Tessa Hamelin walks through Cook Street Village with her dog

Tessa Hamelin walks through Cook Street Village with her dog

Cook Street Village, a place that says neighbourhood

It’s more than simply a neighbourhood commercial district.

It’s more than simply a neighbourhood commercial district.

It’s a place to meet up with friends, people-watch, have a first date, dog-watch and simply have a pleasant stroll under a canopy of chestnut trees.

Cook Street Village, a three-block section of Cook Street in Victoria’s Fairfield neighbourhood, has developed from a hyper-local shopping district into a trendy stretch of food, health, entertainment and living.

And it’s not just all about coffee, although the three largest cafés – Serious Coffee, Moka House and Starbucks – each have their fans and are among the biggest initial draws for people coming into the village.

Some café visitors choose their patio based on the placement of the sun.

But nearby resident Ab Kudra, a retired B.C. Ferries employee, nicknamed the Mayor of Cook Street Village by his friends – and he has many – likes to spread the business around.

Stopping in at various spots in the village offers him a chance to check in with friends and neighbours and meet new people, he says.

“The people around Cook Street Village are very hospitable; they’re so friendly and they help you out if you need assistance,” he says. Kudra recalls a situation when an elderly woman stumbled and fell in front of Starbucks. “Everybody got up to help.”

One need not venture away from the village to be self-sufficient.

You want food? The eight sit-down eateries offer a variety of choices, from pub food to ethnic specialties

Cooking dinner yourself? Longtime icon Oxford Foods is joined by two organic grocery stores, a market/deli, a fresh butcher shop and a produce/flower stand run by John the singing greengrocer, who performs on occasion at Serious Coffee.

There’s a range of other merchants and services, from a pair of antique dealers, two hair salons, an all-night convenience store and an optician, a liquor store, a drug store, butcher, women’s clothing store and financial and physio/health services.

And of course there’s Pic a Flic, one of the Capital Region’s rare thriving video rental stores, which has perhaps the largest library collection of classic movies and TV series.

While small business is what keeps the village thriving, the overarching attitude is chill.

“With all the chestnut trees and the dogs, it’s really fantastic and a great place to people watch on a nice day,” Kudra says. “I know people that have moved away, but they still come back, even all the way from Langford.”