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Meet the man behind the holiday displays at Vancouver's Kingsgate Mall

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2022-05-22 Ashley Moliere

In the back corner of Vancouver's Kingsgate Mall is a small storeroom where Glenn Anderson keeps stacks of boxes filled with holiday decorations.

Anderson is the mall's building manager, but in his spare time, he creates vibrant displays to celebrate Canadian holidays — bright lights and sleigh bells at Christmas and scarecrows and pumpkins at Halloween.

At Easter, he created a display — fit with toy bunnies, colourful eggs and fake grass — inside an old storefront in the middle of the mall where people could stop and take photos. He also dressed up as the Easter bunny and greeted customers.

Anderson, 54, says he started creating the displays during the pandemic to brighten people's moods.

"Through the pandemic a lot of people were really depressed and it was really hard on people," he said.

At the mall, Anderson's colleagues say his efforts have paid off.

"It shows a lot of love," said Tricia Hill, the owner of Stoxx Vintage clothing store. "It's the small gestures that everyone appreciates now."

Anderson said his love of decorating spaces goes back to his childhood growing up in Surrey, B.C. He remembers his mom putting up their artificial Christmas tree, but when she was at work, he'd go outside and cut down a real tree and redecorate it.

"I just always liked that sort of thing," he said through a moustache-covered smile. 

Manoj Kumar, owner of Chai69 Cafe, said many customers stop to enjoy the displays, taking photos and starting conversations with others about what they see. 

The decorations make people happy, he added.

Hill said Anderson's decorations have helped make the mall a welcoming place for customers to visit. 

All the decorations that Anderson uses are kept in a back storeroom, pictured here, at Kingsgate Mall. He said he likes to find ways to repair and repurpose old decorations. © Ben Nelms/CBC All the decorations that Anderson uses are kept in a back storeroom, pictured here, at Kingsgate Mall. He said he likes to find ways to repair and repurpose old decorations.

Anderson's efforts to help people extend beyond the mall. 

When new transitional housing for people with mental health issues opened up a few blocks away on Kingsway earlier this year, Anderson put together care packages filled with store coupons and household essentials to welcome the residents to the neighbourhood, according to Julie Wright, the mall's senior property manager.

Some business owners in the mall and neighbourhood expressed concerns about the new housing facility worried it might bring more crime. Wright said she was impressed by Anderson's positive attitude.

"I just thought that was profound," Wright said.

Decorating is 'therapeutic'

Kingsgate Mall is home to 31 businesses, including everything from a grocery store to clothing stores and furniture shops.

The unique character of Kingsgate has been in the spotlight a number of times over the years. There was a satirical Twitter account that poked fun at the mall, and a tribute song in which one Vancouverite describes the mall to the tune of singer Adele's "Skyfall," garnering nearly 65,000 views on YouTube. 

The mall is also known for offering photos with Santa at Christmas for a fraction of the price of other malls.

Anderson started working at there as a temporary employee two years ago and got the job as the facility operator last year. He says he previously worked for another maintenance company and has experience in the hospitality sector.

Anderson said he has an artistic side, and also enjoys drawing, painting and gardening. He adds that doing these activities is "almost therapeutic" for him. 

He said he usually begins planning out each holiday three to four months in advance. It gives him time to repair and repurpose old decorations, and shop for new ones. 

Anderson said he's hoping to collaborate with the Musqueam First Nation to do something to honour National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21.

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