Expect the unexpected at the Rise Up Marketplace, a Caribbean sandwich shop and convenience store that has transformed the historic Vernon Drive Grocery in Strathcona.
It has an incredibly bright interior painted red, green and gold. A vintage yellow Pac-Man arcade game is in the corner to entertain customers while they wait for their order. Shelves are brimming with everything from jerk chicken sauce to Mumgry chocolate peanut butter and Black History Month socks, featuring a logo with an upraised fist.
But the most unexpected item is hanging on the wall — a rare Jimi Hendrix concert poster from his 1968 show at the Pacific Coliseum.
How rare? Vancouver’s top music poster collector, Rob Frith, says he’s only seen one copy before, although there is a smaller flyer that isn’t quite as scarce.
The poster features a famous photo of Jimi by Karl Ferris that’s backlit so that it looks like he has a halo. The central image is flanked on the sides by negative images of Jimi playing guitar, with psychedelic art nouveau smoke wafting over his hat.
Rise Up’s co-owner, Roger Collins, found the poster several years ago at the Calabash Bistro at Carrall and Hastings streets, which he also co-owns.
Calabash is in the Pennsylvania Hotel, which was built in 1907. In the basement is the hotel’s original cage elevator, which has been decommissioned.
Collins was cleaning behind the old elevator when he discovered a rolled-up piece of paper.
“It turned out to be a Jimi Hendrix concert poster from 1968,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if it was authentic. But I looked at the bottom corner and it actually had 1968 on there. It also said you could buy tickets at the Hudson’s Bay Company, that’s how I knew it was legit.”
He’s been waiting for the “right moment and the right space” to display it, and the Rise Up Marketplace is about four blocks east of where Hendrix’s grandparents once lived in Strathcona.
But it almost didn’t make it to Collins’ new store — and neither did Collins.
“In July 2020 I was driving home from work from Calabash, as I’ve done hundreds of times,” he relates. “Being the music and art director, I spent many late nights down there, checking out the DJs and making sure the bands were doing their thing.
Collins fell asleep at the wheel. He woke up in the hospital and required two emergency surgeries for spinal damage.
“I was in a wheelchair for 3½ months. I had to learn how to walk again. I had to do physio, learn how to stand on my own, learn how to put a foot in front of another foot.”
It was gruelling and he figures he’s only recovered 80 per cent. But it led him to opening Rise Up with his friend Rajesh Narine.
“That was a big wakeup call for me,” he said. “It’s time to transition my hours, from coming home at five in the morning to coming home at six at night — have a more conducive schedule to family life. I have kids and a wife; I want to be home for dinner.”
The opportunity to open a new store came up when a friend purchased the lot containing the Vernon Drive Grocery, which opened at 704 Vernon Drive in 1914. Collins jumped at the chance.
“When we came in it was all white walls,” said Collins, 48, who was born in Toronto to a Caribbean family. “It needed some love, so we decided to go the opposite end of the spectrum and bring some life to the building.”
Rise Up has been open for more than four months, and has a brisk business selling baked goods, Jamaican patties and jerk chicken sandwiches.
But he isn’t going to sell the Hendrix poster, even though it’s probably worth several hundred dollars.
“I think we’re going to hold onto that for awhile,” he said. “It’s just a really cool piece of history and nostalgia and ties us into the community here.”
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