Friday, December 7, 2018

The Loving Barbers Co. Opens on Portage Avenue

For over 40 years Mike's Place was a fixture as old style men's barber shop on the south side of Portage Avenue east of Ferry Road. Surrounded by banks, grocers and restaurants, it was smack in the middle of where guys needed to be to get a few things done at the same time and making sure they didn't look like cave men.

At age 78 Mike retired after 57 years in the business and 41 of them in the building that displayed barber ship poles on either side of his business. I recall him saying he hoped a barber shop would follow in his space.

His wish came true. The Loving Barbers Co. has opened a second location after their Corydon location. Essentially, they inherited the empty space as even the old barber chairs left with Mike. The plentiful Playboy magazines likely left as well.

The space has lovingly been restored and made over. It is a little brighter than the men's clubhouse feel of their Corydon location and the green paint makes you think 1960s St. James but it also feels rich and warm. Will former Mike's people go? I guess the big question is the cut, the price and the feel of the place. Lots of young guys want a great style and cut. However, most guys would blanch at the price women pay.

In recent years Winnipeg has seen some new barber shops emerge both in malls and independently. As more experienced barbers retire, we have seen many men have to hunt for a new place. The Loving Barber Co. on Portage feels like they want to continue the tradition and make guys feel like it a return to the old. The look is right out of the history books but the cuts as modern as they come.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Kenaston Becomes Luxury Car Alley

It first started off with Mercedes Winnipeg opening not just a dealership but a large collision center at Kenaston and Rothwell. The dealership which was located on Portage Avenue now is closer to customers who can see their cars every time they drive down the busy street.



The plans for a new Birchwood Group double luxury dealer is set for just north of Trans-Canada Brewing Co. on land presently occupied by industrial users such a hydro and construction.

The dealers will be a Birchwood Lexus and a combination Bitchwood Janguar/Land Rover along with the supporting service centers.

The completion of this project would in short order turn Kenaston into Luxury Car Alley with Audi, Porsche, Mercedes, Jaguar/Land Rover and Lexus all having locations in proximity to to the Seasons of Tuxedo site.

Give the reclamation of industrial land happening every month this might not be the last luxury car announcement for the area.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Portage Avenue in the 1960s

On Southern Portage Avenue in the 1960s, the Winnipeg Supply clock let everyone know it was time to be dressed up like Mad Men and Women for a warm day of shopping west of Eaton's. Dance lessons from Arthur Murray were required if you were to go to the Winnipeg Beach dance halls.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Latinos Market Open Portage Avenue Location

Latinos Market just open on Osborne in the Village just as a year ago. The population of from Latin America in Winnipeg is small and numbers maybe 25,000. Some of have been here for a generation while a growing number have come for job here and in Brandon and Winkler.

In a previous post I mentioned that the fastest way for newcomers to the province to get ahead aside from a job placement is to be entrepreneurial and open up a restaurant or food market. We have seen that from every European national and ethnic group to come to Winnipeg. Now we are seeing it from Asia, Africa, Middle East and now Latin America.


Many Winnipeggers travel to and develop a taste for Latin cuisine and want to try and cook that way when they return. The market stores help bring those products into town to serve that group as well as the thousands of Latin residents in the region. The location on Osborne also teaches Spanish.

The new location occupies the Kings movie theatre on Portage Avenue. Till recently it was one of the homes for Kings sporting goods and sister company to Royal Sports which has its roots in River Heights on Academy Road in the 1970s. Royal Sports continues to operate in the city.


Portage Avenue West continues to show a renewed resilience with a few new businesses taking off. Latinos Market joins a list of those businesses that is changing the face of the street.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Portage and Main 1964

In 1964 the new Royal Bank building went up next to the recently completed Dreman building which has replaced the old post office building. Trolley buses still ruled Winnipeg streets and the present site of the Richardson building was a gas station and later a Hertz dealer till construction began. Coca Cola and Royal Dutch Shell had clock billboards on Winnipeg's most famous street corner.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Portage Avenue 1970

In 1970 Portage Avenue was still a going concern commercially. The Bay and Eaton's were still packing them in. There were several 20 storey towers that went up all over downtown bit the most iconic was the over 30 story Richardson Building seen here all lit up in more or less its first year. The Northstar Inn (Radisson) on the right was up at near the same time built by the owner of Famous Players. It contained the city's newest and swanky movie theatres as well as highest parking lot in Winnipeg.

It was still possible to find a gas station downtown. A Gulf station is seem on the south side of Portage Avenue.

The north side of Portage was always a little less glamourous. By 1980 it was in full decline as the city plunged to the hardest economic times since the Depression.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Osborne Village Fall 2018

Osborne Village is going through a transition of new services, restaurants and shops. Fitness and cannabis stores have located to the high density area as gift shops and clothing stores have given way to expensive leaves and online retailing. Some are calling it luxury blight.

Still, on any night of the year, there is more street life than anywhere in the city. Fall of 2018 and it is busy.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Salisbury House in the 1950s

1950s picture shows a Salisbury House in a Texaco gas station beside a Shea's building. Shea's was Winnipeg's beloved beer company on Colony Street that became Labatt's. It is presently where Great-West Life's newer building resides. Where is this picture's location?

Monday, October 15, 2018

Sunrise Records Open at St. Vital Centre

The record store is dead. Long live the record store!

The demise of HMV Canada has been exploited by Sunrise Records Canada. Initially taking over many locations of HMV and adding to their Ontario holdings, the plucky record retailer has carved out a niche for company.

Music buffs and their vinyl records are being supported by artists who also release in this medium. The sound differs from digital and appeals to people who love tangible music that they can touch, feel and hear.

The stores also carry higher margin merchandise of the entertainment industry. The kids might want a digital Scarface file or streaming video but they also want a T-shirt, poster and commemorative chainsaw. Those generate profits along with record, DVD and book sales.

There isn't room for multiple retailers in this market but one company with both a mortar and online presence is finding a way.

HMV Records closed in St. Vital and Sunrise didn't initially grab it. Polo Park and Kildonan Place got stores instead. However, as the company proved itself, Sunrise has decided to open in St. Vital more or less where HMV once was.

There are still major gaps to be filled in many malls as the result of Sears Canada closing but malls would do well to grab niche retailers like Sunrise to fill the rest of the mall.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Wheelhouse Cycle Club Coming to Seasons of Tuxedo

Wheelhouse Cycle Club is scheduled to open this winter at Seasons of Tuxedo. The building is well under construction right now and signage should be soon. It joins the crowded gym market where Goodlife and Altea have already announced two very large clubs in the south Winnipeg area.

Across North America some specialization in fitness has seen yoga carve out a niche and so it goes with spin class cycling. Wheelhouse is a Saskatchewan company and Winnipeg is its third location.

The Outlet Collection mall is still very much a new mall and building around continues at a brisk pace including a large amount of multi-unit housing. In fact all along Sterling Lyon housing is being built. It will be interesting what the next census reports.

There is no doubt going to be a shake-up in the fitness industry soon. Much investment is taking place in clubs currently operating and many apartments are providing fitness equipment. It is possible demand will keep pace but it is just as likely a price war will emerge. It really depends on how many clubs are built. In fairness, we were undeserved for many years. Now, there are big choices out there to be made.

Expect an announcement for Wheelhouse opening soon.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Biggest Goodlife Fitness Coming to Bishop Grandin Crossing

I have been following Bishop Grandin Crossing moves through city planning but it has been a long, slow process. It goes back nearly five years now on the site of the old Sugar Beet Lands proximate to the north of Bishop Grandin as it connects to the west of Pembina Highway. It is easily seen on the drive on Bishop Grandin between Waverley and Pembina Highway.

The Bus Rapid Transit overpass has been under construction along with the route these past two years. It nears completion even now. The long planning process and master plan for the site is done and now we are getting an idea of who the new residents of this mixed office, retail and housing development will be.

Make no mistake about this. Bishop Grandin Crossing is as massive a development as Seasons of Tuxedo is. It involves an extension of two city streets into the site as well as access to Bishop Grandin. It will also include bike paths, sidewalks and of course, the BRT station. It is huge.

The first confirmed tenant of the site will be Goodlife Fitness with the largest location in Manitoba at 60,000 square feet. To put that into perspective of the other clubs: the bigger Goodlife Fitness buildings in Winnipeg are around 25,000 to 30,000 square feet.

This move by Goodlife has been long in the making but hastened by the announcement of Altea Fitness being built in Bridgwater which will also be 60,000 square feet. Lest anyone think there is not enough people to sustain either gym or will possibly feed of the other gym locations, keep this in mind: the population is going up in the area in the tens of thousands.

Bishop Grandin Crossing will house a great many residential buildings with a few thousand people calling it home. Moreover, this is an invitation for people just across the river in St. Vital to have access to services like Goodlife that have yet been able to find space in the packed suburb.

Is there a limit to all this growth? Sure there is. The area that might be affected is Kapyong Barracks. If the thinking there was retail, it might not be able to find what they are looking for. More on that in another post.

As for Bishop Grandin Crossing, all the pieces are now being put together and having a major national gym like Goodlife locate there is just the beginning.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Manitoba Legislature 1913

The Manitoba Legislature started to be built in 1913 and was complete in 1920. The quarried stone was often stolen as it was stored beside the building and used for the home of the rich and shameless builder. This delayed the opening by a year.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Pho Hoang Opens on 235 Portage Avenue

Pho Hoang Vietnamese restaurant has opened fat 235 Portage Avenue. The previous tenant Kim Long Chinese food closed a while ago. A steady migration of Chinese food establishments have opened along Pembina Highway. It is difficult to say if it is the main reason for some of the closings elsewhere but it probably has had an impact.

The location at 235 Portage is one of the pretty buildings just a little bit down from Portage and Main. If the street opened, it is possible the location would see even more foot traffic in front of it. As it is, there are some well established businesses and organizations along the street but that a little dash of excitement would be good.

The new 40 floor residential tower will be going up over the next two years just off the intersection and Hyatt Place Hotel is under construction on Portage East. More people are coming. It will also be interesting to see what happens in the ScotiaBank building now that they de-camped to True North Square.

Suffice to say that more people are living downtown than in the past number of years. Some areas such as around the BellMTS have come alive from multiple developments. However, you don't have to be too far removed from that sphere to die of neglect. 

Restaurants are a tough business at the best of times. This is a big move for a business in operation since 2010. It will be interesting if more businesses can extend the streetlife beyond 5 PM and what sort of foot, bike and car traffic they will get that will stop by and get involved.

Lots of interesting things are happening but the new dynamic has yet to reveal itself downtown.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

India Palace Express Coming to St. James


Palatal Express has been closed at 3128 Portage Avenue for a bit now. It one is several closed restaurants along Winnipeg's main corridor. There are a wide variety of reasons for the closures. Families retiring from certain locations such as Mandarin or declines in popularity such as Robin's. Some other such as Gasthaus Gutenberger closed in the last two years without much explanation despite being around since the 1990s.

The restaurant business is tough and even some powerful players such as Stella's have been stung by the popularity of Skip the Dishes. Restaurants that have big rent increases or two many locations can be lose business quickly or find the margins too tight. Sometimes certain foods just lose the public's flavour.

With three other locations for Palatal Express in the city, it might have been overkill to operate a fourth location, especially just pick up and take out joint. It also might be that Mongolian was just not a big pull in St. James. Whatever the reason, a prime location near Grace Hospital became available but not for long.

Take pick up and take out format continues but it has become a location for Indian Palace Express. Owned presumably by the same family that owns India Palace on Ellice as was the Indian Place Express food truck.

There is no doubt that Indian food has continued to enjoy popularity in Winnipeg while some European has seen some decline, especial French and German fare. It is possible that this Indian restaurant location will hit the spot in St. James.

As housing and commercial rent prices go up, I suspect we will continue to see a re-think of much of the Portage Avenue strip as it extends from West End to the Perimeter. It is not unfair to say that much of the commercial building stock could stand a re-fresh. Expect to see some of the new entrepreneurs do exactly that in the months and years ahead.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

185 Smith Street Public Housing in 1971

185 Smith under construction in 1971 for Manitoba Housing and done in 1973. Background Canadian Grain Commission completed in 1972. The 21 story building sold this past year to private company for housing after three years empty.

The Richardson building in the background was completed two years earlier in 1969.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Let's Talk About Langside Street - University of Winnipeg

Once upon a time the University was one block square. Portage Avenue was it's beautiful face although for years it was a bit crumbly despite green verdant land right to the street. Balmoral was one tough border street with belching buses idling at the station and and even toughener Mall Hotel with seemed to be a permanent police presence right through to the 1980s. Furby Street was greener and a had a few private apartments where students stayed and older residence that were slowly decaying, one filled with dozens of cats. The rump end of it all was Ellice where Lockhart hall rose high up to the street but unlike the front of the campus had no curbside appeal despite it being one of the newest part of the campus.

Welcome to the 1980s. The building phase of the University of Winnipeg in the 1960s and 1970s was over. The decade of cuts began even as student enrollment began. Classes were cut, programs cut. Men's hockey team...gone. Men and women's residences...shut down. They became offices since there was no budget for new infrastructure. Infrastructure was aging every year, tuition going up and a recession was smacking Winnipeg harder that anything since the Depression.

Despite all this University of Winnipeg coped, had excellent instructors and and enjoyed a strong reputation even as students had to attend a year or two more to get the courses they needed because of aid cuts, tuition cuts and courses that were not offered the year a student wanted and needed them.

The University of Winnipeg's sports facilities might have been the worst in Canada, Riddell Hall basement where the school volleyball and basketball teams shocked rivals across North America was a disaster. For a dozen years the university begged for funding but everything was frozen in 1977. It was only in 1982 that a new government allocated spending of over $8 million for what became the Duckworth Centre. The University of Winnipeg Student's Association was so committed to the new building that they allocated money from students via a vote.

Flash forward to 2018 and the U of W has spread across four blocks and more of the city. It has seen the return of student residences, one of the largest downtown daycare centers, restored facades and re-construction of Wesley Hall and top notch Collegiate, a science building, enhanced student dining, better bookstore and and grown its programming and student services. It isn't perfect but until 1984 when the athletic fieldhouse was built, the university was in decline.

There have always been businesses near the university that students patronized but there was no student bar per se. Students and faculty sometimes went to the Union Centre down the street for cheap beer. A close by Legion served the same purpose. But it was haphazard and was not truly a center of student life. The three main cafeterias on the one block campus is where people ate and then left.

As for stores, there were a few across the street like Mother's Music that students went to the 1980s. Supreme Racquet Courts also had students who were members played but campus life was such that very few actually lived in the area. As a result, nightlight was quiet in the proximate area of the university.

This has changed with students living downtown and the numbers keep growing. I will save the discussion about south of Portage Avenue for later. For now, let us focus on north Portage surrounding the university, specifically the west side.

The stretching out of the campus along Portage west has begun a transformation of the street.

To be fair, business has been on the street for eons catering to local neighbourhood and ethnic communities, However, what we are seeing now are changes that seem to reflect that students don't just come to school for classes but live in the neigbourhood.

The stretch of street along the southside of Portage Avenue between Young and Langside would appear to affected by changes in the campus now surrounding them. Some businesses have been there for decades but other are popping up to serve the university. Take the case of Langside where some tiny businesses such as book store, hair salon and a restaurant have set up opposite Richardson Science Hall and McFeetors Hall.

Arzate Hair Salon, Elemental Book and Curiosity Ship and the new Not A Waffle (replacing Yo Tea) sit small and pretty across from the university. Just on Portage itself in the same building is a convenience store, nightclub and most importantly for students, a cellular phone store.

It takes a while for a neighbourhood to change organically. It can come in stops and starts but the presence of a local population and one not prone to a bunker mentality to change things.

Without a doubt, the move of the University of Winnipeg westward down Portage Avenue is changing thing. Further down the street in the block after the science complex, the Good Will restaurant and entertainment space would seem to be a good example of the change we can expect a larger student population can bring.

Everyone will have to keep an eye out for how things are being transformed on what once was a commuter campus.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Altea Active Fitness Coming to Bridgwater in 2019

There was talk about it in July at a zoning meeting but no major announcement till now that a major fitness center was set to be built in Bridgwater. It will likely be the second largest fitness facility in Manitoba at 80,000 square feet and costing $30 million. The largest gym in the city in the University of Manitoba's Active Living Centre at 100,000 square feet.

Bridgwater is one of the fastest growing parts of the city and as such, there is growing demand for services and shops. There have been complaints about the lack of city provided recreation in the area. Local officials have assured that this won't be left completely to the private sector to provide.

The Altea appears to be a branching off by the principals of the Movati Fitness group from Ontario. David Wu and and Michael Nolan have been spokesmen  in regards to the company. Nolan was once Canada's most decorated decathlete till retire a number of years ago.



The three floor gym is aimed at families. No price point has been suggested yet but back in July it was indicated that it was in the range of Winnipeg's YM/YWCAs.  The amenities will feature a all women's fitness area, a children's play area, a saltwater pool and splash pad, climbing wall, yoga, weight room and cardio, a Himalayan salt inhalation room, skating and a ninja course.

The competition for fitness members is likely to get heated between Shapes, Goodlife and Altea in the next several months. And this can only be good for everyone in Winnipeg.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Blady Middle Eastern Open on Portage

In the windows at Portage Avenue at Craig Street is the promise of Blady Middle Eastern coming soon. And the signage has gone up on the building. The previous tenants, a window and door company, a hobby shop and a restaurant, all have re-located in the last year.

There has been an influx of middle eastern, Arab and African cuisine in recent years as immigration as refugee numbers have risen. This is a common phenomenon with different groups looking to make a mark in private business. The way for the whole family to be involved is often a restaurant or food market. And so it has gone with Chinese, Indian, Italian, Greek and Portuguese families to list just a few.

Winnipeg has had an embarrassment of riches food-wise. This addition is fairly sizable on part of the street that has electronics (Advance) and music stores (Yamaha).

The Portage Avenue, Polo Park area has seen a burst of Middle Eastern fare go up. It is difficult to know if this is a result of any particular trend or of the reasons for it.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Main Street Winnipeg in 1949

Photo courtesy of University of Winnipeg Archives. In 1949, it was proper to have a hat and step inside the protection of the bollards when waiting for a streetcar on Main Street just beyond Portage.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Old Pictures of The Bay Downtown

Taken in 1930 from the air, The Bay was very prominent in the city. A surface parking can be seen at the rear. Eventually an Imperial gas station would be on the near corner.

Also pictures from 1930, angled parking right outside the doors of HBC. Awnings because no air conditioning. It got hot inside.

The picture is after 1932 because that was the year the Winnipeg Auditorium was built. Hard to tell what year but angled parking remains on Portage Avenue at this time. The Winnipeg Art Gallery is decades away and even the Mall Medical building has not been built. That would come in 1947. A gas station can be seen in the narrow corner future art gallery. Believe it was a British American gas station.

This was the Bay parking lot in the 1940s.

By 1947, the Mall Medical was built across the street and the parking lot had an Imperial Gas station. In Memorial Park of the future, the University of Manitoba science faculty is seen.