At the heart of the Railtown district in East Vancouver sits a cozy cafe filled to the brim with fresh, made-to-order lunches and in-house baked goods to tempt your senses. Aptly named, Railtown Cafe has become an anchor both in the neighbourhood and beyond – with customers flocking to their step up counters to savour a taste of their daily offerings.
We’ve loved working with the team at Railtown Cafe since the early days for both PSC and PDL. For us, we had the opportunity to do some maintenance work in their first location, we helped them expand and renovate their head office to accommodate the growing team, and we continue to partner up through Pacific Design Lab for board supply, refinishing, and rentals for their awesome catering arm of the business. It was only a matter of time before Railtown Cafe spread their wings outside of Railtown and we were thrilled to join forces with our long-term partner and help them open TWO (yes, two) exciting locations this year.
The first was their flagship store located in the downtown core at 980 Howe Street. Here, Railtown owners Dan Olson and Tyler Day secured a big, bright, shiny new space in the stunning Manulife Tower located right across from the law courts. The goal was to maintain the same cozy Railtown feel that guests love about the original location and integrate it right into their new downtown home. Our design and architecture partners at MGBA proved their talents (as always) and stepped up to the task, designing an open space with beautiful, uncompromising finishes such as floor to ceiling marble walls and hand stencilled floors that sit perfectly beside the characteristically Railtown elements that define them – made by Pacific handcrafted tables and shelving, industrial features, and a big walk up service counter.
A thoughtfully designed space certainly helps a build go well. Even so, all projects have their unique challenges. Here, the biggest obstacle we faced was doing construction in a fully functioning business tower. We could not make noise between the hours of 7am to 5pm every single work day, meaning that all of the main work had to be done in the very early morning or late evenings. In true Pacific fashion, our team stepped up to the plate and got the job done. They got better at coordinating schedules, improved efficiencies throughout the project, and worked around the difficult downtown logistics (parking, loading, materials, etc) to keep the client and the Manulife landlords happy with our work.
As soon as we wrapped Howe Street we were on to the next, and the crew headed over to False Creek to bring these same strategies to the new location at Main and 1st Avenue at the base of Mount Pleasant. This space was significantly smaller than the Howe Street location, but as with any job, came with it’s own challenges. Here? We couldn’t drill any holes into the ground, so even though we had our design layout all completed and ready to go, the discovery of the mechanical and electrical room right beneath the secured Railtown space prevented us from doing any drilling for plumbing – a pretty big obstacle when you’re looking to build a restaurant!
Out came the thinking caps, and through some creative problem solving we were able to keep the designer’s vision, work within the tight restrictions of a small space, and make sure everything was to code in the way it needed to be. In the end we were left with a beautiful new space just minutes from our old workshop at 220 Prior Street – a stone’s throw for our team looking to grab lunch close to home.
Now, just because you visit one doesn’t mean you’ve visited both. Definitely hit up the Main Street location when you’re looking for a grab and go option, but do stop in to enjoy a cold beer on tap and unwind after a day at the office at the downtown location. Trust us – between the fresh food, cold brew, and baked goods, you’ll definitely have time for a second round.