Thursday, March 1, 2018

893 Portage Avenue - Former Safeway store No. 8

Place: Former Safeway / Bodyshapes
Address: 893 Portage Avenue (Map)
Constructed: 1929
Cost: $12,000
Contractor: W. A. Irish
Top: 1929 retail trade magazine
Bottom: November 1, 1929, Winnipeg Tribune

This building was the eighth Safeway store opened in Winnipeg by the American grocery retailer after entering the Canadian market and establishing their head office in Winnipeg in mid-1929. By the end of the year, the chain boasted sixteen outlets.

The building permit for the $12,000 store was issued to contractor W. A. Irish in early July 1929.

Unlike most grocery chains, still a new concept in the 1920s, Safeway used the cookie cutter method of retailing. They built their own stores from scratch so that they looked identical inside and out. This made it easy for customers to recognize a Safeway and ensured that they could find the exact same array of products in the same location regardless of which store they walked into.

Safeway introduced a new, larger prototype store every few years and in 1951 the old store was vacated.The news store, just two doors down, opened on Thursday, July 26, 1951. (The small white building between them was a Safeway pharmacy, back in the day when pharmacies had to be stand-alone businesses.)

893 Portage then began a long run as a pharmacy.

From 1951 until 1975 it was known as Storr's Drug Store. 

William Watson Storr was born April 4, 1884 in Ottawa, Ontario and graduated from the University of Toronto's School of Pharmacy in 1905. He then came to Winnipeg and opened his own pharmacy in 1909 on the main floor of the newly opened St. James Park Block at 807 Portage Avenue.

In September 1911, he married Ida May Haisley at her parents' home at 247 Simcoe Street and they settled at 509 Basswood Place where they raised two daughters.

In 1951, Storr, who by that time was over 65, relocated to 893 Portage Avenue soon after it was vacated by Safeway. He retired in 1954 and died in 1962 but the store carried on under his name until 1975.

A small, independent store, Storrs did not advertise. From the mid 1960s to mid 1970s, however, it was one of more than 50 local A.R.P. drug stores. This was a Western Canadian alliance of independently-owned pharmacies created in 1963 to combine purchasing and advertising power by buying as a group.

Through the 1980s it was known as MediMart Drugs and from the mid-1980s to 2004 it was Vimy Park Pharmacy, owned by the husband - wife pharmacist team of Marie Berry and Bill Cechvala.

The building's 53-year run as pharmacy ended in 2004 after a new Shoppers Drug Mart opened in the next block and bought out Vimy's stock and customer list.

After sitting vacant for a number of years, 893 Portage became Bodyshades tanning salon in mid-2007.

In the summer of 2017, the owner renovated the exterior. The demolition revealed a remarkably intact original Safeway store facade.

The facade was restored but destroyed in February 2018 when an SUV ran through the front of the store.

My Flickr album of 893 Portage
893 Portage gets a makeover West End Dumplings

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