Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Jollibee Coming to Winnipeg Polo Park Area

It has been a race in Canada to see who will get the Philippine-based Jollibee restaurant's first location in Canada. Toronto and Winnipeg have been at the forefront of that battle.

Now it is confirmed that Jollibee's is coming and will be located north of Polo Park at 1400 Ellice near the McDonald's and next to the building with Pita Pit and Starbucks..

The plans would seem to indicate that the most popular restaurant in the Philippines will located in a new building with a drive-thru in the re-developed 1400 Ellice Avenue shopping area just north of the Polo Park Mall.

The excitement this is likely to bring for many in the community can't be understated.

It will be interesting to see if other people in the city take to the unique tastes of this restaurant as no fast food place is quite like it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Real Canadian Superstore Click and Collect

This will be the second attempt at e-commerce and groceries in the last 25 years by a major grocer. The first attempt failed on poor technology and delivery services were just not at a level that inspired confidence or popularity. It took this long to try it again.

Loblaw's, owner of Real Canadian Superstore, makes Manitoba their 4th province to adopt the Click and Collect program of shopping. The service starts Superstore Portage Avenue location and Superstore Bison Drive location this week. They will the 60th and 61st locations across Canada to offer online shopping and pick-up. Superstore Sargent Avenue and Superstore McPhillips Street location next week.

To use the program, as customer will access the 20,000 item website and fill out their grocery order and then send in. They will have access to all the specials, discounts and other offers of the day. Once the order was sent, 10-12 personal shoppers who fill the order which includes being very picky over produce. They have a scanner that tracks their time since they have to have it all available for a pick-up with an estimated price and two hour window.

The customer arrives to a reserved parking area out front of the store. Sadly, you have to go inside to pay at this stage and a average of $3 to $5 service charge on top of your total grocery purchase is added. After that, the items can be taken to your car by yourself or by staff.

There will be unlikely any delivery service since it would require vehicles capable of keeping food cold and fresh.

Superstore is not the only company out there offering online shopping but with their participation, competition will be strong across the city. For many people, this could be a real time saver for a minimum charge. The bricks and mortar stores face huge competition from Amazon and this seems to be their answer in challenging that.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Main Street Co-Op Closing

The Co-op 1441 Main Street didn't last long. Two years. It isn't closing as a result of poor business. No, Co-op was interested in upgrades, a new lease or outright ownership of the former Safeway on Main.

Instead what has happened is that the landlord has found a new tenant and needs Co-Op out by end of June. The company hasn't taken this lying down. The ran a full page ad in the Free Press expressing their view and indicated that they would be keeping their Co-Op pharmacy in the area in a closed Scotiabank across the street.

Co-Op remains with three grocery stores in Winnipeg. The Red River Co-Op itself has plans for a few more gas stations, convenience stores and car washes in the city.

The former Extra Foods nearby is now a No Frills store run under one of the Loblaw's banners so the new tenant seems to unlikely be from that company. This raises the question of just exactly ranks has a better long term occupant on this section of Main Street. If it is indeed another food store, this is a very bold move on their part.

There continues to be a lot of jockeying around in the Winnipeg grocery business. Sobey's takeover of Safeway continues to have its challenges not the least of which is what to do about redundant stores. Save On Foods or Co-Op seem ready to grab space and there is new news that Walmart may set up a strictly grocery business across Canada.

There likely will more afoot in the coming months and it will continue to alter what was once a fairly static business in the city.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Goodlife Fitness Coming to Grant Park Shopping Center

In 2015, Goodlife Fitness indicated an interest in all of the Targets that were closing in Canada. Some scoffed at this without realizing how many former Eaton's locations had been taken over by the national gym many years back. Still, at least in Manitoba, the pursuit of four fair sized locations seemed a longshot for a variety of reasons due to size or location.

Grant Park just north of future transit station. High traffic area coming soon
There has been no official announcement but it has been confirmed by sources in the real estate world that Goodlife is about to occupy one of the old Targets. That location is the Grant Parking Shopping Center.

At first it was thought that Canadian Tire would occupy the whole location. However, the renovations underway reveal that the retailer has taken 86,000 square feet of the old space. The part that is left is still a massive 34,000 square feet section immediately behind Pony Coral.

The map included shows how Canadian Tire will share the space with Goodlife. At 34,000 square feet, it will easily be the biggest location in the city surpassing Kenaston

Canadian Tire opens July 1st and Goodlife Fitness, if all the rumours are true, looks to be in the next several months.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Rady Family Donates $30 million to University of Manitoba

Ernest Rady
So who is Ernest Rady and how is it that he has donated $30 million to a university faculty that he didn't even attend?

To understand that, one should know something about the family. In this case, Ernest Rady is honouring his father Max Rady, the first Jewish university graduate of the University of Manitoba medical school. Max married Rose Bronfman, sister of Sam Bronfman who would go on to own the Seagram liquor company.
The Bronfmans have been one of the legendary families of Canadian business and it all started in Manitoba. At one point as the family moved into alcohol sales, they owned the Bell Hotel in Winnipeg. After the purchase of Seagram in 1928, Sam made his headquarters in Montreal. Other family members remained in Winnipeg including sister Rose.

Together Max and Rose had three children Ernest, Majorie (Blankstein) and Mindel (Olenick). Both sisters continue to live in Winnipeg and are well known philanthropists.

In 1951, Sam Bronfman divided assets of the booming Seagram company among his eight brothers and sisters including Rose. Sam took the greatest share which led to squabbling and lawsuits. Only Rose supported Sam by saying that he was being modest about how much the liquor company's success depended on him. Rose had $1 million shares in Seagrams in 1948 and used the money to create a company divided into three parts. Both daughters got 30% and Ernest received 40%.

Ernest seemed to inherit the drive of his father and went to the University of Manitoba himself and earned degrees in law and commerce. At 16, Ernest had to take over the company as a stroke had befallen his dad. The investments he made were successful. He struck out to the United States in 1966 where he made his home in San Diego where he bought property.

In 1967, he formed American Assets which including shareholdings from his branch of the family in Winnipeg. Later, he founded publicly traded real estate investment trust Westcorp which eventually was sold in 2006 and became part of West Fargo. All in all it was a dizzying array of assets in finance, real estate, oil and gas and media. It also included at one time a part ownership in the Major League Baseball team San Diego Padres.

The year 2007 was a sad and dramatic year for the Rady family. Shortly after the death of a beloved brother-in-law in Winnipeg, Ernest, wife Evelyn and a maid were attacked in a home invasion where they were tasered and robbed. In 2008, the world-wide recession hit him very hard and around $1 billion was erased of his wealth. At one point, he went to an ATM only to find his card was rejected.

The downward turn in the market was again caused family feuding where Ernest was sued for more money from American Assets. He eventually won but there were a lot of regrets when he called the nephews, in-laws and others "ingrates."

Ernest Rady continued to have assets and the market recovered and with his money he decided to continue his long work in charity. In San Diego, he was a legend for donations to the Children's Hospital and the University of San Diego for a business school. Nearly $200 million was donated in his adopted hometown.

Winnipeg was not forgotten in all this and Ernest Rady and his sisters donated shy of million to the University of Manitoba medical school for the Mindermar professorship in human simulation​ in 2009.

Most people in Winnipeg if they know the Rady name at all associate it with the Rady Center at the Jewish Community Campus in Winnipeg. Since 1997, the Rady Center has served as the recreation heart of the Jewish community. However, it also serves the greater Winnipeg community as well. Many donors made that campus possible including much from the Rady family together.

Although 50 plus years might have separated Ernest and Evelyn Rady from Winnipeg, they never stopped their family connections with the city. He became a legend in an already legendary family. It is not difficult to imagine the family gift to the University of Manitoba might not create some new legends.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Oh Doughnuts Open Today

It took a lot longer to open than anyone imagined but Oh Doughnuts opens Monday, May 9 AM. The conversion of the former beauty shop at 326 Broadway took a lot longer to get right but according to the company website, they are ready to go.

This is one of a number of restaurant and coffee shop openings that have occurred in the downtown in recent months.

Broadway has always been one of the grand streets of Winnipeg so this well anticipated shop is likely to be well embraced.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

MTS Sold To Bell Canada

MTS began in 1908 when the government bought up Bell operations in the province due to concerns over pricing of the product. As a Crown corporation, the utility eventually bought up all remaining telephone operations in Manitoba and was named Manitoba Telephone System in 1921. The service was the first to begin the 999 (later 911) emergency number in North America

From the 1950s to 2001, the head office for MTS was located on Empress across from Polo Park. It is now the Clarion Hotel and Original Pancake House. The head office located to the former Bank of Montreal regional headquarters on 333 Main Street where 1200 employees work at MTS Place. Total employees number 2,700.

MTS was at the forefront of innovation throughout the 1970s and 1980s with Telidon and Grassroots specializing in electronic services. The international services of MTS played a negative role in the 1988 provincial election when it was reported that MTX, a Saudi Arabian subsidiary lost $27 million. The NDP lost that election on a narrative of mismanaging into deficit several Crown corporations.

In the 1980s, MTS mobility and cellular services took off but both NDP and Progressive Conservatives pushed hard to extend MTS landlines across the province. Party lines still existed into the 1980s and 1990s and many communities pushed hard to get linked up. Despite warnings of the the cost and suggestions that cellular service might be the way to go with these communities, expansion went on pellmell till debt rose to hundreds of millions. Competition in long distance rates removed one area of unfettered profit. In five years, three of chief executives passed through the company.

By 1996 MTS had $800 million in debt and a need for $500 million to replace old equipment. All Canada was in the middle of a recession and revenue was drying up. In a controversial move, the Progressive Conservative government led by Gary Filmon privatized MTS. The new company was widely held at first but four years later 20% was held by Bell Canada and this led to $300 million of new investment. The new company went from Manitoba Telephone System to Manitoba Telecom Services. Nearly 40% of the workforce lost their jobs in the search for profitability.

The fast growing Internet saw MTS buy up a number of service providers including Escape Communications to become the dominant player in Manitoba. By 2003, the company became a majority force in every part of the telecom industry. They held 98% of local phones, 77% of long distance, 70% of cell phone service and 60% of Internet services. They also had a strong hand in security alarm systems. The next area they looked to enter big in was their innovative MTS TV which slowly began to expand in Winnipeg in 2003.

In a moment of triumph, MTS was awarded the naming rights to the new downtown arena in 2004 which in 2011 became home to the Winnipeg Jets.

The much fear privatization of MTS seemed to result in a strong private, independent and local company. Still, it was assumed by many this very strength also made it a takeover target by big players like Telus, Bell and Rogers. In 2004, MTS sought to forestall that by becoming more of a national player. They bought Allstream and their fiber optic system across Canada.

It soon became apparent that turning Allstream into the strong nation player MTS wanted was not in the cards. At every turn it seemed that entry to other areas of the Canadian market west or east would be expensive and not in the interest of the company. MTS faced major cellular competition but still retained 50% of the the market. In 2015, Allstream was sold and once again MTS became a takeover target.

It was announced this week that Bell will buy MTS for $3.6 billion. The details are sketchy still but the promise thus far is that Winnipeg will become the western headquarters for Bell and that hundreds of millions will be spent to upgrade infrastructure. To assuage the federal government in regards to competition, Bell has promised to sell Telus 1/3 of the combined company's wireless customers. Bell has said that their western operations will be headquartered in Winnipeg and cover 6,900 employees over four provinces and territories. It is unclear how many jobs will be in Winnipeg as there is likely to be a few added and a few lost.

Also unclear is how prices will be affected. Most critics suggest Winnipeg could see a rise of 40% in short order. It is also unclear how MTS TV will be affected as it moves to become Fibe TV. One thing that is clear is that it is the end of an era. It would be a shame to not ensure some guarantees on competition, jobs, investment and the headquarters.

Bell is a massive company that seems to go off the rails every 10 years to try and become a conglomerate and re-trenches with tail between its leg. The telecom user seems to suffer with price increases for their efforts. It is not wrong to ask how this deal will be good for Manitoba and the Canadian consumer.