Wednesday, May 10, 2017

690 Ellice Avenue - Gelyn's Wedding Lounge

© 2017 Christian Cassidy
Place: Gelyn's Wedding Lounge (Website)
Address: 690 Ellice Avenue, 466 Victor Street (Map)
Constructed: 1907
Architect: Unknown

"Frankie", one of the Battaglia children

In 1907, the Battaglia family relocated their Notre Dame fruit and confectionery store to the newly-built 690 Ellice Avenue. Nunzio was born in Sicily in 1865 and wife, Angela was born in Italy in 1881. They came to Winnipeg together in 1903.

No mention can be found of its construction in newspapers of the day, so it is unclear if they had it custom built or who the architect / builder was. The store was on the main floor and the family - which eventually comprised of thirteen children - lived upstairs.

Between running the business and raising thirteen kids the Battaglias didn't have much time to make the newspapers for outside activities.

July 3, 1925, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1926, the family decided to go into the cafe business.

They bought the assets of the defunct Sunshine Cafe at 654 Logan Avenue at Sherbrook, (now demolished). Mrs. Battaglia is listed as the proprietor and three of the children, Carolyn, Frank and Leo, working there.

It appears that during 1927 some of the family still lived at 690 Ellice, though the store portion is listed as empty.  (The Battaglias would return to Ellice Avenue a couple of years later when one of their sons became a famous boxer - but that's a whole other post !)

In 1928, the building is home to the Elgin Cafe and Confectionery. Named, likely, because the owner, Samuel Cascisio (or Cascisa), lived on Elgin Avenue.

April 1930 ad

By 1930, 690 Ellice was again a corner store, now called John Rennie Fruit and Confectionery.

The owner and his wife lived upstairs, which was converted into two apartments listed separately as 466 Victor Street. In 1934, their clerk, Frank Saunders, moved into suite 2.

Later that decade, Rennie's store joined the Red and White grocery chain.

Interior of a Red and White store ca. 1932, this one on Langside.

The American-based Red and White came to Winnipeg in 1927, just ahead of the big corporate chains Safeway and Piggly Wiggly in 1929. Each Red and White was independently owned and operated. The benefit to the owners was in the corporate advertising and bulk purchasing power through Western Grocers.

By 1932, Red and White had forty stores in Winnipeg, mostly corner stores in the inner city and a couple of dozen in Manitoba. By 1945, there were 84 in Winnipeg and its suburbs and more than 200 elsewhere in Manitoba. The chain had about 1,000 locations across the prairies by the late 1930s.

September 27, 1943, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1941, Rennie took a job with the Winnipeg Electric Company and soon put the store up for sale.

It had two owners in quick succession. In 1944, it was Josephine Dercola who lived in the block with her husband. In 1945, it was J. E. Thomas Smith of Lipton Avenue who renamed it Smith's Red and White.
Albo ca. 2000s (Obituary)

In 1945, a meat clerk named Michael Albo joined the staff of Smith's and he and his wife Anita moved into one of the upstairs suites. In 1948, Albo bought the business and it was renamed Mike's Red and White.

Albo was born in Grimaldi, Italy in 1915 and came to Winnipeg with his family when he was a young child. In 1941, he married Anita Lalonde and they settled for a while in Fort William, Ontario. Upon returning to Winnipeg, they lived on Brandon Avenue until their moved to Ellice Avenue.

Once they took over the store, the Albos, who would have six children, did not continue to live above the store. They resided on Roseberry Street in St. James, then Enfield Crescent in Norwood.

The upper suites were rented to various short-term residents.

The store remained part of the Red and White chain until 1958, after which it became an IGA Market from 1959 to 1961. It was then back to being an independent store called M M Food Store.

Albo retired around 1976 and the store closed.

February 19, 1980, Winnipeg Free Press

By 1978, it became  home to Gelyn's Wedding Lounge, owned by Linda Ramos.

Linda, her husband and their two youngest children came to Winnipeg from the Philippines in 1970.

She worked at Safeway and the Canadian National Institute For the Blind before her baking skills got her noticed. She began baking wedding cakes by word of mouth until doing it as a living starting in 1975.

Geylyn's still operates from this location.


  1. Great bit of history! That’s my grandpa, Mike Albo. He and my grandma actually had 7 children, but one passed. There are still 6 of their children alice, 5 of whom live in Winnipeg (my uncles and aunt). The other one lives in BC.

    1. ...still 6 children alive, not alice....

    2. My Uncle was Paul Albo, Mike’s brother. Our family went to the store every Saturday. Uncle Paul and Auntie Goodie lived beside my family in St. Charles until the Albo family moved to Transcona. Great memories.