Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Winnipeg Comeback 2022 Part 1

Above is Market Avenue, home of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. 

In 2019 it seemed that Winnipeg and much of the province was on the cusp of a sustained economic growth period. Sure, weather was and always a possible factor but the diversified provincial economy seemed solid and several businesses were in expansion mode. Approvals for several buildings were made and construction was starting. And all this built on top of a stable economy already. Manitoba looked poised to enter its 150th birthday with a confidence not seen in some time.
It was not to be. By March of 2020, all of North America was shutdown with Covid 19. The brief celebratory time at the beginning of the year quickly turned to a sense of dread with the type of worldwide shutdown the likes the world have rarely seen. At the height of it, we saw our dystopic future of empty streets, office buildings and schools.
Above is Winnipeg City Hall. The city's 150th birthday comes soon.

Many families lost people as a result of Covid or because of what it has done to our health system. My family suffered horribly. My dad never recovered from Covid and we lost him in July. My mom hasn't walked since her release. And now she is in lockdown again. It is down to primary caregiver now. 

It wasn't a secret my parents had Covid. For too many the disease was something you only whispered at a family dinner like "cancer" as if that alone would make it go away. It was too easy for people to dismiss it by saying they had never heard of anyone getting it. It is awful in January of 2022 and it is spreading at a rate that is hitting everywhere.
Above is the empty space where city parkade and Public Safety Building once stood. Red River College downtown campus in background. The space could transform the area and further enhance Princess as well as King as a dynamic area of the Exchange and Chinatown.

But this isn't looking at how bad the last 18 months have been or how 2022 feels like a continuation of what has passed. This is about the comeback for Winnipeg and Manitoba in 2022. While there is no doubt that that many small businesses have taken it repeatedly on the chin, some developments and business start-ups continued through the pandemic. The tallest tower in the city has been under construction through the entire time and should be open to new residents soon.

Likewise, towers on on Assiniboine were finally completed for lease or purchase. The Medical Arts converted to residential, the former United Grain Growers on Main converted and industrial conversions to residential on Waterfront are in progress. It is easy to lose track of the projects whether they be on Princess, on Broadway or near the art gallery. And those are the ones just downtown. 
The above is Chinese Cultural Centre which now overlooks a piece of prime property where the parkade and Public Safety Building Stand.

Driving down Sterling Lyon by Seasons has been non-stop multi-unit construction on industrial land. Seasons of Tuxedo and surrounding area have seen a huge spike in commercial and residential building. Hotel construction took place even as the pandemic continued. And Kapyong is now cleared of all buildings and awaiting the next step. One thing it won't be is a big mall. There is no market for another. It will have some retail but will feature more residential, recreational and cultural buildings. It will likely have a hotel as well. 
For the entire pandemic there were either brand new or re-furbished grocery stores built. Two new Red River Co-Ops on Sterling Lyon and Pembina Highway. New Save on Foods on Pembina. Every Safeway re-done. And No Frills and Freshco conversions from other grocery stores. Tens of millions spent in short order. The above pictures show Red River Co-Op shortly before they opened. Visible are the new apartments and condos coming as well.

Shopping malls were also getting additions from Kildonan to Polo Park or refreshes like Garden City and Grant Park. Tens of million spent again even as some of these buildings were at reduced capacity or even closed at some point. The reason: A bet on the future.

The pictures below are the recently completely Save on Foods and the still under construction movie theatres for Famous Players at Kildonan Place. Each hit over the last years has via department store closures has been responded to by a multi-million investment by its owners.
Princess Avenue has been particularly busy throughout the pandemic with building activity. The above pictures are old and new residential construction. Many of the new conversions are leaving room for commercial activity. In this case, the first floor window show another location for Harrisons Coffee. Given the amount of multi-unit housing in the area plus Red River Polytech, this could be a busier street than it has been in years. And in the 1970s and 80s, there were a number of businesses that operated in the area. Industrial, retail and restaurant. The thing that was spotty was residential. That has all changed now.
How it all connects is not known yet. The new campus building for Red River along with residential/retail still doesn't have a fully returned to work and school crowd back. And no one knows what the return to arts and festivals will be like. Has their been any permanent change to pattern of behaviour previous to 2020? If we are lucky, no. And by that I mean, will people return downtown for work and entertainment?
The new Innovation Campus Manitou a bi Bii dazigae has just been built off Princess and really hasn't had a chance to shine after in person learning was halted again. It may really only be in September of 2022 where we see attendance near normal in schools. And from there, we could see activity along Princess quite different from 2019.

As a car dominated city, it can be intimidating just getting out of the car to go get groceries. It is for this reason that some new developments are literally built beside a grocery and a pharmacy. In the case of the new luxury Taylor Residences, it built between a Sobeys and a Walmart. It is probably easier to walk than to find a parking space a hundred meters. away.
In front of the Walmart on Taylor itself more multi-unit residences are going up. It is hard to imagine someone needing their cars to drive the distance you would often park away from the store entrance on a busy day. Alas, some older neighbourhoods used to have grocery and pharmacy options that were walkable but those have since closed. Some suburban places never had them at all and it is a few kilometers hike.

River Heights has a few specialty grocers and convenience store but a senior would be hard pressed to be able live without transport compared to say...Osborne. It wasn't always that way. Up till the 1990s, there were three or four grocers along Academy Road. Now, one specialty shop. My parents, like a lot of seniors, had few options to move to a multi-unit place for senior assisted living in the area. Once you can't live in your house or need to downsize, you have to move out of the neighbourhood. This has to change.
According to census data, Winnipeg's population growth slowed even before during the pandemic. Immigration from outside Canada kept it from going into free fall. There was sturdy growth 2016/17 of 2%. It triggered a building boom of office, apartments and housing and the feeling was that 2020, Manitoba's 150, it would culminate in a period of growth and prosperity. The pandemic of Covid 19 changed that for Winnipeg. 

In fairness Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver have also seen population declines during this time but the fact that Winnipeg's started earlier is concerning. Brian Pallister became premier in 2016 and while Winnipeg was experiencing robust growth that year, the relationship between mayor and premier was frosty over the direction of the city. Much of the time communication channels were simply closed as the Progressive Conservative pursued health, education and other reforms while cutting service and as well as taxes.
A look down Fort Street as a crane dismantles another crane as Winnipeg's tallest building reaches completion.

The cuts to universities and healthcare have led to faculty and doctors leaving Manitoba. The cancellation of the CancerCare addition, multiple programs in health and wage freezes in post secondary education made it easy for professionals to shop their skills somewhere else. And they did. The pursuit of ending the deficit made health care particularly vulnerable to the pandemic. The ER and Urgent Care closures came just as the need for them could not be greater.

The Conservatives did see some big investments ushered in on agriculture and a few other areas but the austerity measures and tax cuts hurt both Winnipeg and the province because it is people that will help bring back a measure of prosperity. And if they leave they are not investing, not paying taxes and not helping the economy here.

A change in leadership has come with a flurry of announcements of policy shifts and investments in healthcare provincially. But these will take time and the pandemic is still hurting meaningful change till then. With an election in two years, the PCs have never been more unpopular. But will the NDP be ready to run the shop? There was a reason they were defeated in 2016. They purged five cabinet ministers who were seeking to change the directions of the party on policy. And when that didn't happen, the electorate purged the party.

We don't have the same advantages of other provinces with oil like Alberta and Saskatchewan. Now do we have the port and resources as well as climate of B.C. Ontario and Quebec have the industrial base. Manitoba has only one sizeable city compared to other provinces who usually have two or more fair sized cities. Even with all that, we punch above our weight with head offices and family businesses and diversified economy. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Leopold's Tavern Coming to Cornerstone in Osborne Village

Osborne and River was like a small town at one time. On the southwest corner once stood a drug store and across the street stood bank. Osborne was a commercial street in a residential neighbourhood. However, by the 1970s some of the more sprawling estates around river gave way to apartment buildings. Along Wellington Crescent, not too distant from the corner, apartment after apartment went up along the Assiniboine River. And along Roslyn even more apartments went up.

The tallest apartment of them all in western Canada for a number of years was 55 Nassau built in 1970. While none was as tall in years after, there were several built in surrounding area all over 20 floors.

The increasing density brought foot traffic to the Village but affordability didn't come from high rises, it came from single family homes being turned into multi-unit housing that was far cheaper than places like posh 55 Nassau. Stately family homes became several apartments in the 1970s and through the 1980s. Not condos but small apartments.

In the last several years some of the older multi-units houses have been being torn down for posher condo and apartments. The economic diversity is not nearly what it used to be in the Village but the density has increased. The rent overall in the city has increased leading to affordability issues. This has translated into increasing commercial rent on Osborne properly.

In New York they call it luxury blight where a commercial street that once hosted banks, barbers, greasy spoons along with hardware stores now has dress shops that attract suburbanites for a frock that might be a month's rent for someone. Winnipeg never had the same sort of really posh shops but it did have a few more exclusive retailers in the area. Some started earlier enough in the less expensive days to actually buy their property. Those places turned out to last the longest. However, as owner operators turned to straight landlords, the renters paid rent but were not able to have equity in the land.

Restaurants can come and go but they are at least able to offer something that Amazon can't easily disrupt. But a start up is not going to be interested in a 10 year lease unless it has corporate backing. And so you see a lot for lease signs. And in some case whole buildings that go unused year after year. For what? For the perfect tenant. It seems no consideration is given that empty storefronts or buildings can perpetuate more blight.
In Osborne Village there are spots that have sat empty for years. Some spaces such as Osborne Village Hotel have been demolished and sit empty with no construction start in sight. Presumably, if they could have gotten away with it, they might have made made it paid parking. That is an old landlord game. Promise to develop and then have a parking lot for decades.

Osborne Village has been resilient although cyclical in major part due to a grocery store and pharmacy that are all within walking distance for thousands who live nearby. Throw in some convenience stores, some fast food joints, a post office and liquor store and a resident could walk in minutes to and from home. Not even a need for a bike with that type of proximity.

The River Avenue to Confusion Corner part of the street is the commercial part of the Village and in recent years, the most unstable. As mentioned, the high price of commercial rent and the long leases requested by landlords is a disincentive to start-up shops and restaurants. The size of some of the spaces is also tough. If a restaurant's business model depends on a lot of parking then Osborne is not the right place.

What surprises a lot of people about Osborne Village is the scale. Even after decades, it is still no higher than three floors most of the way down. A large amount are one floor buildings. There has been an attempts to go higher at the Gas Station Theatre but it has failed to gain traction. Closer to Fort Rouge station, a taller office building has gone up and beside it is a stalled residential tower. 

There has been a cry for more parking but it is unclear how maybe 300 spots on a place, say like...the Osborne Village site would work. You would have to have security, a time limit and if it was privately owned...a price to pay. No doubt if the city allowed this, buildings would be knocked down here and there to offer parking. But how would it help the commercial area? Large gaps would be windswept and still a fair walk to where you were going. It would be a series of strip malls where constant vigilance would be needed so that people only shopped in your store rather park and head elsewhere.

If the point is getting more foot traffic, the lack of places to reach on foot is an issue. It would like being in a mall with a store only open every few spots. The mall would not survive that way. A street is not a mall. A street survives with some parking but in Osborne Village, public transit and walking is more important than limited car spaces right in front of the shop. A company like Creative Audio, former long time Osborne Village resident, only had two spots out back that they had to constantly police. Someone buying thousands dollars of audio couldn't even guarantee they could load their purchase anywhere near the shop. They eventually found a home on Provencher which is a lovely high streets that I've said good things about in the past.
With that in mind if River and Osborne is gateway proper to the majority of Village commercial activity, the businesses on that corner should be a big draw for people as early as possible in the day and as late as possible. It is why restaurants and coffee shops have proliferated over the years. If the business model of your company is lots of cars parked nearby 9 to 5 then Osborne is not a good match for you. For many, success has come from operating outside normal hours

Since 1975 Papa George's was that place. The sign even said open till 4 AM.  It lasted till 2012 with a retirement of the owner. In principle, the late hours meant that people finishing late shifts, night owls and those coming from bars, movies and hockey games had a place to go to. And parking was easy to come by after 11 PM. Several businesses had this idea including the Osborne Village Inn. And various shops and services blended into that model, some opting for the earlier opening to take in breakfast and coffee models.

Cornerstone replaced Papa George's in 2014 after renovations were complete. Were it not for Covid 19, Cornerstone's grub pub fare might still be holding sway on that corner. Indeed, there was a feeling that Osborne Village was poised to for a new uptick with all the approvals for new housing that had gone through. In fact, many housing units went up even as Covid locked things down. But restaurants such as Segovia and Cornerstone could not very well capitalize on restrictions as their customers dried up. No one was on the streets.
But there has been a few indications of what is to come even as we battle yet another wave of restrictions with the Omicron variant of Covid 19. Cannabis retailing ramped up in the pandemic. Osborne Village saw an early wave of openings. While they don't have much street presence because of rules that make them frost their glass, they draw foot traffic and pay rent which should be sustained for some time. But cannabis shops don't make for a neighbourhood or streetlife.

Stores, restaurants, bars have created vitality on the Osborne strip. The loss of the Osborne Village is beyond awful for what was lost. The nightlife, streetlife, vendor, restaurant is just a hole in the ground. It is unlikely that anything replacing it will be as important as that hotel was. Everyone awaits what will go up and when.

Still, when Covid restrictions end, the corner of River and Osborne will see the closed Cornerstone restaurant turned into a Leopold's Tavern. At the moment Leopold's is badly wounded with staff out stick with the virus. This affliction is hitting a lot of places. It is in interesting to note though how Leopold's has been opening and operating locations in various parts of the city and succeeding. The opening of a location right at the entrance to the commercial area of the street is a real shot in the arm.

Leopold's, a Regina-based group of restaurants, has tapped into the faux dive bar motif. The evolution of the bar/restaurant has evolved over the years. The lounge, beverage room and cabaret doesn't always fit with a desire for people to stay in their neighbourhood in a place more scaled to the "everyone knows your name" size. The proof has been in the pudding because Leopolds's has expanded to places others overlooked such as South Osborne, Academy Road and Bridgwater.

There is every indication that Leopold's at River and Osborne will be entirely successful and a real draw for people in the area as well as visitors. And perhaps in 2022, the revitalization of the commercial strip of Osborne Village will begin a new iteration.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Winnipeg Radio Ratings Fall 2021

The latest Numeris ratings of Winnipeg radio stations has been released. It shows CBC in number 1 spot with CJOB right behind. Even with changes at both top stations and with the pandemic going on, talk radio has a very solid hold on their positions over the music stations.
  • CBC Radio — 15.7 (16.7)
  • 680 CJOB — 13.8 (12)
  • QX 104 — 8.7 (9.1)
  • Bounce 99.9 — 6.4 (6.6, last rated as 99.9 BOB FM)
  • Virgin 103 — 5.4 (4.9)
  • 92 CITI-FM — 4.9 (4.8)
  • Peggy 99.1 — 4.5 (3.9)
  • Energy 106.1 — 4.1 (4.4)
  • 94.3 Now! — 4.1 (3.8, last rated as 94-3 The Drive)
  • Power 97 — 4.1 (4.2)
  • CBC Music FM (Radio 2) — 4.0 (3.8)
  • Hot 100.5 FM — 2.8 (2.5)
  • Kiss 102.3 FM — 2.7 (3.7)
  • Funny 1290 — 0.8 (1.9, last rated as TSN 1290)
It is difficult to compare ratings as last year everything was shut down and there was no ratings performed. Add to this format changes, retirements, mass firings, staff changes, return of sports/music releases and tours and there is a lot to unpack. For radio programmers, this is a new baseline albeit one with a big asterisk. The pandemic continues and if a radio station has depended on work commutes, it might not be happening at full force for a while.

It is the new normal and radio like the rest of industry has to figure it out. It is sad to see that TSN 1290 gutted itself. Giving up the Jets radio broadcasts and the heavy local personalities in sports left a gaping hole and the new comedy channel has ratings lower than non commercial radio. Plus, it is has very little local content.

Some big corporations have radio stations in Winnipeg. It is surprising how some of those stations produce so little content in Manitoba. It might be cheaper but those stations tend to huddle near the bottom of the dial. It is a wonder the CRTC considers them local at all. A few do try to be consistent with hosts. More on that later.

Not all stations are listed in the ratings period. The two university radio stations are not listed nor the three French broadcasters. The multilingual station is not listed and classic jazz and nostalgia radio aren't either. How much do they account for? Probably not a huge amount but I listen to Goldeyes games on nostalgia and there are many others too. The Christian radio station is not listed either. And let's not forget the native owned station as well. In all 25 stations exist in the Winnipeg market with some bleed over from rural stations to boot.

Recently, while talking to a convention runner, they said they had no idea who to approach in Winnipeg radio market for promotional tie-ins. They said in other markets there was real dominance  by one or the other big media companies but in Winnipeg there was Corus, Bell, Rogers, Evanov and now Pattison to consider. In other cities, the choice was obvious for a corporate tie-in. In other words, Winnipeg is a competitive market which is a good thing. However, the bad thing is that too many are grouped at the center and don't make bold choices. Some programmer somewhere is writing the songlists.

The only place to be a bit different is your hosts. Winnipeg radio has always had some syndicated material but sense of place requires a DJ who knows the territory. Some of the most successful stations in town know this and pay well for the host who is known in the community. CBC, CJOB, Power 97 and Virgin Radio really emphasize the hosts and continuity in their positions.

The station 94.3 recently fired their entire staff to come back as Now! At one time 94 was the top station way back. They have done format changes in the past and seen middling responses. Their format never really changes enough and their on air staff are too controlled to become a marketing force on their own. And stations routinely try to save money so you never know where the axe will fall. 92 CITI has no morning hosts at the moment even though a strong morning show can keep people on your station all day.

While Bell Media gutted sports radio TSN and has paid for it by even lower numbers with a comedy channel, they have kept Burpee and Beau and their teams in place at Virgin and Bounce and it generally pays off. Likeable and engaged hosts in the community help your brand more than a show broadcast from Toronto. Corus has done this recently with Anderson, Stevens and Aiello and their teams at CJOB, Peggy and Power 97.

The pandemic has hurt touring and music producers from promoting their material. While a lot has been produced music-wise, there is a connection when an artist is in a region and radio stations get interviews, have contests for tickets and access to to the stars. It helps the musician and it helps the radio station. For talk radio such as CJOB and CBC, much depends on sports. For CJOB, it is how well the Jets and Bombers do. For CBC, it will be Olympics. Having good regular content and hosts will help but there is a real burst of interest in the teams. It will be interesting to see if Anderson can make some inroads on CBC that former host Currier kept close. And for CBC, it will be if changes for weekend hosts are embraced.

We will only know in 2022 where things are going for the pandemic, music industry and radio. Satellite radio, Spotify, podcasting and people's own curated music will still play a huge part. But local content is key. Lose it and you lose any reason why people will read you, watch you or listen to you with any loyalty.   

Sunday, December 5, 2021

New Condos to Replace Shell Station in Tuxedo Park

 The Tuxedo Park shopping mall was built in 1962 and has been anchored by Safeway for decades. It has has makeovers several times including this past year when Safeway was re-designed in the new configuration that removed their peaked entrance along major exterior changes.  Interior design changes also took place through 2021.

The mall itself had major overhaul of its look and a small expansion in 2016. Some stores like Salisbury House and Mac's didn't make the cut. A Liquor Mart and a Starbucks are among the newer tenants these last years.

One thing that has not changed ever is the Shell station at the corner of 2025 Corydon at Tuxedo. It has been in place for decades...unchanged.

That changed this year.

While the building is still there, the signs have been removed and fencing has gone up around the carwash, convenience store and gas pumps. 
It has always looked like a fairly busy station but increasingly, we have seen more supersites like Red River Co-Op Gas in Charleswood where they have 20 or pumps and larger convenience store in place along with a carwash.
A demolition is pending and then removal of tanks and remediation. Once the site is cleared in 2022, a 13 floor condo with three commercial units on the first floor will be built. The residential floors will have 84 units although size has not been indicated.
No parking spaces seems to be lost as the condo falls within the footprint of the Tuxedo Shopping Mall. Still, anyone going to Tuxedo Shopping Centre will tell you that the parking lot can be very filled with cars because of the grocery, pharmacy and especially, during the day, the multiple dentist offices on the second floor.

A number of high rises went up around the mall in the 1970s and 1980s and a low rise condo just went up on Tuxedo. The 13 floor addition on a gas station lot should not be out of the question. And keep in mind? Where will Tuxedo residents live when they downsize? Many neighbourhoods people love to live in make residents move out if they have no multi-unit places to rent or buy.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

No Time to Die James Bond

The author of James Bond died the year before I was born. Ian Fleming had created a character working for an intelligence agency that people were not particularly well informed about.  While Bond was not the first agent with a licence to kill (Johnny Fedora) came first, he was the most enduring. The film life of James Bond has extended decades and has included other writers continuing the storyline.

The movies started years before I was born and by the time I began watching in 1971 on TV, there were several done. There would be a few more before before I'd be old enough to see a movie on the screen in 1977 with The Spy Who Loved Me. From then on, I saw all of them in theatres. And re-watched all the old ones.

Roger Moore became the Bond I saw most because Sean Connery did not appear as Bond from 1971 until 1983. In that year, as I finished high school and started university) both Roger Moore and Sean Connery appeared in competing Bonds. I saw both. Inevitably, even then, a comparison of Bonds arrived with every new one and Moore and Connery were compared even then. Throw along A George Lazenby and David Niven into the works too. I actually liked Lazenby even as he appears to be universally loathed. I did find On Her Majesty's Secret Service a compelling story. As for Niven, I don't think I have ever seen the full version of his Bond parody.

James Bond in movies, like the books themselves, was never going to be limited to the realpolitik of the Cold War. The villains were greater then mere nation state and Bond was not going to cultivate sources using tradecraft. As M in the movies said...Bond was a blunt instrument with a licence to kill. He was a man who was going to be pointed at something and had permission to kill to get it. And this was only fair because those opposed to him were out to kill him too.

None of this would work if Bond was not an attractive character with great humour and and a supportive cast of Bond women and fellow agents from Q to Moneypenny. As Britain has changed, so has Bond. No longer a smoker for some time now, Bond also encounters women who are formidable including his former boss M. He's a man who struggles to recover from physical as well as mental injury on the job. In the past Bond barely bent the crease is his pants and it certainly wouldn't have left him anguished of people who were lost along the way.

Each era of Bond over the decades including Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan were enjoyable as the moved from gritty to glam and from more grounded to fantastical. Charismatic villains with world spanning ambition were always lurking and could only be foiled by the British agent Bond. 

One of the best game of punters has been the speculation about who the next Bond will be. It can be a cruel sport. And by the time an actor has been chosen, they sometimes have aged out of the desired range Bond should be. Or at least by the time they are finished the role can qualify for a pension. Both Moore and Connery were up there, Moore still putting Bonds out till mid 1980s.

Pierce Brosnan appeared to have the tap on the shoulder after Moore but contract obligations had him tied down and the role went to Timothy Dalton. Known more for theatre than movies, Dalton was a mystery to many audiences. I had only seem him in the less than successful Flash Gordon. He wasn't a bad Bond but the influence of Lethal Weapon and other 1980s movies played a part in storylines revolving around arms dealers and drug lords. It seemed less worldly ambitious for a Bond villain. 

The long wait for Brosnan to take over the role of Bond attracted top tier directors and while the storylines and some other casting brought questions, the action oriented charms of the lead and world wide locations and effects harkened back to earlier times. The box offices were enormous. Despite his success, he was dismissed as Bond with no real explanation aside from that he was nearly 50 years old.

Speculation about who was to play Bond was rampant and Daniel Craig being chosen surprised many. Too blonde, too rough, too short...too not Bond. I had seen him in a few movies such Lara Croft and Munich. I thought he was a good actor but I was wondering if they had a Timothy Dalton on their hands who was more unknown to the general public. The producers themselves probably thought that simply leaving off where Brosnan left off was just not on. It seemed an origin story was in order. And why not? Every other serial seemed to do it. Why not Bond?

The very quick origin story showed how Bond rose to become 007 in Casino Royale. It was only snippets but it had never been done before. It embraced Daniel Craig's muscular and rough attributes in fight and chase scenes that pushed the boundaries of what M called the "blunt instrument." However, it also introduced how he found his favourite drink and first time with his favourite car the Aston Martin DB5. And lastly, ended with his famous "Bond, James Bond."

Daniel Craig in Casino Royale got to rock a few tuxes and fight in them and replace them over and over in a high stakes card game. And the first woman Bond met Vesper Lynd in Casino Royal, would haunt his career the rest of his days. Vesper played by Eva Green was no mere damsel in the movie, Her character had strength and will and would be memorable for incredible dialogue and compelling storyline.

Any thought that Daniel Craig was not a perfect Bond and that producers and writers were correct in going back to the beginning was erased by Casino Royale. What's more, the movie ended in a cliffhanger because only a single layer of onion had been peeled. This would go on to include all of the Daniel Craig's Bonds until the conclusion with No Time to Die. And each had a level of personal growth in the character that felt all the more real with Craig's acting.

Is it possible to watch No Time to Die without seeing the four Craig movies before? Yes, but there are so many reference points for the story that you are richer for it knowing the pain and commitment Bond has gone through. Characters who were just foils for levity have weightier presence and Bond women are their own women.

No Time To Die is a fine wrap up to this series of five movies with Daniel Craig. For those who originally thought Craig was not the Bond they were looking for, it is hard to imagine who if any could fit in his shoes. And how do you continue a storyline knowing the character has reached the end of an arc? Can you really introduce a new Bond as you did in the past and not have audiences not quite accept that as they did in the past?

Everyone is speculating more on who will be the new Bond rather than how they will be the new Bond. A re-boot might not be accepted. A continuation of the character will not likely be accepted. Thankfully, a clever writer might be able to solve this. But we have seen whole seasons of TV series explained as dreams or suggesting all the characters were dead and in some twilight zone. Not sure that will cut the mustard. I have an idea of how it might go but then in I'm not sure that is at all how the producers will take it.

In Winnipeg, from the 1970s on through till today, we have been able to watch Bond marathons on CKND, TBS and other networks. I suspect Daniel Craig's Bond might come to be one of the better loved ones for generations to come.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Swiss Chalet Closes Kenaston and Corydon Locations

Swiss Chalet quickly and pretty thoroughly has closed two of their locations in Winnipeg On Kenaston and at Corydon and Stafford.

The restaurant was built in 2011 and initially cost $1.6 million and employed 80 people. Yes Winnipeg helped attract the chain back after many years absence. 
The pandemic has been unkind to restaurants and the group that owns Swiss Chalet has been closing places across the country.
I came here a number of weeks past when restrictions were reduced and I could not get in at another place without a wait. Swiss Chalet was open and quiet. There was a time when it was so busy they turned people away.
A few years after Kenaston opened, we saw Swiss Chalet and Harvey's take over the old Chicken Delight location at Corydon and Stafford. It had a drive thru that was grandfathered in and was almost ended when in 2014 Swiss Chalet picked up the location.
Like Kenaston it seemed to be fairly busy but the pandemic seems to have hurt it. Or perhaps the arrival of Popeye's has hurt other chicken places. 
I do know the last time I was there I was not impressed. And probably wouldn't have gone there if other places were not packed to the rafters.

Ultimately, this might have been the most ultimate reason they closed these two locations.

One location remains at Portage Avenue near the university. We will keep a lookout on this one.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Original Pancake House Closes on Pembina Highway in Winnipeg

In 1958 the Original Pancake House opened along Pembina Highway in Winnipeg and operated for 63 years until 2021. The sign is one of the first things you see heading south into Fort Garry. There are three remaining Pancake Houses in Winnipeg at The Clarion next to Polo Park, The Forks and the newest at McGillivary at Kenaston across from Costco. The staff have all found homes in the remaining locations.

Like many restaurants, the pandemic has been hard on Pancake House. The lockdowns, reduced capacity and slow return of staff resulted in reduced hours at all locations. 

However, the Pembina location likely would have remained open had it not been an offer they couldn't refuse. The adult children of Wally and Monty Guberman entertained an offer from Vic's Market owner Scott Schriemer for the land where the Original Pancake House stands.

Amazingly Vic Schreimer and Wally Guberman started their businesses in the same year of 1958. The companies remain family owned. Scott Schreimer is son of Vic.

It is no secret that Vic's was feeling cramped and the land surrounding the Pancake House is substantial. The completion of the underpass at Pembina has had many owners look at their long time businesses and consider what comes next. 

Vic's itself has had many locations over the decades along Pembina Highway. They only moved to the 5000 square foot location across from Pancake House in 1986. They occupied only a small portion of it but over the years took over the whole building.
Vic's shares a parking lot with the Cambridge Hotel so expansion was not an easy proposition on its present lot. Looking across at the lot empty lot of the Pancake House during the pandemic must have been the impetus of crossing the street and knocking on the door.
The iconic sign for Pancake House will be sorely missed. You truly don't see the like anymore.
After nearly four years of non-stop construction on the Jubilee Underpass, Covid came along. As you can see the combined sidewalk and bike path are pretty inviting as you enter Fort Garry.
The impending demolition of the Pancake House is not the only thing happening on the west side of Pembina Highway. The Pembina Hotel, built in 1953 for Carling O'Keefe and taken over by the Druxman family in 1958 when the beer companies were forced to sell their hotels.  Sabino Tummilo and family took over in 2015.
There is presently a proposal for a 22 floor apartment building with 226 suites and 7000 square feet of retail space on the first floor. 

There have been quite a few former university residents who are crying about the loss of the Pemby. A re-fresh of some sort seemed inevitable.
Resident of Fort Garry are now probably wondering if they will lose their competing waterhole across the way The Cambridge. It was once owned by Labatt's.
Density is probably preferred along Pembina Highway. The active transportation by the overpass is a fine piece of infrastructure despite the dogear it does as it proceed past Parker Avenue. A 20 story building is likely to find residents.
It is the end of an era for sure but it doesn't have to bad change. Winnipeg sometimes doesn't seem to change for decades but we have seen some major change in the last several years.
Still, a long time grocer like Vic's beside a 20 floor apartment seems to make a lot sense, doesn't it? And while the loss of a vendor and beverage room hurts, it is possible that we will see new innovative places places for restaurants and lounges.
Our family went to many a birthday and family gathering at The Pancake House. My dad was a Fort Garry resident just before it was built. He and my mom went in search of it in 2018 and construction made them go past it all the way to St. Norbert. They never did make it to to that location but enjoyed Polo Park until just before they moved to assisted living. 

I will miss it.