Saturday, June 13, 2015

619 Broadway - Pal's Grocery

© Christian Cassidy, 2015

Old Safeway
Place: Pal's Grocery
Address: 619 Broadway (map)
Opened: March 29, 1940
Cost: $14,000
Architect: Lanktree Thompson
Contractor: Lanktree Thompson Building Co.

October 5, 1907, Winnipeg Tribune

The address 619 Broadway, now one of only three remaining grocery stores in the downtown area*, was first associated with a residence. The second home on the site, which appears to have been built around 1904, was a stately brick dwelling featuring 11 rooms and two entrances, one onto Broadway and another onto Young. (Unfortunately, I cannot find an image of it.)

It was home briefly to John Hume Agnew, a lawyer who at the time was the provincial Treasurer of Manitoba.

 March 7, 1928, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1907 it was sold to another lawyer, a newly appointed judge named Alexander Dawson.  Dawson was single, so he often had other family members or even lodgers living there as well. It was his home until his death in 1928.

His estate sold off the property to commercial interests. The years 1928 - 1929 marked the arrival of big, American grocery chains such as Mutual Stores, Piggly Wiggly and Safeway. In a period of just couple of years, they scooped up dozens of properties, especially corner lots on regional streets, to build stores.

From 1937 - 38 Winnipeg newspaper ads

In late June or early July 1929, 619 Broadway opened as one of Piggly Wiggly's first ten Winnipeg stores. By the end of October, there were twenty in operation.

Piggly Wiggly originated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1916 and considers itself the first chain to offer a "self service" grocery store. Instead of dealing with a clerk who fetched down items from shelves behind the counter, PW stores had their stock individually priced and on the shop floor so that customers could choose items themselves and bring them to a central cash register when they were done. 

They also introduced refrigerated display units to their stores so that a wider range of foods could be carried under one roof, saving customers having to go to a variety of shops to do their daily shopping.

Above: Dec 29, 1939 Winnipeg Tribune
Below: 1940s Safeway ad

Safeway entered the market the following year and also opened dozens of stores in its first months of operation. A key to Safeway's growth, though, was acquisitions. It took over a number of chains, including Piggly Wiggly's 179 Canadian stores in 1935, and operated them under the PW name for a couple of years.

Around 1938 Safeway rolled out its new concept store, simply called "The 1940 Store". It was double the size of their old ones, offering a wider range of stock and in many cases on-site parking. Where land was available, they demolished existing stores and built the new ones in their place. In other cases, they found new locations and sold off the old buildings.

The design and construction of the new stores was by Lanktree Thompson Building Co. It was a short- lived venture, at the time on a home building spree in River Heights, constructing hundreds of homes - thirty on Borebank Street alone.

Above: March 28, 1940, Winnipeg Free Press
Below: August 28, 1961, Winnipeg Free Press

On November 2, 1939 building permits were issued for four new-style Safeway stores, including at Broadway and Young. Construction appears to have gone smoothly and the $14,000 structure opened for business on March 29, 1940.

The store continued on under the Safeway banner, even after the chain moved on to 1950 and 1960 concept stores. In 1961, though, it was extensively remodelled.

It appears to be the only surviving "1940 Style" Safeway in Winnipeg.

November 1978 Penner Foods ad

The grocery business continued to march on and newer, larger stores were introduced in the 1970s. The Broadway and Young Safeway, now three generations of stores old, simply did not fit into the chain's business model anymore.

In the 1970s Jim Penner was looking to move into the Winnipeg market. Penner Foods was a Steinbach-based grocery business started in  in 1964 after he bought out the family's 600 sq foot grocery store. The company had supermarkets in Steinbach and Altona and by 1977 had two Winnipeg locations, 619 Broadway and a strip mall location on Rothesay Street in North Kildonan.

Above: November 4, 1990, Winnipeg Free Press
below: from 1994 Pal's Supermarket ad

Penner sold the store around 1984 and it became Broadway Grocery and Meats. In 1990 Cora Naar took it over and renamed it Crystal Mart.

In 1991 it became part of a new four-store grocery chain called Pal's Supermarkets. Brothers Hal and Shiv Pal were experienced in the grocery business and created the chain from existing grocery stores shed by larger chains. Pal's kept many of the features of a full-service grocery store, offering a large produce department and an in-house butcher. They were open 7 days a week and offered grocery delivery. (In 1995 they added a fifth store on Henderson Highway.)

Pal's on Broadway

Considering how long 619 Broadway has been home to a retail business, it has had a remarkably quiet existence. Store employees do not appear to have made the news and the number of fires or major crimes are few.

In November 1978, as Penner's, there was a roof fire that caused $20,000 worth of damage and it had to close for three weeks to repair water damage. 

In 1991, as Pal's, someone robbed the store with a shotgun. Nobody was injured. It was robbed again in December 2011 at knife point and the clerk was seriously injured, though recovered.

The Medicine Wheel mural was added to the east wall by Art City in 2012.

The store, which one of only two supermarkets in West Broadway and three in the downtown area*, has been for sale through 2014 - 2015, though currently appears to be off the market.

My four part history of Safeway in Winnipeg
My Flickr album of old Safeway locations
Penner Foods History
Piggly Wiggly History

* From the Downtown Winnipeg Community Food Assessment by Food Matters Manitoba, 2013. See appendix D, p. 43, for a list of food retailers in the downtown.)

Also see: 'Food deserts' complex, hard-to-solve problems Winnipeg Free Press


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  3. My earliest memories are of this intersection and area.
    Our rental home was at 230 Young Street.
    The four corners of the street consisted of this Safeway Store, the apartment-block across the street, Broadway pharmacy(drugs) and the Rosery Florists which occupied the 1/2 block(the Gaspe Apts was the other).
    The Rosery property was surrounded by a tall wooden fence and they had a fairly extensive landscaping/soil yard at the rear of the property.
    There was a large home along the West side of Young Street(middle of the block)that belonged to the "Chivers" ladies. I believe they were spinsters. My major recollection of the house (and its wrap-around verandah)were the 19-teens architecture and the many carpets throughout the home.
    A large Bull-moose head, hung on the wall of the shaded-side of the verandah looking out to the street...watching the activity in the neighborhood.

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