Saturday, September 9, 2023

710 Notre Dame Avenue - Roy's Florist

© 2023, Christian Cassidy

Google Street View

Place: Stork Luncheonette / Roy's Florist (website)
Address: 710 Notre Dame Avenue (Map)
Constructed: 1948 - 49 (addition 1975)
Contractor: F. W. Sawatzky

February 11, 1950, Winnipeg Free Press

Builder F. W. Sawatzky of Steinbach got a construction permit for around $15,000 in September 1948 to build a store with an upper floor residential suite and basement on this site. It had previously been home to a smaller commercial building that through the 1940s was a shoe repair shop. (A single-storey, 24 foot x 24 foot extension was added to the rear of the building in 1975.)

The first person to call the building home was Mrs. Augusta Snowaert who moved into the suite upstairs and opened the cleverly named Stork Luncheonette on the main floor in 1949. (At the time, the city's largest maternity hospital was being built across the street and would open in April 1950). 

Snowaert came to Canada from her native Belgium with her husband Omer in 1928. They went on to have two children. 

Augusta was widowed at some point. She first appears in Winnipeg street directories in 1943 as the lone proprietor of the Maple Leaf Café at 659 Marion Street with no listing for Omer. It is likely, then, that the family lived elsewhere and moved to Winnipeg after he died.

1957-58 Daniel McIntyre Collegiate yearbook

The restaurant changed hands in 1952 when James D. Mannall purchased it and moved into the upstairs suite with his wife and children.

By 1960, Mannall had at least two employees: Evelyn Tkachuk (cook) and Juanita Trottershaw (waitress).  The restaurant was described around this time as seating 60 and the upstairs had been subdivided into two three-room suites. 

Mannall put the business and building up for sale in September 1961. The for sale ad noted that he was leaving town and the place was priced for a quick sale. The business continued to run ads looking for waitresses until October 1961 and Mannell and his wife were still living there until at least mid-December.

Roy's sign in 2010 (C. Cassidy)

The next business to call the building home was Roy's Florists starting in 1962*. Street directories through the early 1960s list the proprietors as brothers Enpay "Roy", Ronnie and Freddie Kaita with other members of the Kaita family listed as also working there. The shop was named for Roy, the eldest brother, who lived on a farm on north Main Street in West St. Paul.

(* Roy Kaita's obituary states the store opened in 1960, but street directories and newspaper classified ads show that Stork Luncheonette was still operating from this address in late 1961. There is no listing for this business name in street directories prior to the 1963 edition, the data for which would have been compiled in 1962.)

Japanese workers at Tully Farm, Manitoba ca. 1944 (Nikkei National Museum)

Enpay "Roy" Kaita was born in 1924 in B.C. and grew up on the family farm with his six sibling.

In response to Japan entering World War II, the government of Canada seized property owned by Japanese Canadians and sent many of them to live in internment camps starting in early 1942. Roy was interred at New Denver, B.C..

The government put out a call asking other provinces to take in some of the interred and the first 25 Japanese families arrived in Winnipeg from B.C. in April 1942 to work as labourers on Manitoba farms that were suffering from manpower shortages due to the war.

At its January 1943 annual meeting, the Manitoba Sugar Beet Producers voted to submit an application to have additional Japanese-Canadians sent to work on its members' farms. One of those who came was Roy Kaita who worked at the Tully sugar beet farm near Portage la Prairie.

Immediately after the war, Kaita bought some farmland in West St. Paul and began a vegetable market. He married Yoriko in 1955 and they had three children.

December 3, 2009, Winnipeg Free Press

Roy Kaita worked at the flower shop until his retirement in 1988. His son Michael and wife Kathy then took over the business.

In March 2009, a fire broke out in the building that gutted the main floor the main floor. The Kaita family rebuilt and were back in business by December.

A mural called Nostalgic Notre Dame by Roberta Hansen and Michelle Gamache was added to the building's western exterior in 2010.

The business and building were eventually sold outside the family in 2015.

Shop interior, September 2023, by C. Cassidy

The current, and third, owner of  the business is Debby Chan. She went to school in Winnipeg and was working in the business sector in Hong Kong when she returned to the city in 2017 to spend more time with her parents. After her mother died in 2019, she bought the funeral flowers from Roy's and shortly after bought the business from the current building owner.

The building is currently for sale. Chan says that the business has a lease to stay until late 2024 which will give both the new building owner and her time to decide what to do.

Chan's intention is to keep the legacy of Roy's Florist going and notes that one of the original owners, Ronnie Kaita, now 92, still drops by the shop from time to time!

Roy's Florist
First Japanese arrive to work here - Winnipeg Tribune, Apr. 14, 1942
Manitoba after Japanese to help on beet crop - Winnipeg Tribune, Jan. 23, 1943
Florist shop blooms again - Winnipeg Free Press, Dec. 3, 2009
Petal to the Metal - Winnipeg Free Pres, Feb. 14, 2022
Enpay Kaita obituary
Yoriko Kaita obituary
The History of Japanese Canadians in Manitoba - Japanese Cultural Association of Manitoba
Japanese Canadian Internment - The Canadian Encyclopedia

Sunday, July 9, 2023

775 St. Matthews Avenue - St. Matthews Food Centre

© 2023, Christian Cassidy

Place: St. Matthews Food Centre
Address: 775 St. Matthews Avenue
Constructed: 1922

This store was built in 1922 with the building permit issued to "K. Nixon". This is likely Kendal Nixon of Arlington Street in Wolseley who was a prominent farmer and former mayor of Wapella, Saskatchewan before coming to Winnipeg after his retirement in 1908. The property was rented out as a source of retirement income.

The building had two units with 775 the main store and a small unit with a side entrance known as 777 St. Matthews, which will be mentioned later.

775 St. Matthews Avenue

The first person to rent the building was William Fewings who came to Canada from England in 1906 and was joined the following year by his wife Emily, sons Arnold and Leslie, and daughter Winifred. Soon after arriving here, Fewings got a job as buyer for Gault’s, the dry goods wholesaler that operated from what we now know as the Artspace building, and the family settled at 418 Home Street.

By the late 19-teens, the two oldest children had moved out leaving just Arnold behind and he and Emily moved again to 98 Sherbrook Street.

Fewers was 63 years old when he opened Fewers Dry Goods in 1922, no doubt using his years of experience at Galt's to make a go of it. The store lasted just a couple of years before he retired in 1924.

Fred and Margaret Luce, June 12, 1944, Winnipeg Tribune

The building then became one of three dry goods stores owned by Frederick Luce that sold men's wear, linens, hosiery, shoes, boots and work clothes. The other Luce's Dry Goods were at 523 Logan Avenue - the original location established in 1904 and where he and his family also lived - and 126 Marion Street.

Luce was a noted singer and violin player who performed at concerts and other special events around the city. He also sold real estate on the side. It is likely due to how busy he was with his sidelines that the two branch locations closed in 1927.

In 1928, the building became Home Street Pharmacy owned by Joseph Pinx. He renamed it Home Street Sick Room Supplies in the 1930s. By 1935, it was known as the West End Pharmacy owned by Max. C. Garland.

November 27, 1947, Winnipeg Tribune

The building's decades-long run as a grocery store began in 1938 when it became one of twelve Shop Easy stores.

Shop Easy Stores Ltd. of Winnipeg was incorporated in 1937 with D. O. Boyce as president. Its stores were full range groceries with meat departments and fresh produce and were open until 9:00 p.m.. Unlike some early grocery chains that were a loose affiliation of independently-owned stores, it appears that Shop Easy stores started out as corporate-owned locations.

In November 1952, Shop Easy had 21 stores and took over the Jewel Stores' grocery chain and its 17 stores. The 775 St. Matthews location was dropped from the chain soon after the merger.

January 13, 1955, Winnipeg Tribune

Morris and Zelda Tessler of Atlantic Avenue, who had operated Economy Grocery on Alfred Ave, then bought the store. They ran it under the Red and White Stores banner, then as a Solo Store.

It was taken over by V. L. Hunt and renamed Hunt's Grocery in 1956.

In 1958, the store was taken over by the Zamick family and renamed St. Matthews Food Centre. Street directories list Clara Zamick as the proprietor of the business. She, her husband Max, and their two young daughters, Fern (born 1956) and Sandy, lived in the small unit at the side of the store.

The Zamicks previously ran a Red and White grocery store at 173 Nassau Street and lived in an apartment on Wardlaw Street.

The store had a quiet life under the Zanicks. It twice made the papers in 1971 and 1975 when Clara was held up at gunpoint. Max died in 1983 and Clara died in 2021.

March 14, 1992, Winnipeg Free Press

It is unclear how long the Zamicjks ran the store. By the 1990s it Sunhee and Jinwhan Youn.

The store closed in 2022. It was extensively renovated and reopened in 2023 as Skin by Abi, a medical aesthetics spa.

777 St. Matthews Avenue

From the beginning, this building had a second retail unit with a side entrance known as 777 St. Matthews.

It was James Boyd's bakery in 1922 and in 1924 became C and H Grocery and Confectionery run by Stella Harrison and Stella Campbell.

By 1929, the space became a barber shop and hairstylist owned by William Hoare from the early 1930s through the 1940s. In the late 1940s, Mrs. Leslie Stuart, who appeared to also live there with her family, ran the beauty parlour portion into the 1950s.

When the Zamicks took over in 1958, they used the space as their residence.