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A night to remember

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Story by Tom gierasimczuk

At Brian Jessel BMW’s 11th annual Cabriolet Charity Gala, no expense was spared to bring together some of Vancouver’s most influential and powerful people, exquisite food and beverage, and a massive fundraising haul for the Pancreas Centre BC and the BC Cancer Foundation

“This is better than the Oscar wrap party!” yelled a woman in a yellow, body-hugging sequin dress as she sipped a fizzy Moscow Mule handed to her by a smiling bartender manning the VIP section bar. When the same fellow offered to pour Veuve Clicquot on her plump bivalve at the Boulevard Kitchen + Oyster Bar table, she nodded excitedly, put her arm around her partner—a dapper, bearded Hollywood producer lookalike— and exclaimed again:

“Definitely better than the Oscar wrap party!” All around her, radiating outward, were more than a thousand other revellers, a mélange of local celebrities, entrepreneurs, fashion icons and socialites.

Many had queued before the doors opened at 7 p.m.— mixing and mingling across every square inch of the luxurious Boundary Rd. dealership, made to look even more so by elegant curtaining and towering columns that held the promise of the dazzling stage shows to come later in the evening They flowed past each other like the churning waters of the Second Narrows Bridge, swelling in numbers as the twilight turned to night.

The tailored and shiny and hungry munched on the finest finger foods from Joe Fortes, Cocktails & Canapes and Joey Restaurants, then drifted to the plentiful pouring stations and bars stocked high with Belvedere Vodka, Red Truck Beer, Charton Hobbs Wine selections and hand-selected Santa Carolina Chilean reds and whites. 

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Emboldened and curious—and in need of some space and air—some explored the auc – tion items, so generously donated by some of Vancouver’s finest retailers and busi – nesses.

Not surprisingly, the Tofino getaway to the Wickaninnish Inn needed a second page of bids, as did custom dinners for two at restaurants like TKTKTKTK. Two hours after the doors had opened— and an infinite amount of reunions between old friends and new connections—the light lowered and Jim Murray, managing partner at Brian Jessel BMW, took the stage in a velvet black jacket, open collared shirt and crisp pocket square.

With his warm wel – come and easygoing banter with the highpowered audience, he may as well have held a sign that said “Welcome to My House.”

He was quick to honour the founder of the event and the dealership, especially given this year’s 30th anniversary of Brian Jessel launching his business. Before Jessel even said a word on stage, a video flickered on the giant screen. “

I know how you hate surprises, Brian,” Murray grinned. “ But we couldn’t resist.” And with that three-minute montage of Brian Jessel’s three decades in Vancouver silenced the guests, as brown suits and orange tones of the ‘80s melded with the various retail locations of Brian Jessel’s empire from south of the Fraser to its current location today. Murray then had the good people from Veuve Clicquot wheel out a four-foot tall bottle of the famous bubbly in honour of the man he called his mentor and friend. When Jessel finally did manage to get a word in, it was one of gratitude to his team

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and customers. “But we’re here to raise some money for a terrible disease,” he said, sharing that his dad, Bernie, succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2010. Just to ensure the message got through, Jessel invited Dr. Dan Renouf from the Pancreas Centre BC to further contextualize the importance of funds to fight this indiscriminant killer.

“Now let’s raise some money,” said Murray as the live auction part of the show kicked off, featuring some of the most exciting big-ticket items. Hands flew up into the spotlight-cut air as the allure of giving and getting invigorated the crowd. After an impressive haul, it was time to kick back and soak in the Holt Renfrew spring fashion show, the first time that the luxury retailer has held one out-of-house, in a partner venue.

As pretty young things strutted and spun, the anticipation grew for the main event: an intimate—but very kinetic—performance by Juno-nominated, Hollywood/Universal recording artist Shawn Hook. The boy from Nelson—just back from relentless touring on the strength of his Canadian platinum single Sound Of Your Heart didn’t disappoint, rocking through more than a dozen tracks of his infectiously styled soulful brand of pop.

As the toned, tailored and tanned bounced and gyrated, Brian Jessel sat nodding in time, surrounded by friends and colleagues, surely planning the next 30 years of giving back and driving forward.

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