Thursday, June 30, 2016

180 Main Street - Inman Motors Building


Place: Inman Motors / 180 Main Street
Address: 180 Main Street (Map)
Opened: 1956
Architect: Unknown

When General Motors first set up shop in Winnipeg in 1928, rather than a franchise dealership they built a corporate-owned sales and service centre at 155 Fort Street. As the years went by GM added more brands of vehicles to its lineup and in 1938 they opted to go the franchised dealership route.

Henry Inman purchased the Fort Street sales centre and GMC building from GM and expanded the neighbouring used car lot.

Inman was born and raised in England and came to Canada in 1908. He worked for the Carriage Factory Ltd. in Brockville, Ontario for 15 years before joining General Motors. He was general manager of the Western Canadian division of General motors Assurance Company, based in Winnipeg, when he decided to go into business of his own.

circa 1965

With a  staff of around 36, Inman Motors operated from the Fort Street location until 1956. They  specialized in Chevrolet and Oldsmobile cars and Chevy trucks. 

In 1956 they moved into this two-storey, 40,000 square foot, custom-built building at 190 Main Street at York Avenue.

The main floor contained offices and a new car showroom, while the paint centre and service department was upstairs.The used car lot was located across the street, next to the Union Station.


 
September 25, 1974, Winnipeg Free Press

In the late 1960s the dealership became Gateway Chevrolet Oldsmobile. In September 1974 it became Terry Balkan Chev-Olds.

Terry Balkan and Brother Lou Adams, with their ad catchphrase "Youuu Betcha", became minor local TV celebrities. In late 1982 Balkan went into receivership, then bankruptcy.



The 1980s brought a change in industry for 180 Main when it was converted into a restaurant called  Grapes on Main.

In 1984, Marvin Investments, (owned by the Barry Shenkarow family), purchased the building and spent $1.7 million to renovate it into an office block. A main office tenant was Bachman and Associates Real Estate which rented 8,000 square feet upstairs, while the main floor became home to the city's second Grapes Restaurant in the summer of 1985.

Grapes was a restaurant / bar chain started by Gendis Corp, which also owned SAAN stores, among other things. In 1994 they partnered with investors headed by Thrainn Kristjansson, who originated the concept for them, to create Grapes Canada Inc. At its peak there were six Grapes in Winnipeg plus one in Thompson,  Brandon, Calgary and Vancouver.

Grapes on Main closed in 2002 after building's new owner, Gage Marketing Services, purchase it and renovated the entire building for their 400 employees. Today, it's major tenant is Skybridge Marketing Services.

An original tenant since its 1980s conversion to office space is the federal government's Canadian Forest Service.

1 comment:

  1. I auditioned for a part in a Terry Balkan Chev-Olds commercial when I was really little. Didn't get the part though, the casting company loved me but I apparently wouldn't cooperate.

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