Monday, September 30, 2019

Forever 21 to Close All Stores in Canada

The first store opened in Winnipeg in 2011 at Polo Park. It was a massive 34,000 square feet and crowds lined up at 2 AM to go inside. It was joined by Forever 21 Red at Outlet Collection of Winnipeg at Seasons of Tuxedo in 2017. That store was 26,000 square feet.
Now all 44 stores in Canada will close as the U.S. struggles into bankruptcy. No word on how the Canadian stores were doing but it would not be the first times stores were closed in Canada to save the U.S. stores. Hello, Sears.

For Polo Park this represents a major blow. Both Kildonan Place and St. Vital Mall are going through multi-million developments to fill the Sears closures and re-fresh the malls. Garden City has already addressed their Sears problem and malls like Northgate have worked on the Zellers/Target closures.

Polo Park has done nothing yet and will go another Christmas without filling the spot of a major anchor. Now, another huge store is closing. Three malls in town have added fitness centers generally in the 30,000 square feet range. As far as Sears goes with its 300,000 square feet...who knows.

Retail as we know it is changing fast. Expect housing to go up in malls, on top of malls and on mall parking lots fast.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A Little Pizza Heaven Coming to Regent and Day

A Little Pizza of Heaven was approved for Regent and Day at the Committee level for their new sign at the former location of Pizza Pizza and before that Pizza Hut. The local Councillor added that exterior colours (now orange) be changed to colours matching the sign.

This will be the fourth location for the pizza restaurant that will be trying to make it where an international Goliath was as well as top Winnipeg group. From humble beginning on Portage Avenue where University of Winnipeg students once munch on their fare, they have thrived in Osborne, St. James, St. Vital and Regent.
Regent and Day is a prominent corner in Transcona and hearkens back to a time when the street was the main commercial drive for a city. It still is although malls have made it more difficult. Still, it is places where you can hang your hat and take-out and have delivered that can thrive.

Look to see them open in the near future.

Bed Bath and Beyond in Grand Forks to Close Thanksgiving

Grand Forks and Fargo have to be wondering when it ends. One retailer after another is closing in their cities at a pace that is breathtaking. And now another has announced it will be closing in Grand Forks. Bed Bath and Beyond has given U.S. Thanksgiving in November as a timetable of its closure.

There will be 20 workers affected by the closure which has been blamed on a failure to renew a lease on land adjacent to Columbia Mall. Stores in Fargo and Bismarck will remain open. The store has been a fixture of Grand Forks and a favourite for Manitoba shopping for 18 years.

Trips by people to North Dakota and Minnesota the most recent long weekends have been greeted with shock at the devastating closures. They don't even come close to what has been happening in Canada.

It would appear that West Acres in Fargo and Columbia Mall in Grand Forks are trying to re-vitalize their malls with with so many store closures, it won't be retail that fills all the spaces.

Meanwhile in Winnipeg Grant Park, Northgate, Garden City and Kildonan Place have all gone through or are going through major upgrades that fill lost retail space from the last three years.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Kenaston Goodlife to Close and Relocate in 2020

Well, the news is officially out. Staff and members have been informed and now the public is being made aware. Kenaston Goodlife, the first co-ed for the company in Winnipeg is closing in 2020 and moving to their much larger location at Bishop Grandin. All staff will move to that club and present members will find the terms of the memberships continue in the new fitness centre. Obviously, every member of the gym should speak to managers to get details that are relevant to their own membership but it goes without saying that efforts are being made to make the process a smooth one.

Alas, the massage and athletic therapy clinic will not be making the move to the new club. Space at other clubs for Goodlife is also being re-purposed where at one time they all had massage therapy clinic rooms. Attempts were made to find me space but the nearly $30 million being spent means that every corner of the Goodlife clubs in the city is being examined to be competitive with the booming fitness in dusty. Where once there was several massage therapists working within Winnipeg clubs, I am the last along with my athletic therapy colleague. The last I heard I was the last in western Canada still working. Not sure about the country but could very well been the last one altogether.

I'm not bitter. At my club I worked with great colleague at the clinic such as Cherlaine and Jamie. For the most recent years I have been a colleague of Sue and now her husband Eric was also coming aboard. My new lease had just started at the beginning of the month. I knew that there was talk about the future of the club but also felt that the Kenaston area was still growing. IKEA is only six years old. The Outlet Collection at three years. Housing, hotels and further development happen every month now.

Still, there is a heavy duty amount of competition being built. Goodlife is building three new clubs. One of those clubs, Portage and Main, will be a re-location across the street. Expansion of their old club which took a full floor of the RBC tower was not permissible. St. Vital Mall's club will be a completely new club and so it seemed was the Bishop Grandin one.

Still, what to do with Kenaston? With all the new building taking place, Goodlife Kenaston had three choices: 1st was to spend a lot of money and upgrade the club within its footprint. 2nd was spend a lot of money and strip down the club to become discount sister company Fit 4 Less. 3rd was close the club and re-locate all staff to the new club and save a recruitment process and add to staff for the large location.

It is important to know that Goodlife does not own the Kenaston site. A new lease would have to be signed and the terms of which might not have been to meet profitability criteria after club investments. Goodlife Kenaston was built in spring of 2008 and was a giant in its day. People came from all over the city and even outside it to work-out in. Goodlife now has several clubs including  Grant Park. The heady days that lasted years was only going to continue if Goodlife Kenaston had a long term plan.

In the end supersized clubs like Bishop Grandin cost a lot of money and need a lot of staff. The re-location plan and opportunity to move jobs over and not go through a massive recruitment and training program as well as spend more money on Kenaston upgrades won out.

None of this will happen immediately. Construction being what it is will mean that sometime in early 2020 all this will take place. A grand opening will take place and the final days of operation at Kenaston will have a final deadline. As for myself, I will continue to operate for some time yet. However, the company has freed me to seek a new location either as an employee or as a business clinic. At least half my clients are Goodlife members but I've been operating as an independent business now for two years. Members will have to find a non-club option for their injury and maintenance therapy. The new club will have hydrotherapy for relaxation massage.

As for the old club, I guess that will be up to Terracon which owns it. It is in a business park that has been quite successful. It doesn't stand to reason that another fitness center would want to jump in there. It could be ideal for many uses. There have been a few companies bursting at the seams in the park that might be all over that building.

Before going further, I've identified the club as being Bishop Grandin but the district it is being built on is called Refinery. No, not an oil refinery but sugar. Or at least at one time it was part of Manitoba Sugar lands. I suggested Sugarland for the district but was shot down. Maybe not ideal for a fitness center.

In the days of supersized clubs arriving in 2020, they all have much more of everything and beyond. Unlike Kenaston, Refinery will hot yoga, a pool, a high intensity work out area and a ninja obstacle course. In addition, it will have boxing. Understandably, even with a transfer of experienced staff from Kenaston, it will have a layer of staffing needed for support of maintenance, group exercise and personal training.
It will be Winnipeg's largest Goodlife. Safe to say that a real battle is shaping up for Winnipeg for fitness centers. Millions are being spent and people will benefit as their work-out choices evolve and change.

Goodlife, Shapes and soon to arrive Altea will compete hard in southwest Winnipeg. I will miss Kenaston Goodlife when it closes. Many good people and members over the years and it was once the biggest and best. I might be the last Registered Massage Therapist left in the west and quite possibly the country when they turn out the lights at the club.

I'll be good. Leaving on good terms. I own my own business. I do other things as well with other business ventures. I have great colleagues and good friends and support from family. Got months left before I am out in the world but this is Winnipeg. In the city we make our own futures. And relationship are built forever.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Grant Park Plaza - The Early Days 1967

Grant Park started construction in 1962 and by 1964 it resembled more a big box strip mall than the enclosed mall today. By 1967 it looked like the store directory above. As seen, the mall had two groceries to start: Dominion and Safeway. It was also anchored by two department stores Woolco and Clark's.

But what is Clark's? This store seems to have slipped from the mists of memory for many. It wasn't the only Clark's in town either. There was one on Panet Road at Regent/Nairn.

The above was the Winnipeg location at Panet is 1962. The picture is commonly mistaken for Grant Park and I made it as well.

Clark's was the forerunner of Gambles and was owned by St. Louis-based Gamble-Skogmo which had a stable of stores under many brands. They also owned MacLeod's Hardware of Winnipeg.

Clark's actually went all the way to the Supreme Court and lost to prevent further expansion of Grant Park Plaza in 1967. It was to prevent becoming an enclosed mall as well as stopping Woolco from coming in. Their legal challenge didn't work and eventually the mall was enclosed and Clark's became Gambles.

Eventually Gambles was purchased by Zellers and the Clark's and Gambles names were gone forever from Winnipeg. It would take decades but the Zellers name itself would disappear as owner Hudson's Bay Company would sell it to Target. Some stores remained Zellers but in 2019, HBC will close the final two stores in Ontario.

Grant Park Shopping Centre as one of the oldest malls in Canada has seen tremendous change but was never allowed to simply deteriorate as some malls have in Canada. It was innovative in getting a movie theatre of substance even before places like Polo Park. It became home to the first big box book store in Winnipeg which remains strong today. And it was one of the first to have restaurants in its parking lot.

After its most recent makeover, that added Canadian Tire and Goodlife, it seems the mall has settled into a format that is working for it even where some of its competitors have undone their enclosed concept.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Purge, The Mist, Lost in Space Reviews

The Purge movies have always been just a little bit more than violence. The politics behind it seems vaguely what an out of control America might do. The movie series introduced the concept and went back and explained a bit how it all started. The TV series gives even more background but delves right into the action with a new Purge just about to happen.

The series from 2018 runs 10 episodes and in Canada was on Amazon Prime. The second season begins this October.

The series follow a number on people who are willing participants in The Purge to those that are the victims of it. No particular actor stands out though a few are known actors. The rest are carrying their first show. Any thought that a long form story would be more compelling is lost by the fact that the actors are not particularly likable. That isn't always a problem but if that is the case, the character has someone you love to hate instead. We don't get that either.

The Purge only take places for 12 hours once a year. Not sure what I was expecting but perhaps it was a better character arc. For example, The Walking Dead first episode really set up a good reason to follow the entire first season. The Purge really didn't do that for me.

By the way, one of the reasons I left The Walking Dead and stopped watching Fear The Walking Dead was that they were relentlessly downbeat. And increasingly they had unlikable characters. And I'm not talking about the villains. The Purge never caught me is that they didn't have characters I wanted to follow. Moreover, they had characters that struck me as too stupid to live. This is a worse crime in my book.

I won't be watching the second season.

The Mist which aired on the Spike Channel in the U.S. and Canada was based on the Stephen King story and the movie of 2007. The series ran an episode run in 2017 and can be caught on some streaming services now. It was cancelled by Spike.

The book, the movie and the series have various difference but the one consistency is that a fog descends on a town and traps people in their homes or for many, a supermarket/mall. Also consistent is that in the mists are creatures that are killing people.

The series started off promising and the ratings indicated a winner. However, somewhere along the show went off the rails. A major departure was that the mist did not only have creatures within it but mind altering visions. While this might have made for interesting back stories, it also raised serious questions.

There were hints that there were chosen people who were immune. This led to persecution or blindly following someone for messianic reasons. The book and the original movie were more clear that people took sides out of fear not and that religion took a part in dividing people. The series took the position that nature was judging humanity. To say the least it was a bit muddled.

What wasn't muddled was the same thing that The Purge was guilty of: no likable characters.

The book left things off somewhat hopefully that somewhere far off there was a place the mist had left alone. Our remaining characters head there. The movie had a Twilight Zone-like ending which I won't spoil. The TV series left things off that our major characters have escaped the mall and are now headed to where the mist all began.

We'll never know what that is cause the show was cancelled. Even if it had been renewed I would have not watched.
Lost in Space on Netflix, not be confused from the TV series of 1965-1969, is a 2018 releases series released on the streamer. Like the series before it, the show is based on the 1812 novel Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss about a family shipwrecked in the West Indies. It has been adapted countless times but putting the story into space was possibly the most innovative. There was also a movie in 1998 that had some seriously questionable special effects and wooden dialogue. The bad dialogue might have been forgivable for sci-fi but not terrible special effects.

A family caught up in extreme circumstances makes for a compelling story. Setting it in space sets the imagination running. The original series went through a number of phases including from black and white to colour and from more serious to whimsical. Some people loved part of the show but not all of it and that varied year to year. And eventually, the show fell into a trap of Dr. Smith, Robot and youngest boy Will Robinson as the central characters. That would be popular and also be its undoing. The robot's phrase of Danger Will Robinson Danger would live on long after the series.

It seems that the space version of Swiss Family Robinson falls into the same traps every time. There is nothing wrong with the initial premise that Earth is facing increasing pressures due to population or catastrophe or hostilities. Colonization and using families as a unit makes sense insofar as cohesion, especially if there is no return to Earth. However, it can make things boring too if you have no outsiders who may be friends, foes, romantic partners, competitors or any and all configurations.

It seems Lost in Space writers have considered this and the reasons previous versions of the show failed. However, ultimately the same Dr. Smith, boy and robot format appears to what is relied upon. In 10 episodes it is surprising how little character depth actually happens. Almost everyone is a cardboard cutout.

There are a few good actors on the show but they hardly seem to have enough that makes standout. The series has been renewed for another season. I'm prepared to see if the show breaks out. It is important to know that many of the best TV series of all time had at least 20 to 24 episodes to show their worth. Still, my patience is wearing with this show.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Fargo North Dakota K-Mart to Close in December

In 1962 Fargo was one of the first places to get a K-Mart. Prior to that the name was Kresge's, a name Winnipeggers were equally familiar with at Polo Park or Portage Avenue. Winnipeg's Kresge's was constructed in 1954 downtown and then another in 1959 in Polo Park. Kresge's ended in Winnipeg in the 1980s and K-Mart ended in Canada in 1994.

K-Mart has been a mismanaged company for decades after once numbering over 2000 stores. The Canadian stores, in a pattern we have seen from U.S. retailers, were bled dry to pay for missteps in the U.S.

In the U.S. we have seen two sinking ships K-Mart and Sears bound together in failure. Sears in Canada was sacrificed to keep the U.S operations afloat. It hasn't worked. Stores keep closing.

Fargo and Grand Fork, North Dakota have seen Sears and K-Marts shut down in their metros. Fargo-Moorhead lost the Moorhead K-Mart in 2016. Sears closed at West Acres in 2017, Sam's Club in Moorhead in 2018. Herberger's in Fargo West Acres in 2018.

Macys in Columbia Mall Grand Forks closed in 2017. Sears closed in the same mall in 2018. Pier 1 Imports at the parking lot there closed 2018 as well. Horbacher's Grocery store nearby closed in 2018.

In short, it is a disaster. Both major Grand Forks and North Dakota malls are looking to change things up. There is no such thing as an anchor store anymore.

And now in Fargo along University, south of North Dakota State University, the city loses their last K-Mart.

Too many stores, too much online shopping and and changes in what people like are the main culprit.

Winnipeg has not seen as deep a smackdown but even in this city, we are re-evaluating what a mall is known for. Polo Park is considering residential which may be the smartest dynamic for future success.

For Winnipeg's travelling to North Dakota, the question is: Will their shopping stop in Pembina, North Dakota just for pick-ups?