Profile: Najma Martens, store owner, Maya Boutique and Textiles on The Drive

East Side resident and store owner Najma Martens wants to see more Vancouver visitors leave downtown to sample the bakeries, sandwich shops, boutiques and cafés of Vancouver’s vibrant and eclectic Commercial Drive – known locally as “The Drive”. Located just 10 minutes by taxi from downtown Vancouver, The Drive remains a local secret and is fairly untravelled by tourists. Martens’ new store, Maya Boutique + Textiles, adds to a neighbourhood that is staunchly unique, culturally diverse, resistant of chain stores and supportive of independent businesses. Below, she describes her favourite things about The Drive and what makes the neighbourhood worth a visit.

Najma Martens, Owner, Maya Boutique and Textiles

How long have you lived on The Drive? Who would you recommend this neigbourhood to?

I’ve been living on The Drive for four years. My husband and I bought an old home, renovated it, and brought it back to life. The kind of person that would enjoy visiting The Drive is someone that values uniqueness. There is a lot on offer here for people who are concerned about the supply chain – where their food is coming from and who is making their clothing. The neighbourhood is also very vibrant and a wonderful place to eat. There are cafés and restaurants spilling onto the sidewalks, wonderful music, art and culture.

What are your favourite cafés and restaurants in the area?

I love Fratelli European Bakery for their dessert cakes and their fresh bread. I also enjoy the Santa Barbara Market deli for their extensive cheese selection. I live just around the corner from Turk’s coffee house and Café Roma sports bar, so I frequent these often. Uprising Breads Bakery is also a favourite on Sunday morning for breakfast. Although I’m actually more of a chai drinker, it’s the coffee culture that I really enjoy here. The fact that I can go to a small café with outdoor tables, sit in the sun and enjoy the atmosphere…

Snapshot of Maya boutique

What do you sell at your store – Maya Boutique?

Maya carries hand-printed linens, curtains and bedding as well as jewellery and artisanal pieces. The idea behind my business was to bring who I am into the store. I am of Indian descent but grew up in Canada. Although I didn’t travel to India until I was an adult, I always felt a very strong connection to the country. My store helps me connect my worlds. I travel to India frequently now and work with small families or groups of artisans to produce my textiles. I am very conscious of who I import from and everything I sell is individual and unique.

What is the best time to visit The Drive?

The Drive celebrates like no other neighborhood in Vancouver! Our outdoor parties and festivals really show off the best of the community. We celebrate Halloween with Parade of the Lost Souls – a lantern parade that travels from Grandview Park through the streets and lanes of the neighbourhood. In summer, we have East Side Pride, Italian Week, the East Side Culture Crawl and lots of other festivals and events. We also have a very popular Farmers’ Market each Saturday from May to Thanksgiving at Trout Lake.

This article first appeared HERE.