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Call for artists at Vancouver coffee shop

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VANCOUVER, B.C. - The greyness of a typical rainy winter day in Vancouver quickly dissipates after tasting the plumpness of a fresh piece of bannock offered at a tiny shop in the city's downtown.

Amidst his coffee competition, Darryl Alexcee hopes to perk up the java-crazed west end. Setting it apart from the larger corporate conglomerates, Darryl's Coffee and Native Art Shop offers more than just a shot of caffeine-induced warmth. Instead, customers are invited to curl up and admire the various pieces of crafts and prints displayed within the cozy 700 square foot setting.

"My main staple will be art for the tourists and the locals who live here," Alexcee said about the future goals of his newly established business. "I see all these tourists that come into Vancouver and want to buy First Nations art and a lot of them get fooled because it isn't original."

Enticed by the signs promoting bannock that isn't publicly offered anywhere else in the downtown core, customers might be surprised when they noticed the multitude of handmade jewelry upon entering before eventually moseying up to the cashier to select from a choice of beverages and light snacks. Even after the purchase, artwork continues to dominate the interior decoration at Darryl's as the cream and milk dispensers, with an adjacent four seats, sit on a glass unit with smaller items of art and clothing for sale.

"I've utilized all the space from the coffee counter to the tables to the display cases," said Alexcee of his 11-seat establishment.

Open since Dec. 8, the shop is on the corner of Davie and Burrard streets. Combining the busyness of a pedestrian traffic flow from the high-rise hotels and condominiums that are in the immediate area, Alexcee believes his store gives First Nations craftsmen a high visibility for their work without the traditional high gallery mark-ups.

Alexcee continues to seek out different pieces of art and wants to earn a reputation as a fair promoter of artists. All of the goods have been purchased from the individuals at wholesale prices and he explained that once a price has been set for an item that will never change.

"When I deal with Native artists I tell them what I will sell it for, that includes rent and insurance, and that price will not jump once they're gone because then I wouldn't be fair with my own people," Alexcee said.

He added in larger galleries it is not unusual for the retail price to be 400 - 500 percent of what the piece was purchased for.

"First Nations artists are not truly compensated for all their hard work when they deal with other galleries and art shops," he lamented.

Pleased with his location, Alexcee regrets his opening date was later than preferred. Had he swung his doors open in October or November, he would have capitalized on the Christmas shopping purge. Instead, with the post-holiday doldrums, word-of-mouth about his business is just starting to spread through at least the Aboriginal community.

Regardless of the slow start, Alexcee's personality radiates and each time the door opens he transmits his spirit to a clientele that he knows by name. By the spring and the bloom of a new season, Darryl's anticipates a new batch of customers who will enjoy a sample of Aboriginal fares and wares.

"All the tourists march up and down Burrard and Davie streets and I'm going to catch their attention ... hopefully," said Alexcee with a big chuckle.

Artists are encouraged to contact Darryl's Coffee and Native Art Shop at (604) 689-5354.