Thursday, September 10, 2015

730 Wellington Avenue - Verdin's Grocery / Westhome Foods

Wellington Avenue, Winnipeg

Place: Verdin's Grocery / Westhome Foods / Tavistock Annex
Address: 730 Wellington Avenue (Map)
Built: 1909(?)
Demolished: 2016
Architect: Unknown

There has been a grocery store at this corner of Wellington Avenue and Beverley Street since 1909-10, though its roots date back to a 1907 store called Verdin's Grocery at Wellington at Toronto, just a block away.

Albert George Verdin (1871 - ?) was born and raised in London, England. Wife Eliza Ida (nee Berthman, 1873 - 1961) was born and raised in Ontario. The family first appears in Winnipeg in the 1903 Henderson's Directory living on Beacon Street at Logan. Albert's occupation was listed as a shipper and butcher.

In 1906, the couple had a son, George, and were living at 857 Alexander with three other Verdins. There was George E., another butcher, Fay, a bookkeeper, as well as Elizabeth, widow of Albert. Their son would have been a small child at this time so, presumably, these were Albert's brother, sister in-law and mother.

Top: Ad from April 1907. Bottom from June 1907

Verdin's Grocery first appears in the Henderson Directory of 1907 at 704 Toronto Street at Wellington. At the time, the family, minus the in-laws and widow, lived at 680 Toronto Street. They also employed a driver, William Bragg of 699 Toronto Street.

Verdin proclaimed in his ads that his was the "oldest establishment in the West End", later updated to read "the oldest established meat and provision market in the West End". It is a claim that is hard to verify but much of the West End was only subdivided for residential development in the couple of years prior to its opening.

The first Wellington School, across the street, also opened in 1907.

Wellington Avenue, Winnipeg

Being a small store, Verdin's rarely advertised or made the news, including when it moved into this new located at 730 Wellington at Beverley. 

Around 1917, Albert and Eliza moved into suite B at the neighbouring Tavistock Apartments, 724 Wellington Avenue. It was a place they called home into the 1960s.

In 1924 - 25, the store was either rebuilt or extensively renovated. Shortly after, Albert Verdin retired and leased it out as a source of income.

August 19, 1932, Winnipeg Free Press

The first to operate it as a leased store was John H. Bates and family, who also lived at the Tavistock Apartments. In 1931 - 32, the store was run by H. Skinner. The Depression likely put an end to Skinner's store and the building sat empty through 1932 and 1933.

Top: March 24, 1938, Winnipeg Tribune
Bottom: December 11, 1958, Helmskringla

In 1934, the store reopened as Westhome Grocery and Meats with Alex Malkin as  proprietor. He hired Eva Jones of 655 Beverley as a clerk. Malkin owned the store until around 1949, though Eva continued to work there through to the mid 1950s.

Following Malkin was a string of short-term proprietors, including Thor and Kathleen Holm (1950) and Jack and Annette Flom (1952-53).
Top: Joe Riesenbach, ca unknown (source)
Bottom: outside store, ca Oct. 1963 (source - used with permission)

Joseph "Joe" Riesenbach and wife Ruth were the last proprietors of a grocery store at this location, from 1955 to 1963. 

Joseph's family were Polish Jews. During the Second World War, when he was ten years-old, they fled their home and spent two years in hiding in a root cellar. When the war was over, to escape continued anti-Jewish sentiment in Poland, Joseph came to Canada, arriving in Quebec in 1950.

Wellington Avenue, Winnipeg
November 16, 1963, Winnipeg Free Press

Joseph and Ruth took over Westhome Foods in late 1954 or early 1955 and in 1963 relocated across the street to 737 Wellington. The old store spent a couple of years up for lease until 1965 when it was converted into a residential duplex marketed as the "Tavistock Annex". Each unit, numbered 705 and 709 Beverley Street, contained four rooms and a basement.

It is possible that Verdin still owned the building when the Riesenbachs moved and, when it didn't lease, sold it to the owner of the Tavistock who converted it into housing. (After five decades living at the Tavistock Apartments, he surely must have known the building's owner well !)

 724 Wellington Avenue, 

By 2012 the property, still part of the neighbouring Tavistock Apartments, was in disrepair. The owner had the former grocery store rezoned to multi-family residential in order to replace it with a new, seven unit, 3.5 storey apartment building.

In September 2015, the rezoning was extended for another two-year period. An exact timeline for construction has not been set.

The new Westhome Foods at 737 Wellington

The Riesensbachs ran Westhome Foods at is new location until their retirement in 1990.

My photo album of 724 and 730 Wellington Avenue
For more about Joe Riesenbach, (also). 

UPDATE - March 2016

In early March 2016, the building was finally torn down to make way for the new housing project. For more information, check out this blog post.

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