Thursday, September 8, 2016

447 Bannatyne Avenue - Victoria Leather Jacket / All Canadian Emblem Building

Place: Victoria Leather Jacket Company / Crest
Address: 447 Bannatyne Avenue
Opened: December 1952
Architect: Unknown
Contractor: Unknown

 Jimmy Gobuty, left, and Rosenberg. Jun 28, 1958, Winnipeg Free Press

David Rosenberg was born and raised in Bobroisk, Russia. In 1913, he and wife Eshka came to Canada, settling initially in Hamilton, Ontario, where David set up a garment manufacturing company called the Victoria Leather Jacket Co. Ltd. 

In 1937, the Rosenbergs came west to establish a Winnipeg branch.

The co-owner in the venture was James "Jimmy" Gobuty. Though more than 20 years Rosenberg's junior, the Russian-born Gobuty was already a player in the outerwear manufacturing industry. 

He started working in factories when he was a child. Newspaper accounts about Gobuty's first business venture vary, but all agree it happened in the late 1920s or early 1930s, investing his $500 life savings in full or part ownership in a garment firm. In the 1940s and 50s he was a co-owner of Dominion Cloak Ltd.

Soon, Winnipeg became the headquarters of Victoria Leather Jacket Company, (later shortened to Victoria Leather), with Rosenberg serving as company president and Gobuty as secretary-treasurer.

ca. 1945, Winnipeg Tribune

"Help wanted" ads for the company began appearing in local newspapers in January 1938.

For the first few years they operated from an upper floor of the Daylite Building on McDermot Avenue, then from the the neighbouring Glengarry Building.

The company produced a wide range of leather outerwear and sportswear. Rosenberg, the main designer, expressed an interest in moving beyond the traditional bomber and western fringed jackets to high fashion merchandise. To do this, they needed to expand.

Dec. 11, 1952, The Jewish Post

In December 1952 they moved to new premises at Bannatyne Avenue at Gertie Street, advertising the 15,000 square foot facility to potential new employees a “new factory building with the latest conveniences.” The architect and contractor are unknown.

The building may have been constructed in two phases. In some news stories about a 1959 explosion that took place there, it was described as single-storey building at 86 Gertie Street. A related image appears to show the corner of Gertie Street at Bannatyne Avenue without the building's distinct rounded corner.

By the summer of 1958, Victoria Leather was producing over 4,000 garments a week and had begun breaking into the American market with their high-end products that sported features like mink trim and metallic leather.

In a Free Press profile that year, Jimmy Gobuty said that they would soon have to expand as they were turning away orders.

Top: May 6, 1959, Winnipeg Free Press
Bottom: May 6, 1959, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1959, the building and its occupants had a close call when Rosenberg lit a cigarette in his office that ignited a natural gas leak from the street out front. The blast could be heard for blocks around and pieces of broken glass were scattered 60 feet away.

Rosenberg, 65, was sent to hospital in fair condition where he spent months recovering from severe burns to his chest, face and arms. Fifteen employees in the factory section of the building were not injured.

In 1963, Rosenberg retired and moved to British Columbia. He died at Los Angeles in November 1975 at the age of 81.
 Michael Gobuty, U of M Digital Archives

Victoria Leather was left in good hands with Jimmy Gubaty and son Michael who, according to this Bloomberg profile, began working in the receiving department in 1958.

The company continued to grow and in 1976 moved to much larger facility at 1266 Fife Street in the Inkster Industrial Park.

When Victoria Leather left, so did Standard Knitting, a tenant that had joined them in the early 1970s.

It appears the building remained vacant until 1982 when the current tenant, All Canadian Emblem Corporation, moved in. The company was created in September 1977 on Princess Street.

As for Victoria Leather, soon after their move to Fife Street they took over Squire Manufacturing Ltd, a maker of down filled outerwear, which they added to their product line. By 1979, the company's sales were $12 million.

Michael Gobuty had a passion for sports. He owned racehorses and in 1981 purchased Assiniboine Downs.

He was also president of the ownership group that bought the Winnipeg jets at the end of the 1977-78 season and brought them into the NHL in 1979. For a time, Bobby Hull was a vice president of marketing for Victoria Leather and the company released a signature line of "Bobby Hull Leatherdown" jackets.

April 30, 1982, Winnipeg Free Press

Through the late 1970s and early 1980s a recession, high interest rates and overseas competition was killing off the local garment industry. Victoria Leather felt these pressures and went into receivership in April 1982.

Jimmy Gobuty, still the company president, broke the news to workers on the floor of the factory. He wept as he told them he loved them all and vowed to do everything he could to save the company and their jobs. He couldn't.

Jimmy Gobuty died in Palm Springs, California in 1987 at the age of 71.

Michael Gobuty currently lives near Palm Springs, California.

1950s era sportswear:

 1958 high fashion with mink trim:

Part of late 1970s Bobby Hull Leatherdown Collection:

ca. 1930s, The Jewish Post


  1. well they were rich enough to travel and live in the sunny part of the usa...screwed their employees, probably insurance etc. who know...

    1. No employees were "screwed," as this gentlemen Mike Bell says, I remember him as a jealous kid in Winnipeg. My Father and Grandfather build up an industry since 1940's in Winnipeg and gave back more to the community.
      This is a great story, thank you for sharing.

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  3. How much were leather jackets worth from Victoria leather when they were open and how much are they worth now?