Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Boulevard Pub and Bistro Opening Soon

The White Tower restaurant had been a long time fixture of Roblin Boulevard near the Charleswood bridge. It one of a series of Greek restaurants that were mainstays of the old municipal downtown just west of the Assiniboine Park entrance. Sometime last year the White Tower quietly closed and went dark.

It is part of the generational change taking place in the neighbourhood that saw the Charleswood Hotel and Charleswood Department Store all close in recent years. The hotel is now a large Co-Op Gas while the store has been taken over by Boutique La Femme. Hopefully, the English owners there have as long a time as the last owner. Originally known as La Grand Femme when they opened in 1986, they have lived a nomadic existence bouncing around Academy Road, Grant Park Mall and Tuxedo Junction. Perhaps the old Charleswood store will give them the space they finally need.

The sudden closing of U Weight Loss Clinic on Roblin and another vacancy next door is another opportunity for a retailer or restaurant to move into the area.

It is difficult to say why White Tower closed. My opinion is that dining in Winnipeg has changed to include more sports minded choices. And by this I mean that the Winnipeg Jets are transforming the landscape. Just recently a newspaper story talked about the Ichiban did a major reno to make sure they captured some of the Jets crowd that thought eating there meant a 2 hour allotment of time. The new Japanese restaurant has a pub-like component for a sportier crowd and faster turn-around time to get to the game.

I cannot say for certain that Asahi Japanese restaurant closed because of the Jets. My impression of that Charlewood restaurant that took over KFC's old spot is that competition from other Japanese places and a higher pricer fare hurt them. It certainly was a beautiful place inside. Several days ago I mentioned that Asahi was taken over by the Capital Grill. This appears to be the sportier choice of people nowadays with beer on tap.

The old downtown of Charleswood has had it's fair share of Greek family restaurants. Only Pappas remains as Matheo's and now White Tower have closed. So what will become of the White Tower? Well, the word is that it has taken over by longtime Charleswood business owner and resident Darcy Bruneau.

Old White Tower restaurant. Next door Redeemed closed as well.
The Bruneau family owned the Charleswood Hotel for 17 years and continue to operate hotels in the province elsewhere. The hotel is now the site of a 20 pump Co-Op Gas, convenience store and car wash.

When White Tower closed, Bruneau bought the place. Shortly after that, the clothing store Redeemed closed next door. This represented an opportunity to expand the footprint of the restaurant. The signage on the build reads Boulevard Pub Bistro. By all account they have been on tap and will be an upscale pub and bistro experience. A sportier crowd will also be able to watch Jets and Bombers games inside.

It will be interesting to see how these new restaurants will do and if this is the beginning of a new trend of places geared to the sport crowd.

Monday, April 20, 2015

LEGO Store to Open in Polo Park Mall?

It was rumoured for a while but now LEGO has posted job postings to manage their new Winnipeg LEGO store in Winnipeg. This is a much beloved toy and has a fair share of older audiences who love it as well.

What no story has revealed is where the store will be going except to say somewhere in the Polo Park area.

If we continue to believe that the those talking about LEGO coming to Winnipeg seem to know something then let's assume they also had an idea of the location. The story was being promoted was that they were to move in next to the Disney store on Polo Park's second floor.

Disney and LEGO would appear to be a kill combo especially with a few years of Star Wars bringing new fans into stores.

Polo Park continues to benefit from Zellers closing in the mall and Target never coming. The 22 stores in the old space occupied by the department store will generate far more buzz and more profit into the number 1 mall.

LEGO doesn't have that many stores in Canada so this is a huge gain for the city and the mall. Expect a lot of excitement when it opens.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Capital Grill and Bar Opening Soon

Formerly Asahi Japanese Restaurant
It sat empty over the winter but spring has seen some construction at the former Asahi Japanese Restaurant. The signs have gone up and a Facebook page started to promote the opening of Capital Grill and Bar. By all accounts it will be a place to get a beer on tap.

The Asahi was a fine restaurant and a gorgeous space but struggled to stay busy every night of the week. Prior to being a Japanese restaurant it was the long time home of KFC in Charleswood. The entire mall had a makeover and the only survivor was Subway. A Starbucks took over the former Robin's location.

The closure of the Charleswood Hotel had left a real gap in the watering hole department. The arrival of the Winnipeg Jets has also created real demand for a place to watch the game, have a drink and share some food. Some people have migrated to Sorrento's at the Charleswood Mall. Others have probably gone further afield.

The closure of the Asahi has made room for the sportier crowd. It will be race to see who opens first as there is another restaurant about to open just down the street. More on that in a future post.

There is a limited supply of rental space in Charleswood. For the last few years, the vacancy rate has been generally good but to be sure, there are not as many places for dinner and drinks. Pappas, a Greek restaurant has been a mainstay. Just recently White Tower restaurant closed. For the older crowd, some might remember Matheos on Roblin Boulevard near the west park entrance. Nowadays  it is occupied by company offices.

So welcome Capital and hope that new traditions in the neighbourhood are formed.

Friday, April 3, 2015

What Next for Target Location and Polo Park Plaza?

Outlet Mall and Hotel for Polo Park Plaza?
The Polo Park Plaza Target might be closing on April 12 but plans were already afoot for the 600,000 square foot complex north of Polo Park. The retail present currently located there is Marshalls, Bed Bath & Beyond, Mark’s, Atmosphere and Destination Maternity. In recent month's a Cora's has opened up adding to the amenities.

The loss of the Target is a blow to be sure but interest in the site the building stands on has to be high. It is a modern building with a parking lot protected from the elements. Some suggested Lowe's Home Improvement but I don't see that happening as most lumber yards require a drive in area to pick up supplies and unless substantial changes are made to the site, it seems unlikely. More possible takers might be Nordstrom's or la Maison Simons from Quebec that is expanding their department stores across Canada.

Even if the Target building has to come down before it is palatable to to another operator, I suspect the location will be too goo to pass up indefinitely.

Interestingly enough, other spots inside Polo Park Plaza may help solidify the whole mall as a hot spot. Shindico as developer wants to put an office, hotel, other bigger retailers and a 150,000 factory outlet mall with underground parking on the site.

Given that Outlet Collection of Winnipeg is well underway at Seasons of Tuxedo, this could be a foot race to to see who gets done first. My bet is that there is no way to catch up with Tuxedo although the appeal of being close to Polo Park might be a siren call for some.

It is a tough time for retailers to be sure. Several retailers have stumbled and failed or had to re-organize. All things considered Winnipeg could have been much worse hit by the closure of Future Shop. Winnipeg only lost two stores in the 60 plus stores shut down. A Regent Future Shop closed several months ago as well. Online sales from giants like Amazon are changing the market. Is it no wonder that Amazon is looking at drone delivery of product? At some point, when does the market reach saturation point on the roads for delivery service?

The one thing that the Polo Park area would probably like to put in in his housing. That option is off the table due to the nearby airport. If the rules had been in effect a few years ago, no apartments would have gone up in that area of St. James. The rules pretty much make the option difficult of not impossible to do today.

Target might be closing by Polo Park Plaza is probably going to be successful and once the location of the store becomes available, there are likely to be retailers bidding for it.