Micayla Gatto – Professional Mountain Biker, Artist and local West Vancouverite. We checked in with her to see how Park Royal helped shape her mountain biking career and how it’s still her destination of choice when she spends the day adventuring the North Shore slopes.
Nestled between the Coastal Mountains and Pacific Ocean, minutes away from Stanley Park in the shadow of the Lions Gate Bridge, Park Royal sits along the West Vancouver shoreline. This shopping centre has been around my entire life, changing and evolving as I have. I remember birthday parties at the old Bowling Alley, once-a-year report card celebration dinners at Milestones, even my first job was at lululemon down in The Village.
It’s crazy reflecting on all the memories it holds. I remember playing in the ocean as a kid long before the waterfront was what it is now, going for walks with my grandma on the seawall, and stopping at Park Royal for lunch. West Vancouver has changed, my life has changed, and with as much as can change in thirty years, Park Royal is still there. Helping catalogue memories and remind me of all the little segments of my life.
I don’t know exactly when I first went bowling at Park Royal, sometime in elementary school, on someone’s birthday. I do remember all sorts of things about the place though, the smell of the old wooden lanes, the way the shoes never fit, the sound of friends laughter and how wonderful bad birthday pizza tasted. Around that time I remember the old market, I’d go down with my grandma to pick up fresh produce, specialty cheeses and meat for dinner. It all seemed so big then, and my grandma knew everyone. We would stop and chat, ask questions and feel produce for ripeness – her beehive white hair and thick french accent attracted plenty of attention. It was easy to get lost in the market, time-wise. All those little memories from childhood are really about community, which I think is what a great shopping centre does: it brings people together.
As I got older and the Mall began to grow and evolve, the experiences changed, but those feelings stayed the same. My family almost never ate out, and when we did it was special. Report Cards were always important to my parents, rewarding our hard work helped motivate and teach us about perspective and reward. Looking back, those dinners always tasted amazing, because we were proud of earning them. We kept this tradition all through my high school days, which was around the time they built The Village; a new community hub (replacing that of the bowling lanes) which added more unique shops, restaurants, and places for coffee after a good day on the hill. I remember going for treats after snowboarding and catching up with girlfriends the odd time I was free.
After high school, Mountain Biking started to take over everything. I was racing World Cups and was left with little time. What I did need was money, which meant that the precious time I had available was left for work. That first real job was at Park Royal. I worked on and off at lululemon in The Village for essentially forever. Without that job, I couldn’t have pursued my dreams! It gave me the flexibility to focus on racing, was minutes away from the mountains I trained on, and really was just everything I needed.
I can’t count how many lunch breaks I took at Whole Foods or eating dinner at The Village Taphouse after work. I saw so many people I wouldn’t otherwise see, and my friends and I would always joke that The Taphouse was like a high school reunion. Once winter hit, I always had a bit more time on my hands, and that’s when I discovered Karaoke and live music nights at The Taphouse (today they still have live music on Wednesdays/Thursdays and DJ’s on Fridays/Saturdays). A boy I used to babysit as a kid was the manager, and the place really felt like going home for dinner, and still does!
It’s funny reflecting on a shopping centre. Thinking about how much it really impacted my life. Even visiting now, walking into stores I used to work in, seeing all the friendly, familiar faces. Just driving over the bridge and turning right up Taylor Way, headed to my new home in Squamish, I see Park Royal to the left and it makes me smile. I am barely on the Shore anymore, flying and travelling a lot for that Mountain Bike career I used to struggle to get by on. Whenever I’m headed to the airport, or into West Van, I always make sure to stop at Park Royal, even for an afternoon, because the memories I’ve created there as much as anything, remind me of home.