Back in the days when fish were plentiful, two immigrants made their way from a faraway tumultuous land to Canada. Both husband and wife were unsure, yet hopeful, that this new country would provide a safe haven for their family. With few resources beyond their work ethic and the strength of their relationship, they sought work. In 1962, they found themselves in a small cafe called the Span Grill located on west Fourth Avenue. Together, they worked to provide home-cooked meals, donuts, cigars, and cigarettes (this was long before any Health Canada warnings!) to the many busy fishermen, blackened-faced drivers transporting coal, and other local workers. Some of the well-received meals that they prepared in those days were: beef stew, cabbage rolls, liver, and pork chops.
In those early days when flower children roamed Fourth Avenue, the cafe had a little wood burning furnace, booths, a huge water-filled steel cooler for soda bottles, and a U-shaped counter with bar stools. The two toiled for many years, through hard times and poverty. Not only did they work to provide for their growing family in Canada (their only son was soon joined by three new siblings: a sister and two younger brothers), but they also saved money and sponsored the remaining family in the homeland to come to Canada.
As the children grew up, each worked in the cafe at some point of their lives. The daughter, Julia, was especially involved and threw her creative energy into its first major renovation, transforming it into the Blue Moon Cafe. Not only was the Blue Moon more esthetically pleasing, but it also opened in the evening and featured local musicians and singers. Julia’s friendly and sociable manner brought a new customer base and financial viability back to the cafe. After a few years, she moved on to work for a large Vancouver hotel. But, in her absence, business drastically dropped and again required new creative input. Ever faithful to the family, Julia returned to transform the cafe once again, this time into the Flying Swan. Unbeknownst to all, the Flying Swan was to become the vehicle for something bigger.
Julia’s lifelong passion was motorcycling – she purchased her first motorcyle in the early 80’s. In 2001, she met Bogdan Jozwiak, founder of the Vancouver Riders of Motorcycles. They created the current Swan motorcycle theme and organized many socials for motorcyclists, promoting friendship and riding. Wanting to contribute to the community, Julia and Bogdan started fund-raising rides for charities such as The Firefighters Summer Camp for Kids and Big Sisters. The Flying Swan became Vancouver’s first and only motorcycle cafe and became a popular destination for riders of all ages and all types of bikes, whether sport bike, cruiser, dirt bike, or scooter.
As Life would have it, both Julia and Bog passed away while riding their motorcycles: he in 2004, and she in 2005. Their absence is sorely felt by the thousands of people who met them. Now, although much older than when they first landed on Canadian soil, the husband and wife, along with sons, Ed and Harreson, and grandson Jason, work on, keeping the legacy of honest hard work, family cohesion, and community service alive. Julia’s friends continue the fundraising efforts with the Hot Chicks Calendar and the Firefighter’s ride.
Latest update: January 13, 2018
A burst water pipe on January 13 caused flooding and major water damage. The Blue Moon Flying Swan Cafe is closed until further notice for restorations.