Monday, May 31, 2021

595 Broadway - Safeway / Ting Tea Room

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Place: Former Safeway / Ting Tea Room
Address: 595 Broadway (Map)
Constructed: 1929
Architect: Safeway
Builder: W. J. Lailey
Cost: $12,000

Urban development at this address began around 1900 with a residential property. The last owner of the house appears to have been fireman Fred Colvin who lived there with two lodgers in 1928.

The property was then purchased by American grocery giant Safeway. The company entered the Canadian market in 1929 and established its head office in Winnipeg.

October 18, 1929, Winnipeg Free Press

Unlike smaller, independent chains that cobbled together stores that varied in size and appearance, Safeway had the capital to custom-build its stores from scratch in 'cookie cutter' fashion. Their identical appearance featuring a large front window and terra-cotta tiled roofline meant that customers could recognize a Safeway store form far off and knew that once inside, the same products could be found in the same place.

Safeway built dozens of these 1929 design stores around the city. The building permits for the first eight, including 595 Broadway, were issued in June 1929 to builder W. J. Lailey and cost around $12,000 each. They all opened for business on October 18, 1929.

To stay on top of the grocery game, Safeway introduced a new prototype store every decade or so. With each generation the stores and their parking lots - which the 1929 stores did not have - grew bigger.

Some of these 1929 stores remained Safeways for decades to come, but the West Broadway neighbourhood was one of the first to get the 1930s generation store. It opened a block away at Broadway and Young in March 1940. It is now Pals' Supermarket.

The old Safeway was put up for sale and spent a couple of years on the market before becoming the short-lived second location for Royal Bakery. The original location was at 472 St. Mary's Road and owned by Mr. A. DeMoor.

The building then began a long run in the restaurant business.

In 1944, brothers Nick and Spero Christakos opened the Silver Grill here. This was their fifth location, the others being at 104 Osborne, 172 Main, 201 Notre Dame and 437 Portage.

Nick, who appears to have managed this location, came to Winnipeg from Greece in 1923 at the age of 26 and was involved in a  number of restaurant ventures. (Both he and Spero are uncles of Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame.)

In 1948, Nick applied to have the neighbouring property made into a dance hall that would be associated with the restaurant. At the rezoning hearing, a number of neighbours appeared in opposition to the request. Nick told them that he didn't want to run an actual dance hall, but needed that licence to be able to have banquets there. The application and later appeal were rejected. (A compromise must have been worked out as in the early 1950s there are newspaper mentions of banquets and public meetings being held at the 'Silver Grill hall' on Broadway).

By 1953, there were just two Silver Grills: 104 Osborne and 595 Broadway, the latter managed by Hans Fries. Fries changed the name in 1954 to Banquet Grill.

The Banquet Grill changed hands often. By 1957, Sam S. Wong of 666 1/2 Main Street was proprietor. By 1960, it was Keith Wong who changed the name around 1961 to Broadway Cafe, (Wong is sometimes listed in street directories as co-proprietor with Thomas Mah.)

In the late 1960s, the building was home to Oriental Pearl restaurant and in 1970 it became the Greek Village restaurant and coffee house.

Another short-term incarnation - but one with a lasting impact - came in 1971 when it became the Ting Tea Room.

"The Ting" opened at the tail end of the coffee house era and was a throwback to the hippie culture that took root in West Broadway and Osborne Village in the 1960s.

One newspaper article from the day noted that as the drinking age and other liquor laws were relaxed in Manitoba through the 1960s, many hotels remodelled their bars to become live music venues with small stages and large audio systems catering to rock and pop music. There were, however, many who still wanted to listen to acoustic music or poetry without the din of a bar in the background.

Coffee houses or tea rooms were a place to do this and were so named because they did not have liquor licenses.

The Ting opened around February 1971 featuring a restaurant, mediation room, and a small store taht sold local handicrafts.

In his Sound Tracks column in the March 5, 1971 edition of The Manitoban, Paul Sullivan wrote: "The Ting on Broadway... is fulla freaks and other interested folk. It is probably the only place in town where you can get a good Dagwood sandwich better than Mom makes, orange juice, mint tea, soup with croutons and whole onions, potato chips, and a highly imaginative pickle plate, all in one meal and cheap. Specializes in organic food for the purists and all sorts of neat stuff for the unclean."

Gene Telpner noted in a 1975 Winnipeg Tribune column that: "The Ting... is about the only place in the city that consistently books folk singers and gives locals a chance to get exposure."

Performers who graced the Ting's stage include Rick Neufeld, Ken Cooper, Lenny Breau, Roy "Bim" Forbes, Valdy, Ian Gardiner, and prog-rock band Ptarmigan. (Google "The Ting" and "Winnipeg" for various references to artists who have played there. It still has a Facebook fan page!)

The Ting underwent at least three changes in management. Two obituaries that mention having once managed or owned the establishment are those of Kenneth Chambers, (above) and Roggi Petursson.

In March 1975, Gene Telpner noted in his column that The Ting was undergoing another change in management, writing, "in recent months the Ting has had slack times with the exception of Sunday night sessions" and expressed hope that it could be rejuvenated.

Sadly, it could not. The Ting closed a few months later. Its last night was August 16, 1975 and featured a lineup of musicians and poets who staged "A Requiem for the Ting".

August 30, 1975, Winnipeg Free Press

This wasn't the end for 595 Broadway as a coffee house. It reopened in September 1975 under the name Easy Street with owners Jerry Ackerman, a university professor, and his wife, Caroline, who had just authored a successful cook book.

The Ackermans redecorated the place with large round tables, old barn lamps, and "quaint schoolhouse-style chairs donated by a convent." Opening night on Tuesday, September 2, 1975 featured jazz pianist Mark Rutherford and vocalist Dianne Heatherington.

When asked by a reporter what he thought about Easy Street's chances of success as Winnipeg's last coffee house, Jerry Ackerman said, "We're optimistic, but not starry-eyed..."

Easy Street hosted artists such as Ron Paley, Dianne Heatherington, Tom Jackson, and Ray Materick, but soon ran into trouble.

In March 1976, ads in the Winnipeg Tribune sought "Superhero-heroine(s)" as investors / managers to for Easy Street. The following month, the ads read "Easy Street is for sale" and in need of "fresh ownership, energy and enthusiasm".

Easy Street disappeared from the "club scene" pages of local newspapers at the end of May 1976.

November 5, 1976, Winnipeg Tribune

The restaurant theme continued with India Curry House. Adarsh and Om Prakash, who were raised near Delhi, opened the original India Curry House in 1974 on St. Mary's Road. One review said it was Winnipeg's only Indian restaurant. Eighteen months later, they relocated to 595 Broadway.

In a 1980 restaurant review for the Winnipeg Free Press, Marian Warhaft noted that ownership had changed hands since it first opened.

India Curry House, which received consistently good reviews, stayed at this location until 1995 and had outlasted any of the building's previous incarnations, including Safeway.

June 14, 1996, Winnipeg Free Press

In February 1996, the restaurant reopened under the name Best of Sri Lanka. A 1996 ad stated: "June Gomes' best Sri Lankan cuisine is now showcased in her restaurant."

The venture only seems to have lasted for a year.

In the early 2000s, the building became the workshop for Wood ’n’ Stone, a company that built cabinets and stone fireplaces.

In 2014, it was extensively renovated and became West Broadway Pharmacy, part of the local Northway Pharmacy chain.

Other recent West Broadway posts:

Broadway Pharmacy
Wannabees Diner

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