Saturday, February 5, 2011

450 Portage Avenue: The Paddlewheel Restaurant

Paddlewheel Restaurant
Paddlewheel Restaurant
Place: The Paddlewheel Restaurant
Location: 450 Portage Avenue,  The Bay Downtown
Opened: October 29, 1954


Winnipeg Free Press, October 28, 1954

In 1954 the Bay downtown began a two year "pillar to post" refurbishment of the store which originally opened in 1926. It included the construction of additional warehouse space and a multi-level parkade to the south.

This freed up former storage space within the building for new uses including a Rendez Vous lounge, a new women's clothing boutique and large powder rooms. They also opened up the entire sixth floor as retail space, including a new restaurant called the "Paddle Wheel Buffet" which opened on October 29, 1954.

The Paddle Wheel Buffet brought the number of in-house restaurants to three. There was the café-counter style Jolly Canuck (basement), the upscale Georgian Room (fourth floor) and the family-friendly Paddle Wheel Buffet (sixth floor).

October 27, 1956, Winnipeg Free Press

The Paddle Wheel Buffet had a take-away counter, Gentlemen's Lounge; a women's only Crinoline Room and the main dining area. The gender-based rooms also acted as conference space for special lunches or social club meetings.

In 1967 another store renovation saw the Georgian Room moved to the fifth floor and the "Paddle Wheel Buffet" renovated into the Paddlewheel Restaurant with a larger dining area.

Bluegrass Week, 1971

This additional space meant that the Paddlewheel now had room for entertainment. 

Sometimes it was performers in town to promote their records, such as Jaye P. Morgan and The Banana Splits, that would do an evening set and autograph session. Most of the time, though, it was local entertainers such as Fabulous George and his Zodiacs and The Chicken Flats String Band.

The Paddlewhell was a busy place during store theme weeks, which ranged from A Salute to Britain, Bluegrass Week, Robbie Burns' Week and Metis Trading Days. Not only would bands and cultural groups perform but special menus would be served and fashion shows were held.

Another Paddlewheel feature through to the late 1970s were seasonal fashion shows and youth events put on by The Bay Student Council, which was made up of representatives from each Winnipeg high school.

Above: Santa's first breakfast at the Paddlewheel, 1968.
Below: Santa's last breakfast at the Paddlewheel, 2010.

The longest running Padddlewheel tradition was 'Breakfast with Santa' which debuted in 1968 and ran until until Christmas 2010.

In February 2011 HBC announced that their in-house restaurants would go upscale with the introduction of Oliver and Bonacini. At the time, the Paddlewheel was said to be among those being renovated. In early January 2012, however, it was announced the Paddlewheel would not be renovated and closed at the end of the month.


More Paddlewheel Photos
Paddlewheel set to close WFP (Jan 2012) 
Partnership to Transform Restaurants (Feb 2011)
Paddlewheel Restaurant up for renovations WFP (Feb 2011)
Paddlewheel brand to stay downtown WFP (Feb 2011)

Related Posts: 
The Bay Parkade Winnipeg Downtown Places
The Bay Downtown Winnipeg Downtown Places

Zellers' 79 year run in Winnipeg West End Dumplings

 November 16, 1954, Winnipeg Free Press

 July 20, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

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