Many downtown businesses became targets during last year’s Vancouver Stanley Cup riot, while some — like the Cherry Bomb T-shirt store — managed by sheer luck to avoid the looting and vandalism.

The Granville Street business usually stays open until 9 p.m. during the week, but not on the night of Wednesday June 15, 2011.

"The police probably came in around 7:30, after the game was coming to an end," said Cherry Bomb manager Corby Holmes. "[They] said, ‘There are more yahoos outside than are us. You guys should probably lock up.’"

Holmes figured he'd hunker down inside the store with staff until the street cleared.

Suddenly, he saw a huge crowd of people frantically running down Granville Street.

"It was just out of a movie, really. Like smoke, garbage and debris, people yelling. Like out of a zombie movie, pretty much," said Holmes.

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Cherry Bomb didn't get hit, but neighbouring stores had their windows smashed.

"Unfortunately, the store next to us did get hit. We saw a chair go through the window and at that point we were all like, ‘Maybe we should think about getting out of here.’"

At about midnight, Holmes decided to make a run for it down Robson Street and across the Georgia Street Viaduct.

"When we got onto Main Street, it was like nothing had happened. It was like a typical Wednesday night," said Holmes.

Something positive

In the aftermath of the riot, the Downtown Business Improvement Association approached Cherry Bomb about collaborating on a special line of T-shirts called the VanLover.

It was part of a campaign by the city government to reassure people it was safe to come downtown.

The shirts sold well, and Cherry Bomb's own Vancouver-centric designs also found a following, particularly one that read "Real fans don't riot."

"We actually had a customer buy a shirt, got it made, put it on and walked up the street to where Sears was. After he did that, five other people ran in the store and said, ‘We just saw a guy wearing this shirt. Where did he get it from?’"

Sales increased tenfold, providing at least one positive outcome to a night many people want to forget.

Holmes says that even now, one year later, people still come in to buy the "Real fans don't riot" shirt.

 

With files from the CBC's Leah Hendry