Legacy lives on for founder of Friday Night Market in North Van

The Shipyards Friday Night Market will kick off another season of North Vancouver waterfront fun on May 3, but there will be something missing this year in and amongst the food trucks, vendors and bands.

Ingrid Doerr, the market’s founder and a long-time community champion in North Vancouver, passed away last September, just as the 2018 Shipyards Friday Night Market season was coming to an end. The Night Market lives on as her legacy, a community event that brings people of all walks of life together to meet, eat, and revel in a stunning urban setting overlooking Burrard Inlet and the Vancouver skyline.  

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“The possibilities were always endless,” says Monika McLachlan, Doerr’s sister, describing what life was like around the woman who willed the Night Market into existence. “She just took the reins and flew all the time. She just did it.”

The Night Market may have been Doerr’s most visible community effort, but she had a hand in countless other initiatives, starting with a beloved clothing and apparel company that she started in the early days of the North Shore mountain biking scene. Doerr worked as a bike courier in the late 1980s and ’90s, zipping around downtown Vancouver delivering packages. Her apparel business was born out of necessity – McLachlan says her sister set out to build her own backpack, one that wouldn’t hurt her shoulders on her long days on two wheels.

She made a pretty great backpack, and then kept on making things. Thus was born Roach Apparel & Armour, a brand that became famous for making cool clothing and rugged protective equipment. Roach quickly became must-have equipment for mountain bikers who wanted quality products that would protect them on the rough-hewn trails in those early days of the sport. 

The brand’s slogan was “You Can’t Kill a Roach,” and it was fitting for the equipment that Doerr sold, says McLachlan.

“A roach is indestructible, and that’s pretty much what her stuff was,” she says. “It was a ballistic nylon, which is non-tear. … She had a really huge following in the mountain bike world.”

Doerr’s devotion to community spirit eventually branched out from the mountain bike world as she began creating and hosting North Shore events. She organized beer festivals, community Christmas tree displays, and a “Canadian-made” market during the 2010 Olympics. If it was a community-minded project, Doerr was in.

“She was a lot like I am,” says McLachlan. “If you have the opportunity to help somebody and do something community-orientated, you do it. She did it.”

Legacy of founder of Friday Night Market in North Van lives on_4
Revellers gather every Friday night from May to the end of September for the Shipyards Night Market on the North Vancouver waterfront. This year’s market season kicks off on May 3 - photo supplied Lower Lonsdale BIA

In July 2011 Doerr started an ambitious project, running markets on separate nights each week at several North Vancouver locations, including Lynn Valley, Central Lonsdale and the Shipyards. The Shipyards Market, featuring about a half a dozen vendors and a couple of food trucks, is the one that stuck. Over the years the market grew, adding bands, a beer garden, kids entertainment and a whole lot more vendors and food. Doerr worked tirelessly to keep it all running and growing.

“I don’t think she slept much,” says McLachlan, adding that Doerr was well-known for her late-night emails. “She had huge ideas about what she wanted to do.”

Last year the market was bigger and better than ever, but early in the season Doerr began to fall ill, suffering from liver problems, according to her sister. It came as a surprise.

“She always ate really healthily, she was a vegetarian. We just assumed that she was fine,” says McLachlan. “We thought she was getting better, because she told us she was, and so we didn’t think anything of it. And then she checked herself in at the beginning of September, and that was it.”

Doerr, age 50, died on Sept. 21, one week before the last Night Market of the season. The following Friday, family members, vendors, and old friends held a memorial for her during the final Night Market of 2018. A large number of mountain bikers came out to pay their respects as well.

“They were quite devastated to hear about Ingrid,” says McLachlan, who lives in Alberta but was frequently back on the North Shore, helping Doerr run the market. McLachlan made a point of visiting all the vendors and food trucks that night to share in their grief. 

“It’s like a family with the vendors and the food trucks there,” she says. “I went around to every single one of them and made sure they were all good. They were all looking forward to the next year, but certainly not looking forward to it because Ingrid wasn’t there. I was trying to reassure them that I would be there, in spirit with Ingrid.”

Legacy of founder of Friday Night Market in North Van lives on_5
Keeping the spirit of Ingrid Doerr's Night Market alive, sister Monika McLachlan says visitors to this year's market can expect to see some new food trucks and vendors, as well as familiar faces - photo supplied Lower Lonsdale BIA

McLachlan, in fact, has picked up where her sister left off, taking over the lead role organizing this year’s market. Doerr used to do huge amounts of work – too much, McLachlan guesses – and so one of her main tasks in the lead up to 2019 has been delegating a lot of those jobs to multiple people, she says.

“Ingrid used to do it pretty much all by herself, and that was a daunting task. It overwhelmed her, I’m pretty sure.”

Carrying on her sister’s legacy will mean that the market stays focused on building community, says McLachlan, adding that they are going to donate some proceeds to the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation and VOKRA, a charity devoted to rescuing orphaned kittens.

“She really helped a lot of people start in their business or their lives or whatever it happens to be,” says McLachlan. “This year, that’s what I kept in mind when I was screening the vendors and people that wanted to come into the market. What was top of mind to me was that I wanted to give some new people a chance as well. That’s why you’ll see a couple of new food trucks, a couple of new vendors, you’ll see some new bands. There still will be the regulars who have always been there, but you’ll see some new ones too. That’s always what Ingrid was about.”

Taking over for her sister has been an emotional journey, says McLachlan.

“It’s been difficult,” she says in a soft voice, adding that the work also brings her comfort. “It’s easier to deal with because you’re in the moment. I’ve been receiving a lot of messages from her. She’s around.”

The Shipyards Friday Night Market resumes May 3, running every Friday night all summer long from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. until Sept. 27.

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