The Globe and Mail describes how “Gentrification isn’t just nibbling at Chinatown’s edges. Thanks to rezoning changes, it’s taking major bites out of the neighbourhood. There are two major mixed-use condo rezonings at Main Street and Keefer that are massive, bulky and featureless, like something you’d see on Robson Street. Instead of Chinatown’s packed sidewalks that force you to dodge elderly people with their wheeled shopping bags – part of the experience – this stretch of bright wide sidewalk speaks of new money.”

Rather than just losing some diverse dining and shopping choices, people believe that Vancouver is losing its soul.

One of the other reasons for the area’s decline is that many of the businesses in the area relocated to Surrey. Surrey has quickly become the city with British Columbia’s largest Indian population and group of Punjabi speakers; ultimately it contains the vast majority of shops and cuisine offerings.

Sadly, many of the shop owners on Main Street have been in the area for 30 or 40 years. Since gentrification began, they have been forced to move and supply the strong demand in Newton. Many of these owners immigrated from India straight to Main Street. Many of them have also passed their shops on to their children.

Some speculate that the beloved area only has a couple more years left before it is completely gone.

Explore Vancouver’s Little India

With all this being said, the neighbourhood is still a great place to discover many of the finest Indian products in Canada. There are shops that specialize in Indian clothing, and they have a myriad of beautiful things to browse through. From pashminas to saris, shimmering bangles to a sea of brightly coloured fabrics, the market’s offerings are a feast for the eyes.

Vancouver's Little India In addition to clothing and jewelry, the area a multitude of delicious gastronomic delights. Indeed, the cuisine is flavourful, satisfying, and decadent. A delicious buffet that will leave you feeling full for days ranges from as little as $11. Or, if you’re just a tad peckish, they have scrumptious samosas and other smaller tasty treats and desserts.

In addition to meals, the market supplies an abundance of exotic spices, such as tamarind and cumin

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  • Selekta Dubfyah

    Gentrification or whatever you chose to call it, look, we are facing a big problem in Vancouver, and that’s housing issue, and It’s only a matter of time before shop owners will start sleeping in their stores and renting it to desperate accommodation seekers for nightly activities.

    Homes/houses are been sold to people who aren’t Canadian citizens or living in Canada at all! and a tinny basement suit is been rented out for a whopping $1200 a month! Real Estate developers and realtors just want to make their money, estate developers are looking at all these places been wasted by having a “Cultural Marketplace” that generates less than $1 million a yr, if they could afford to build homes and business at these locations and generate billions of dollars, of course, the govt is going allocate the space to them.

  • Calvin Chan

    As a long time Vancouver resident of over 50 years as l came to this great city in ’63 when I was but two . I never saw 49th Ave as being historic. Really Surrey is more identified as not so little India as long as I can remember. Sadly Chinatown has run down because of its close proximity to the downtown eastside. Only old timers stay around. The young people prefer Richmond which is bustling and frankly cleaner. Sad perhaps but if you take snapshots of Vancouver fifty years ago and now….change happens. Those were the days my friend we’d thought they never end…..