Thursday, April 20, 2017

DSW Opens May 3 in Winnipeg at Outlet Collection

One of the only exterior building signs up already at Outlet Collection of Winnipeg mall is for the DSW store which opens May 3. The 20,000 square foot building will be the first location of Designer Shoe Warehouse in Manitoba and likely the flagship for years to come. The store will be the 24th location in Canada

DSW will feature all the latest innovations the company has on offer. In Winnipeg, for example, the store will have 1,500 square feet dedicated to women's handbags. On March 1st, DSW Kids was launched at 8 other stores in Canada. Winnipeg will be the 9th location and DSW Kids collection will includes footwear for toddlers through teens, over 300 styles of footwear for boys and girls. Sandals, boots, dress shoe and sport shoes will be available in kid size.

In the last several days, Outlet Collection signs have been mounted on two towers facing out to Kenaston. A shocking amount of work appears to going on inside and outside the mall. It is hard to imagine it all comes together in a few weeks.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Mobil Gas Coming to Winnipeg

Well, not just to Winnipeg but all across Canada.

It was announced that Loblaw's, the parent company of Real Canadian Superstore and various offshoots like Real Canadian Wholesale and others, has sold all their gas stations, convenience stores and carwashes to Brookfield Business Partners LP. The total number of stations will be 213 of which several are in Winnipeg.

Imperial Oil Ltd has partnered with Brookfield to bring the Mobil brand to Canada through Exxon Mobil Corp. of the United States. Expect the re-flagging to take place over the next several months. The sales nets $540 million for Loblaw's and does not include any refineries.

The deal comes on the heels this week that all of Chevron's gas stations and refinery in Canada which are located in British Columbia have been sold to Red Deer, Alberta-based Parkland for $1.5 billion. This will make Parkland Canada's biggest gas retailer. Parkland owns assets in Manitoba through the purchase of the Pioneer gas stations in 2014 outside Winnipeg.

Last year in Winnipeg, 9 Safeway gas stations were converted to Shell stations.

The Manitoba market will likely see no benefit from the name change. It is the lack of competing refineries that mostly has an impact on prices. The only thing that can push price is aggressive grocery store cross promotion with gas purchase but has limits.

Mobil is one of the more American brands in terms of being recognized. Look for them coming soon to a Superstore near you in months to come.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fionn MacCool's Coming to Grant Park in June

Grant Park Mall continues to see construction as Goodlife Fitness is preparing the remainder of the old Target location for a fall opening. Winners is also under construction beside the Liquor Mart with an opening date of December of this year.

In the parking lot beside Cambrian Credit Union along Grant Avenue construction is taking place. Today we learn it is a Fionn MacCool's restaurant. It is slated to open in June and will be out 4300 square feet. It will feature an outdoor patio. The Irish pub already has a location on Regent since 2014 in the former Kelsey's location and soon for Brandon.

The restaurant started in 1996 in Canada and is now coast to coast. The addition of a location at Grant Park should cap off several years of construction and retail upheaval at the 45 year old mall. By the end of the year the mall is likely to be fully leased with a configuration and anchor businesses will be around for some time.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

New Peavy Mart for Fort Richmond Plaza

One would think with space on Pembina Highway at one time being so highly sought out that Fort Richmond Plaza and the big empty space beside a two year super Sobey's Extra would be attractive. And yet the former Zellers sat and sat some more. Perhaps it was the developer just waiting no matter how long it took to get the right tenant. Hard to say.

The transformation of Pembina Highway and the south Fort Garry, Fort Richmond area continues. It is the new Chinatown in and around the University of Manitoba. Travel down the street and it is possibly to bus seating with no English at all written. Many of the businesses are very focused on the Asian market that lives, works and goes to school in the area. Still, according to the census the area is still diverse and with St. Norbert and Richmond West nearby opportunities presented themselves.

Fort Richmond is a mature neighbourhood seeing many homes being used for university housing. The Fort Richmond Plaza had been somewhat dated for 25 years or more. After a while, there was no denying that the mall was in a free fall.

The large modern Sobey's was one of the first good news story in a long while in that end of town. And now another store will take over part of the space next door in a completely re-worked former Zellers.

Peavy Mart will open their second city location using 33,000 of the 42,000 square feet space. It will be smaller than the first location on Nairn but still sizeable for the chain. The store will carry agricultural goods, greenhouse and garden supplies, housewares, sporting goods and a list of supplies unique to the store.

Peavy's location on south Pembina is attractive to people just outside city limits coming into town for supplies. Deeper into the city is probably not a good a match for their customer base and for what they sell. In the end, the main commercial route into the city from the States runs down Pembina. It should always be possible for retailers to take advantage of that despite whatever local changes are taking place in the neighbourhood.

Having said that, can it be long before we see a Chinese mall in the area if space comes available. I think it is inevitable.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Emerson Duty Free Shop to be Re-Built

Emerson Duty Free Plans
The Emerson Port of Entry is slated to begin a two phase three year improvement to the roadways starting this year and running through to 2020. Three additional lanes will be built, Coinciding with that construction, the 20,000 square foot Emerson Duty Free will be demolished and replaced with a new building of the same size.

Around 40% of the customers are truckers who are forbidden to bring alcohol across. The new store will take into consideration this dynamic. There will also be a new focus on online sales.

Billions of product pass through the port and commercial and leisure drivers pass through Emerson 24 hours a day. The Emerson Duty Free is seeking to capture more of those passersby and shop instore and online.

A few decades back, Emerson Duty Free placed scores of billboards for the shop along Highway 75. Stan Kubicek from CKND was the spokesman and his face was on their ads all over.

Back in the very early 1980s both Pembina and Emerson border crossings were one floor sleepy looking brick buildings. First Pembina and then Emerson stations were built up to the configurations they are now. Since then a few upgrades every few years have happened. The last on the Canadian side in 1999.

Stay tuned for updates on this project. Everyone with old pictures of the Emerson Duty Free , please contact me.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Anytime Fitness Coming to Polo Park and Osborne Village

Former American Apparel
On the Anytime Fitness list of future clubs, it says that the former American Apparel at 108 Osborne and the former Blue Bomber seasonal store at 915 Empress will be seeing new gyms in the 5000 square foot range very soon.

I have written on this blog how important the fitness industry has been in changing how retail and malls appeal to consumers. Goodlife Fitness, Snap, Anytime Fitness, Orange and yoga studios are filling empty spaces and bringing people to various destinations.

Goodlife is well under way on construction at Grant Park mall and the mall will near fully leased soon.

In the last day, the largest Snap Fitness in North America located across the street from MTS Centre opened up their garage doors to the delight of passersby. That open style is certainly unfamiliar on Portage Avenue.

Osborne Village has been bemoaning the changes happening on their street. American Apparel had some concerned although the store's demise was international and had nothing to do with the location in general. Still, it was a large spot and it seemed like it might be a hard place to fill given the rent in the area. Some suggested it would only go if divided.

The Village's problem is too few landlords who established themselves very early on in the game and who want what the market will bear. That has been a lot in recent years. It is why some retailers have run to Corydon, Sherbrook and elsewhere to establish themselves.

There are certainly some gyms in condos in and around the Osborne Village. Snap is down the street and seems to be doing well. An Anytime Fitness in the middle of the population of the area should be a welcome addition. Given the growing density of the area, there should be enough room for two mid-size gyms.

Hope that Goodlife might come to the area is a stretch is not unfounded but it costs quite a bit of time and money to find the right location for the size gyms they require. It doesn't always require parking as noted by their Portage location but it really has to be right spot.

The vitality of Osborne should continue. Sustainable neighbourhoods can't only be swishy stores and restaurants.

The other Anytime is locating in the Walmart parking lot very near Polo Park. A series of stores have come and gone to the retail strip there so a change of pace is probably welcome. A few hotels are close by, lots of people shop and work in the area. A mid-size gym should work.

In this wired up world of online everything, the fitness industry is showing people still not want to go out. More retail areas are starting to catch on.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Latest on Seasons of Tuxedo Outlet Collection of Winnipeg

It might not look like it will get done by May 3rd of this Spring but a lot of work goes on every day at Seasons of Tuxedo and the factory outlet mall Outlet Collection. This past weekend the first of hundreds of new employees were hired for the stores.

In recent weeks Dairy Queen and Pronto Pizzeria have opened and IHOP, McDonald's and Good Earth restaurants are all nearing completion for construction. There are 10 more restaurants yet to begin construction.

The retail market continues to be shaken up with openings and closures. It will prove challenging for other Kenaston malls to stay relevant but an increasing trend of adding housing within the selected area around retailing is a gamechanger in the industry.

The addition of luxury car retailers and a Hilton Hotel also means that Seasons of Tuxedo will be no ordinary development.

The countdown to opening continues.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Movie Review: Power Rangers

Power Rangers is the third film installment of the popular kids program Power Rangers that ran on the FOX network from 1993 and now continues 24 years strong. The series used footage from the Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger that aired on Japan's Asahi network produced by Toei Studios. How the 16th season of a longtime running show featuring superheros became a sensation in North America is very much owed to Haban Entertainment, an American/Israeli company that would purchase Japanese entertainment product and dub it for the English world-wide market. Along with Bandai Entertainment that did merchandising such as toys, it was a formidable enterprise.

The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as a TV series featured five teenagers given powers by the wise Zordon to combat a extraterrestrial threat in the form of the evil Rita Repulsa.  The California setting interspersed with Japanese shot action and fresh faced American actors made for great kid entertainment.

The TV series spawned a movie in 1995 called Might Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie featuring the TV cast. It did well enough at the box office but the critics were fairly negative. A second movie was released in 1997 called Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie. It fared worse in critical response as well as box office and the show retreated back to its TV stronghold.

The nostalgia for 1990s entertainment inspired the original producer Haban to re-imagine a new Power Rangers franchise and a number of producers and writers passed through the development stage. There are five writers listed which is not usually a good sign. Eventually, John Gatins (Real Steel) was listed as final writer and Dean Israelite (Project Almanac) was director. It is obvious both were chosen for the fantasy. teen and superhero characteristics of their other Hollywood fare.

A new group of actors was enlisted to suit up for the Rangers and some cameos of old cast were sprinkled into the story. The selection of some name actors cast such as Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games) as Rita Repulsa and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as Zordon generated excitement. For Cranston it was a return to the Rangers as he voiced Twin Man and Snizard from the original series.

The 1990s Power Rangers was shamelessly kid fare but today's audience while nostalgic now look for something more in their movies. Dacre Montgomery playing Jason the Red Power Ranger, Naomi Scott as Kimberly the Pink Power ranger, Becky G as Trini the Yellow Power Ranger, RJ Cyler as Billy the Blue Power Ranger and Ludi Lin as Zack the Black Power Ranger all have back stories. They are all high school students sentenced to detention.

The audience might feel that there are several lifts from a number of movies and they wouldn't be wrong. However, the young actors tasked with carrying the story are likeable and relateable. The plot of the story is that the previous Power Rangers who were humanoids died defending the earth 65 million years earlier. In the re-imagined movie version, the teenagers are all drawn to the same site where they discover coloured coins that give them powers. While this is happening, a fishing boat pulls up the body of Rita Repulsa who is not quite dead from her last battle.

The fun in the movie is watching the teens figure out their new powers and learning something about themselves and what being a Power Ranger is. The audience learns one of the heroes in on the autism spectrum while for the first time in the genre, one of the five is openly gay. Training of the kids if done by android Alphas 5 (Bill Hader) while a pixelated Bryan Cranston as Zordon tells the recruits they will never get their armoured suits if they won't work together.

Meanwhile Rita (Elizabeth Banks) is tearing up the kid's hometown of Angel Grove creating the moment when the teens become true Power Rangers working together. At this point the movie is a special effects extravaganza marked by the Go, Go Power Rangers song in the background. The Rangers ultimately have to use Zords and Megazords to fight Rita and the forces she sends against our heroes.

Enjoyment of the Power Rangers movie will come from not thinking too deeply on it. If it has a failing, it is that is a whole bunch of things wrapped up in one story.  However, if the audience is set for silly fun, a little nostalgia and a lot of action, they are likely to be entertained by what the new teen Power Rangers are doing. Bring your popcorn!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Movie Review: Goon: Last of the Enforcers

Goon was a top box office success from the moment it was released in 2012. It beat out American competitors from opening weekend and generally garnered positive reviews. Based on the book Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey Into Minor League Hockey by Adam Frattasio and Doug Smith, it tells the story of what it was like in minor league hockey in Canada. The book was picked up by Jesse Shapira and David Gross and adapted for the screen by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg, noted comedy performers in TV and film. Baruchel would also act in the film.

The plot of the movie followed sweethearted Doug played by Seann William Scott (American Pie) being enlisted as an "enforcer" to the local hockey team after protecting his gay, loudmouthed brother Pat (Jay Baruchel). As a goon, Doug is there to protect Xavier LaFlamme (Marc-Andre Grondin, C.R.AZ.Y), a big league prospect demoted to the minors due to a hit sustained from Ross the Boss Rhea played by Liev Schrieber (Spotlight).

The first movie culminated in Doug earning the respect of Laflamme and his teammates and the affection Eva played by Alison Pill (Scott Pilgrim vs The World). It also had him knock out Rhea in the moment everyone was waiting for.

Despite the sheer violence and vulgarity of the film, it succeeded with great writing and acting and felt authentic in its treatment of the subject. Filmed in Portage la Prairie, Brandon and Winnipeg had a passion within it that resonated throughout every scene. Naturally, it was a hit in Canada. Unnaturally, it warranted a sequel. It is rather unheard of for a English language movie to be successful and appear to be franchise material.

The premise of Good: Last of the Enforcers is that Doug (Scott) has retired early as the result of injury at the hands of another enforcer Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell). Now married to Eva (Pill) who is pregnant with their first child, he sells insurance which is a tough adjustment. It is especially hard when the man who knocked you out of the game becomes captain of your team. Motivated to make a comeback, he seeks out Ross the Boss (Liev Schreiber) to give him tips to re-join his beloved Highlanders as a goon.

Jay Baruchel returns as screenwriter with Jess Chabot (Just for Laughs: All Access). He also is back as brother Pat to our hero Doug. However, for the first time Baruchel takes up the role as director. It is an interesting choice because action is as important as the comedy in Goon. A lifelong Montreal Canadiens fan, Baruchel wanted to achieve a certain authenticity in everything about the story and how it looked and felt. Many former NHL players appear in the movie lending it weight in the realism look.

Many of the actors who appeared in the first movie reprise their roles. Foul mouthed coach Ronnie Hortense (Kim Coates), star player LaFlamme (Marc-Andre Grondin) and Eugene Levy as dad Dr. Glatt. Elisha Cuthbert is new. She join as Mary, sister to Eva (Alison Pill). Interestingly, Cuthbert and Baruchel used to co-star in the the program Popular Mechanics for Kids many years ago.

So how does this embarrassment of riches in comedic and hockey talent stand up? Well, it is rude, crude, super violent but like the first movie tender in all the right spots, down right sweethearted, Baruchel as director shows a flair for action that captures the speed and drama of hockey. As writer, he is able to create believable and enjoyable characters. This isn't a movie that only Canadians will like but it surely will be one that we'll get more than others in terms of inside jokes, music and hockey, hockey, hockey.

Ultimately, the story leads to the fight between the enforcers on the ice. The journey to get there is a laugh out loud fun.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Outlet Collection of Winnipeg Opens May 3

Outlet Collection of Winnipeg has announced that it will open May 3 of this year. They will be holding a job fare to hire 1000 staff members. It will take place Saturday and Sunday, March 25 and 26, 2017, at Delta Hotels by Marriott Winnipeg downtown.

These will be the anchor stores:

◦DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse
F21 Red
◦Saks OFF 5TH
◦Old Navy
◦Winners (Opening September)

Here are the other 45 stores to open:
  • Aldo
  • Ardene
  • Banana Republic Factory Store
  • Bentley
  • Bluenotes
  • Boathouse
  • Bombay
  • Bowring
  • Browns Outlet
  • Call it Spring Outlet
  • Calvin Klein Outlet
  • Chatters Salon & Beauty Supply
  • David’s Tea
  • Dynamite/Garage
  • Ecko Unlimited
  • Famous Footwear Outlet
  • Gap Factory Store
  • GNC
  • Guess Outlet
  • La Vie en Rose
  • Levi’s Outlet
  • Lids
  • Lindt Outlet
  • Lucky Brand Jeans Outlet
  • Michael Hill
  • Mountain Warehouse
  • Naturalizer Outlet
  • Perfumes 4 U
  • Quarks Outlet
  • Roots
  • Samsonite Outlet
  • Skechers
  • Softmoc Shoe Rack
  • Suzy Shier
  • The Body Shop
  • Think Kitchen
  • Tommy Hilfiger Outlet
  • Under Armour
  • Urban Kids
  • West 49

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Sunrise Records Coming to Polo Park

There was a lot of sadness when HMV Records announced they were closing. For a time it seemed they were going to big enough and strong enough to last. In recent years they started losing money to changing tastes in how people consume media. Some if due to illegal file sharing but streaming music and video has meant consumers have chosen not to own but rather rent their collections.

HMV had tried to find areas of the market that they could make a profit in such as cultural goods that had a better mark-up. However, the leases inside the malls might have just been too pricey to make the numbers work. In the end, the company folded its tent and called it a day.

Manitobans would remiss if they thought this was the last multi-store record chain in Canada. Sunrise Records has been around since the 1970s and was once thought of as the big five in Canadian retailing along with Sam the Record Man, Music World, A&A Records and HMV. Even Sunrise appeared to struggle and closed the original 1977 built store on Yonge Street in Toronto in 2014.

The downward spiral might have continued save for the fact that Sunrise Records was bought by Douglas Putman, owner of Everest Toys. Instead of closing stores, the new owner started to open stores in Ontario defying the trend. Going against the grain was familiar ground for Putman. As owner of Everest Toys since 1992, he offered traditional quality toys using an online platform and found success in Canada, the U.S.  and beyond.

In 2017, Sunrise had nine locations throughout Ontario when it was announced that HMV would be shutting down all Canadian operations. In the last several days, Sunrise has jumped at the chance to go national and has taken over 70 of HMV's leases including Polo Park Winnipeg.

The re-branding of HMV to Sunrise will be occurring soon. The new company intends to carry more niche market product like vinyl records which is making a bit of a comeback. They also intend to carry more local artists in each market. Like HMV they also will be stocking higher margin entertainment apparel and merchandise.

There is probably room in the market for a music and entertainment store. Like bookstores, there has been a return to old product for the right price and for the niche market. There will never be a return to the grand days when several stores competed on one street for attention. However, well curated and local oriented stores could possibly be the right antidote to an online world.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Movie Review: The Shack

Faith-based books and movies have been a factor in the market for a number of years now. The bible has always been ripe material for storytelling and have scored huge box office and Oscars in decades past. At one point, it was part of an overall market but now it has become a targeted niche.

In 2007, Canadian writer William P. Young wrote a story mainly aimed for his six children. He self-published it. As a result of word of mouth in churches all over North America, the book would eventually reach the bestseller lists and 10 million books would be printed. It wasn't long before Hollywood came calling and Summit Entertainment eventually settled on Stuart Hazeldine to bring the movie to the screen. It was likely Hazeldine familiarity in adapting literary material for film such as Riverworld that sold the studio on hiring the British director. John Fusco (Marco Polo) was chosen as writer.

The plot start off as family tragedy when the young daughter of Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington) is kidnapped and presumed killed during a camping trip in Oregon. Following this, Mack falls into a deep depression until receiving a mysterious letter from a stranger called Papa. The letter asks him to travel to a shack near the camping site where the crime is thought to have occurred. Whatever doubts he has in regards to the letter, he is compelled to go and when he does, he finds a trio of people that shed light on himself and the tragedy of his daughter.

It is this journey that the Christian element drives the story. The trio turn out to be the Trinity of the Father (God), the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. Papa is played by both a woman (Octavia Spencer) and a man (Graham Greene) although it is the female persona that dominates the movie.

Understandably, Mack is skeptical in the extreme and quite angry at God. And so begins a conversation that asks pointed questions about why God lets bad things happen to good people. Worthington and Spencer are very accomplished in making you believe and it is why they do most of the heavy lifting in the story. The actors playing Jesus and the Holy Spirit have meaningful interactions. One particular scene of water walking illustrates this incredible world that Mack experiences.

 Jesus (Aviv Alush) and the Holy Spirit (Sumire Matsubara) are largely unknown in North America. In fact, the young Canadian cast that plays Mack's kids have large resumes. It is the scenes with the children and Mack wife Nan (Radha Mitchell) that will likely make audiences reach for a hanky.

Still Mack's anger and the blame he carries for not being there for his daughter when she was kidnapped wracks him at every turn. His determination to judge and punish the man responsible brings him to Sophia (Alice Braga) who represents Wisdom. She offers him the position of judge and presents him with scenarios where he can not judge and will not.

The healing for Mack only begins when Papa shows him that his daughter is happy and safe in Heaven. It is Male Papa (Graham Greene) who leads him to the hidden place where her body is. They bring her back to be buried in a spot in the garden that was prepared as a resting place.

The ending differs from the book in that the man responsible for the death of Mack's child is never found. Forgiveness is given but justice is not talked about. The likely reason for this is that Mack himself has a death on his hands. It is revealed early on that Mack killed his father who was abusive to him and his mother. The central issue of selective justice is just too much for the film to hold up under. So it was not included. What was included was Mack meeting his father in Heaven and both men forgiving each other.

So how does The Shack stack up? It will probably play well to the niche audience it is aimed at. Truly, there will not be a dry eye in the house. The story is tragic and might be too much for young audiences. And yet it will probably bring many families to the theatre. The movie is a slow conversation about love and forgiveness, healing oneself and healing others. Some people will question the accuracy to scripture or attempting to portray God on film. However, the message of God as being all loving is ably played by the actors in the role.

One criticism is the voice-over narration at the beginning of the film by Tim McGraw who plays Willie, Mack's friend. It is an attempt to explain what is about to happen but is a poor tool in this regard. McGraw does fine in his other acting on the film. It was writer and director's choice to also use him to act as narrator.

The Christian message is very targeted and for this reason, it is probably not going to be understood by an audience not rooted in those teachings. It is difficult for even theologians to explain the Trinity. It is even harder for Hollywood. This weekend might reveal the power of the niche market.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Giant Tiger to Open at 1441 Main Street, former Co-Op

The long awaited answer about what is going up in the former Co-Op store is known today. Giant Tiger will be the new store and it opens November 18 of this year.

Co-Op was dumped from the location even after trying to re-new the lease or even buy the property. It was a bit mystifying why a grocery store would be re-buffed in such a way.

1441 Main Street was a long time Safeway before being sold to Co-Op to satisfy federal competition rules. It appeared that the store was doing well but then the announced closure came. It was speculated that Giant Tiger might be the new store coming in but the building sat empty for some time before today's announcement.

It remains to be seen whether Giant Tiger is a better fit for the area but they are a strong company with food and merchandise so this can't be seen as anything but good for local people in the area.

Sears Home Store on Ellice Closing

Sears on Ellice
Hot on the heels of Sears closing a store in Brandon, Manitoba, Sears has announced that the Sears Home store will close on March 12. The 33 employees can apply for jobs at the remaining Sears or take a separation package. Given the precarious position of the department store across Canada and with the former parent Sears in the U.S., it will be a tough decision for many.

The mall area north of Polo Park where Sears home is recently saw the opening of Jollibee's. The insane traffic though hasn't seem to have helped Sears in the least turn things around.

Sears Polo Park and three other city stores remain but the market continues to wonder how long the company will continue in such a decline.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Movie Review: John Wick 2

The first John Wick movie was a neo-noir revenge movie made in 2014 from a script written in 2012 by Derek Kolstald. Thunder Road pictures emerged as the buyer and very quickly Keanu Reeves was attached to star. Not surprisingly, Reeves was able to suggest and have hired people that worked with him on The Matrix movies. Chad Stahelski and David Leitch shared director work on the film although Guild rules only allowed Stahelski to be listed as helmer with Leitch as producer.

It was this core of people that honed the script to suit Reeves. The character remained widowed but younger than the original story and the action was ramped up. Four months of intensive training in judo and jujitsu as well as close quarters combat was added to Reeve's extensive knowledge of martial arts. For the star, it was a return to form after some less well received films of the previous year or two like 47 Ronin.

The plot of John Wick is that he is retired assassin who only left the business when he found a woman that made him want to leave. His wife's untimely death due to illness and the cruel violence against him and the puppy he received from her to love following her death sets him back on a path of revenge. The only clue to his attackers is the muscle car they stole from him and the motivation behind their surprise assault in his home. By finding the car, he can find them and do what he does best.

The return to the criminal underworld sees him re-connect with old friends, acquaintances and enemies. Eventually, Wick discovers it is the son of former crime lord he worked for who was responsible for the attack in his house. The inevitable conclusion to this is a mix of western along with Hong Kong cinema and noir. A violent pastiche that serves Keanu Reeves well.

The catchphrase "I'm thinking I'm back" suggested a future for the John Wick franchise and the box office success of the first film guaranteed it. The plot for the new movie has the antihero once again coming out of retirement to fulfill a blood oath sworn to an associate intending on taking over the assassin's guild. The setting is Rome where deadly killers take on Wick at every turn.

So how is John Wick 2 compared to the first movie? In short: Fantastic. Easily better than the first in many ways which is saying a lot cause the first movie was very entertaining. It is action packed and world building. The brief glimpse of the world that Jonathan Wick occupies is opened up. The guild of assassins that call the Continental Hotel a sanctuary live by code and contract and are overseen by twelve called The High Table. When Wick returns to avenge the death of his dog in the first movie, he opens himself up to assassin Santino (Richard Scamarcio) asking him to honour a Marker for past services that led to his freedom in the first place.

The chance to return to retirement is denied and when he refuses the Marker, his house is blown up and burned down. Thankfully his new nameless dog survives and the two head to the sanctuary of the Continental where Winston (Ian McShane) says that his life will forfeit if he doesn't honour the blood oath to Santino. Grudgingly, he hears what Santino wants done to fulfill the Marker. It is then that he learns he has been asked to kill sister Giana Camorra (Claudia Gerini) of the High Table in the ultimate gambit of sibling rivalry.

As per actor Keanu Reeves wishes to take story international, the setting moves from New York to Rome where Giana head of the Camorra crime family is celebrating about taking a seat at the High Table. She is protected by Cassian (Common) along with a host of other trained killers. Suffice to say, John Wick is able to fulfill is oath but not quite in the way that he or the audience anticipated.

After accomplishing his task, Wick is double crossed by Santini who sets his top assassin Ares (Ruby Rose) after him. A price is set by Santini who unleashed every killer out there looking to cash in. Actors Common and Ruby Rose play their parts well. Rose as a deaf tattooed and androgynous is a particularly compelling villain.

The world building that takes place is almost like a Bond-like attention to tradecraft. In this case: the world of the assassin. At the Continental and its associated businesses, we see Wick pick his clothes, his weapons and his vehicles like fine wines. His character will converse in Russian, Italian or sign language according to he is associating with. He may be a reluctant returnee to the game but he does so with style. And the characters he meets are juicy parts for the actors and actresses playing the roles.

One inspired casting choice went to Lawrence Fisbburne as the Bowery King. It brought Reeves and Fishburne back together again after their Matrix days. Upon returning to New York, Wick is left with no options other than to turn to the crime lord of the streets to place close to Santini to end the life of the man who has placed a bounty on his head.

The rest of the movie rolls along with explosive action, a touch of humour and a few surprises including the mannequin challenge at one point. The choreography is as good as you will see in any fight scene and the gun play and car chases are exhilarating. What makes it work though is that Keanu Reeves at last once more has a role that could and should be as fun for him as it will be for the audience. Without doubt this movie is better than the first and because of that, it won't be the last.

Monday, January 30, 2017

H&M Officially Announce 2nd Store Opening

H&M has officially announced that they will be opening their second store at Kildonan Place in the summer of 2017. This comes on the heels of their 2014 Polo Park store which has met with great success.

The location appears to be across the hall from a large Urban Planet opening in the summer as well. The new wing occupied the old Zellers and Target space in the mall. Also in that wing appears to a Skechers shoe store and a Hakim Optical. HomeSense and Marshalls are the anchor tenants in that section.

This will be H&M's  84th store in Canada and second for Winnipeg. It will employ 35 people.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Kildonan Place - Marshalls, HomeSense Open April 18

Marshalls and HomeSense have set April 18 as the date they open at Kildonan Place. The old Target has been transformed into a new wing of the expanded mall. The new stores will be accessible from inside the mall. A new mall common area being built at the same time as the rest of the mall's renovations..  HomeSense will lease 21,000 square feet and Marshalls has 24,000 square feet. Original draft of the plans listed H&M coming as well but nothing to report on that sore at the moment.

 MasterMind Toys, West 49 and Cutting Edge Cutlery Co. will also be opening in the months ahead.

Nearly all the major malls in Winnipeg have seen major renovations of the past three years. The closure of Zellers, Target, Kmart and some Safeway and Sobey's locations has caused massive changes in the shopping landscape.

Expect a flurry of other mall announcements in the months ahead.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Polo Park Number 16 Mall in Canada

The Retail Council of Canada released their analysis of the Canadian mall market ending in December and one again CF Polo Park ranks high in their top 30 coming in number 16. It is very likely that Sears is the major drag on why Manitoba's biggest mall does not stand higher. The struggling retailer occupied a lot of space but sales, pedestrian traffic and productivity affects Polo park and St. Vital Centre dramatically.

Polo Park is the only mall to rank in the top 30 between Ontario and Alberta. Nearly all the top malls including Polo Park have experienced recent renovations or expansions. In the case of Polo Park, it was the 22 stores added in the old Zellers location in the past 3 years and the several stores added where Safeway once stood. Harry Rosen also had an expensive makeover.

All the top malls were located in urban centers, tourist areas and near mass transit. Polo Park is in the provinces largest city, one of the biggest tourist draws and has a major bus hub. Winnipeg has few high end retailers despite a higher median income than the Vancouver area. This may speak to the city being less of a tourist attraction than the coast.

Polo Park bought the the recently built former Target store north of the Scotiabank movie theatres. Rumour has swirled that Cineplex Odeon has their eyes set on a space in the parking lot for their Rec Centre entertainment complex. The mall seems to be in no hurry to lease the space and a number of retailers have kicked the tires including Nordstrom, Simons and Canadian Tire. In the case of the first two, they might be on Sears deathwatch as the old retailer continues to wheeze to a possible shutdown. The 300,000 stores will be highly sought after.

In all likelihood, Polo Park will rise in the ranks but until the Sears issue is resolved.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Cirque du Soleil Under the Big Top Winnipeg

It is hard to imagine it now but just as soon as the snow melts the corner of Kenaston and Sterling Lyon will host another big top event. After the enormous success of Odysseo Cavalia horse show in 2015, Cirque decided that Winnipeg was perfect for the Kurios big top performance of their 35th production.

The production under blue and yellow big top tents kitty corner to IKEA will feature Kurios which premiered in Montreal in 2014. The show will run June 2 to June 25 and is a fantastical steampunk tale. Set in the late 19th century, it is the story of an inventor who creates a machine that that re-invents everything in time, space and dimension. The Seeker as the inventor is called interact with amazing characters in a world that only Cirque du Soleil can present in all its glory.

True North, Jets owners, once again bring the big top to the city. It is the first time that Cirque has done a show in Winnipeg not inside the MTS Centre. However, the Kenaston and Sterling Lyon location has proven to be a winner.

The 2017 year will prove to be a busy one with many festivals, concerts, Canada Summer Games and Canada 150 celebrations. The draw of a big top event will just make it even more exciting.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sears and Macy's Closing in North Dakota

This week the collapse of department stores in the United States hit North Dakota hard. It was announced that Macy's in Columbia Mall was closing and it was announced that Sears in West Acres was closing.

Macy's has been at Columbia at Grand Forks since 2006. Prior to that it was sister store Marshal Fields and before that originally in 1978 a Dayton's. The mall also heard the news that long term tenant Zales Jewelry was closing as well. A huge hole of over 100,000 square combined feet and just under 75 employees have lost their jobs. The last time they had so much space is when Target closed and moved across the street and it took many, many years to bring Scheels Sports in to replace it.

Meanwhile in Fargo at West Acres Mall, the Sear store is slated to close as well. The store has been an anchor at the mall since 1972 and employs just over 50 people. This comes on the heels of the K-Mart closure in October at Moorhead, Fargo's counterpart across the state line in Minnesota.

Sears and K-Mart have the same owner in the U.S. and have been struggling both in the U.S. and Canada. Sears in the U.S. sold off the bulk of their interests in Canada just a few years ago. Macy's is part of a large department store group and  has been closing stores for the last years.

Most of the trouble is being placed at the hands of online shopping and particularly Amazon. However, Sears and K-Mart were losing customers for several years even before Amazon took off. Macy's could be a victim more of changing tastes.

For Winnipegers, it will be a bit shocking not seeing stores they have known for decades. For North Dakota, it will be devastating in terms of the jobs and overall success of these malls.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Manitoba: 2016 Our Not So Horrible Year?

It was a depressing year for some people across Canada and the world. A lot of factors probably accounted for it. Elections don't bring out the best in some people. The economy remains mixed. War mars several areas of the world and refugees suffer for it. A number of beloved artists in literature, film and television have passed away. Many people have had personal family, work and other challenges this year that have left not at their best.

A recent poll asked Canadians how they felt about 2016 and the only place that had signs of positive belief was in Manitoba. So what would account for a annus mirabilis versus a annus horibillis? The poll didn't drill down into why Manitoba polled differently. Did Manitoba suddenly have a soaring economy? No. Did Manitoba have the best year ever for weather? No. We did have a good year in arts and sport. It was another solid year of festivals. But did this all contribute to us being more positive about things than others?

No one can really know all the factors of each individual person in the province. For some who lost a loved one, it could have been a truly terrible year. Lost a job, relationship problems, health issues can all have an affect.

In general though, let's speculate on why Manitoba might be feeling a little better about 2016 and positive about 2017.

1. Economic growth. The province has seen growth that is tangible in that people are seeing construction, new businesses open and more people working and seeing paychecks. RBC confirms they expect Manitoba to take lead on GDP growth in Canada.

2. Population growth. October to this past October was highest growth in Canada for population. People can see it in the streets. It's busy and busy attracts people.

3.Cultural Strength. Most festivals continue to show resilience from JazzFest to Country Fest and from Folklorama to Folk Festival. The organizers, programming, volunteers and attendance made the province attractive for things to do almost every weekend. And let's not forget theatre, ballet and dance.

4. Sports. Jets didn't make the play-offs but the draft produced one of those rare talents in Patrik Laine that excites everyone in the NHL. The Bombers did make the CFL play-offs and had a great final half of the season. We'll be still debating that last field goal attempt for years to come. The Goldeyes won the American Association Baseball championship in a very exciting season! Our curlers always make us proud as well. Lastly, the amateur athletes at every level and age and sport find support and interest from an abundance of Manitobans.

5. Politics. A new mayor of Winnipeg and a new premier of Manitoba took over the province and while there are inevitable criticisms, they remain relatively popular. An initial sense of renewal marks the the beginning of the mandate. It probably helped that there was no spring flooding or extreme forest fire season that would have represented major challenges to government. People seem patient within reason to let the leadership figure out a path in 2017. A new PM federally also seems to remain generally popular early into his mandate.

6. Family. Every year families go through life, death and change but anecdotally, it seemed more people were doing it together and coming together. For decades Manitobans have spread themselves across the continent for opportunities and employment but a lot seem to have been attracted back because of family. It helps fuel much of Manitoba's present optimism.

There are sore points to be sure. The Pas and Churchill had a horrible 2016. Glimmers of hope are there but it was a bad year. First Nations life remains the challenge of the province in terms of making concrete improvements. Deficits. The problems of service, spending and taxation never go away. Crime. Still too much of in Manitoba. Substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol plague the province and the county in general. De-criminalizing marijuana is coming but Manitoba still has basic issues with alcohol abuse and with fetal alcohol exposure. It is not difficult to see how some of the bad issues appear to be has linked together as the good issues.

What Manitoba does not appear to be is anxious or overly upset the way other jurisdictions are. That could change but for now 2016 was not bad and 2017 would look to okay so far to denizens of the province.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Amici's and Bombolini Restaurants Closes

At first it was word on the street and then media in print, TV and radio talked about the closing of Amici's and sister restaurant Bambolini after New Year's Eve. To be sure they had a very good run over 30 years and was often remarked as being one of Canada's finest eating establishments by publications who judge these things.

At a combined 170 seats for Amici's and Bombolini and with 30 staff, the restaurants represented fine dining for Winnipeggers for a very long time. Parking was always an issue at its off Broadway location. The restored heritage building that it occupied had no parking of it own and relied on street parking in front of and beside it. In three decades most Winnipeg residents will acknowledge there are more cars and traffic to deal with everywhere we go. It is easy to be discouraged if you are going to the ballet or theatre and you end up parking a great distance in January cold.

Owner Brian Knight acknowledged that a change of location was probably warranted as many as five years ago. However, would have been no guarantee of success. Asahi Japanese restaurant down the street left Broadway for Charleswood and lasted a few years before shuttering. Dubrovnik on Assiniboine shuttered when its land became too valuable. They didn't attempt a move as part of the charm was the heritage location.

There has been a lot discussion about the closing.  Fond memories, worry of an end of an era and speculation on dining and the direction its going have all been hot topics. It's true that it represents an end of an era but that's not the end dining on Broadway dining. It should be noted that right next door to Amici's is Cafe 22 serving Italian dining with lovely windows to the street. While true, it is a different experience it can be said that competition played as much of a role in the closure.

Amici's was open for lunch as well but in 30 years the competition from food trucks on Broadway was legendary. The politicians, lawyers, civil servants and others wander up and down the street for good food experiences. The storefront eateries that have opened have been Starbucks, Tim Horton's, Subway etc. Oh Doughnuts and Fools and Horses have found a niche as well.

In the last five years something else has changed the food landscape. It is the Winnipeg Jets or rather let's say live sports. Many places have changed their dining to a grill or pub style restaurant from casual to fine dining places. In short, the flat screen TV and high definition quality picture and more sports have transformed restaurants.  In some respects, it has killed nightclubs as well because the mingling experience minus the dancing is part of the new dynamic.

In the last 30 years we have seen the evolution of a chain restaurant style that is unique to Canada when compared to the United States. The Keg, Moxies and Earl's have evolved from their more casual counterparts in the U.S. but less white tablecloth than a fine dining restaurants. To be truthful, there are few if any restaurant groups in the U.S. who have carved out this niche. When Amici's started out The Keg was still comparable to more casual fare in the U.S. Since then it is a pricier and more evolved dining room.

Winnipeg has probably never seen a greater time in terms of restaurant diversity than it has now. It is extremely competitive and some locally owned as well as national chains will fall. Just this week Barley Bros at Polo Park Empress announced they are closing and will eventually move downtown. This would seem counter intuitive since their location has parking now and they will move to where parking is not free and harder to find. What it does say is that the market supports one idea over the other and you have to be fleet footed.

Will something move into Amici's old spot. That is very good possibility. The major investment of having a kitchen, washrooms and space laid out has already been made. Everyone should watch the space since the next big thing might be on the way.