Friday, December 11, 2020

144 Scotia Street - Former Scotia Grocery

 © 2020, Christian Cassidy


Image: @steveosnyder on Twitter

Place: Former Scotia Grocery
Address: 144 Scotia Street
Constructed: ca. 1911


1911 Census of Canada, Library and Archives Canada

The building permit for the house at 144 Scotia was issued in 1911. The first owners can be found living there a year later.

Walter and Johanna Johnson, both 56, were immigrants from Iceland who came to Canada in 1881. The 1911 census indicates there were no children living with them, though by that age any children they had would have been grown. I couldn't find an obituary for either one.

Initially, Johnson operated a shoe repair shop from the house, but the following year decided that a grocery store might be more profitable. The couple worked in the store and lived above it.


December 2, 1914, Winnipeg Free Press

The Johnsons tried renting out the house portion in late 1914 / early 1915. This may have been to take advantage of the scramble for smaller housing units as families downsized when the "man of the house" went off to war. It was listed as a 5 room bungalow for $14 per month.

The rental idea may not have been successful as street directories show that they continued to live above the store until around 1921. That year, they rented the residence to Allan Stayler, a warehouseman at J. D. Perrin and Co., and moved next door to number 142 Scotia Street.


June 23, 1923 (top) and July 6, 1924, Winnipeg Free Press

In the summer of 1923, the Johnsons placed ads to sell or lease the grocery store after having been "called away" from the city. I couldn't find any details about what happened was. The ads ran on and off for over a year.

What appears to have been a short term rental was made in 1923 to A. W. Windish. He and a store clerk named John Haggarty lived in the residential section.

November 23, 1925, Winnipeg Tribune

The store finally got a new owner and a new name in 1925.

Harold Albert Lacey and wife Ethel came to Canada from their native England in 1907. Prior to this, they operated a grocery store at 1630 Portage Avenue at St. James Street. According to the 1926 census they lived in the residential portion of the building with 19-year-old daughter Dorothy who worked as a clerk at the store.

It was the Laceys that christened the store Scotia Grocery; a name that stayed around for decades to come.

The Laceys began renting out the residence in June 1926. Dorothy got married in 1928 and in 1930 Mr. and Mrs. Lacey leave the store and do not appear in subsequent street directories. This suggests that they may have left town. Classifieds ads in April of that year show they were also trying to rent a five-room unfurnished house in Transcona for May 1st.

For the next couple of decades there were a series of shorter term owners. This could mean that the store was rented out. The proprietors were: A Seifert (1931-32); W. Panting (1934); and Thomas J. Wilson (1935).

144 Scotia Street in 2009 (Google Street View)

In late 1935 or early 1936, Harry and Nelly Serkin took over and brought some stability to the business.

The Serkins had previously run a grocery store on Assiniboine Avenue. (In October 1934, an armed gunman entered the store, stuck a revolver in Mr. Sarkin's ribs, and made him empty the till.)

The Sarkins also invested in the building. In 1937, they hired builder N. Popeski who took out an $1,800 building permit to make alterations and an addition.

Benjamin and Ida Meyers took over in 1947.  They ran the store and lived above it until the early 1950s.

The string of short term owners continued. Checking street directories at five year intervals until the last one available online shows: 1950 - Benjamin and Ida Meyers; 1955 - Sid and Eva Winestock; 1960 - Ben and Jean Sosnowicz; 1965 - Jean Wozny.


May 8, 2001, Winnipeg Free Press

The store was purchased by the Wozny's in 1963.

Jean and Walter Wozny were from Garson, Manitoba where they farmed and then ran the local grocery store. They relocated to 130 Scotia Street in Winnipeg with their teenage sons, Lloyd and Leonard, in 1960. Walter got work as a machine operator with the city and Jean worked as a cashier at a Dominion grocery store.

The family moved into the residential portion of the building. Jean ran the store while Walter continued to work for the city.


May 17, 1976, Winnipeg Free Press

The last year that this address or Scotia Grocery is mentioned in newspapers comes in 1976.

The business and building were put up for sale in the spring. It is unclear if this was by the Wozny's as the listing was handled by a real estate agent.

The store was still operating in November 1976 as the lone female clerk was robbed late that month.

1911 Hathaway's Map of Winnipeg (source)

It was pointed out on Twitter that this is an odd location for a store as it sits in the middle of a residential block. At first, I thought maybe it WAS at the end of a block at one time. After all, Scotia is a bunch of riverside lanes that were stitched together as owners gave up their river lots.

Looking at the years the building permits were issued for this block, west side of Scotia Street from  Inkster to Lansdowne, does not support this theory. The neighbouring house at 142 was built in 1907, this house was built in 1911, and the rest were built just two years later. Here's the lineup: 152 – 1913; 150 – 1913; 144 – 1911; 142 -1907; 138 – 1913; 134 – 1913; 130 – 1913.

That being said, it is not that strange to have a store in the middle of a block. There are a few early 1900s examples in the West End. At the time, the city was not concerned with mixing commercial and residential uses and if that's the lot you could afford, you built on it.

This was built initially as a shoe repair shop, so a prime location was probably not as big a concern as it would have been if someone was scouting for a grocery store. Perhaps that's why it had many short term owners. A mid-block location at the side of a river resulted in a pretty limited customer catchment area.


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