Saturday, July 24, 2021

680 Victor Street- Commercial Building (R.I.P.)

 © 2021, Christian Cassidy

Place: Former West End Food Market
Address: 678 - 682 Victor Street (Map)
Constructed: 1906 (Demolished 2021)
Contractor: Unknown

August 26, 1909, Heimskringla

December 10, 1908, Heimskringla

This two-storey building was constructed in 1906 and took up addresses 678 - 682 Sargent Avenue. Initially, it contained a single retail unit on the main floor and two residential suites upstairs. It is unclear who designed or constructed the building.

This was very early for Sargent Avenue as the area around it was only subdivided for residential development starting around 1904. It was likely the third oldest building left on Sargent after Balmoral Court (1905) and the Johnson Block / Miller Block (1905).

The first retail tenant was Clemens and Arnason Grocery. The proprietors were Thorkell J Clemens of 445 Maryland Street and Gudmunder Arnason of 562 Sherbrook Street. They were joined the following year by Svein Palmason and the store's name was expanded to reflect this.

Thorkell was the brother of prolific West End architect Paul Melsted Clemens. In fact, the Maryland Street address where he lived was the home of his brother and his family.

Source: Almanak Ólafs S. Thorgeirssonar, 1911

The makeup of the building changed in 1910. The grocery was taken over by brothers John and Sigurdur Finnbogason who lived together at 691 Victor Street.

It also marked the first year that residential tenants were listed in the two upstairs suites. They were George Bennett, baker, and Robert McDonald, a cab driver at the Winnipeg Cab Company, and M. McDonald.

The Finnbogassons only lasted a year or so and the grocery had a number of proprietors over the next few years, including Brynjolfur Arnason, Bjorn Methusalemson, and Johan Thorgeirson.

In 1919, the grocery became known as the West End Food Market. The original proprietors were Steindor Jakobsson and Jakob F. Kritjansson.

In an essay entitled Christmas in Icelandic Winnipeg, 1920, author L.K. Bertram writes: "This English-sounding store is packed to the gills with Icelandic Christmas food. People are grabbing hangikjöt (smoked lamb or mutton) wrapped in paper, harðfiskur (dried fish eaten with butter), and fresh salmon imported for the holidays."

December 17, 1923, Heimskirngla

The West End Food Market was joined in 1922 by Radio Confectionery at the 678 address. The candy shop, ice cream parlour, and tea room took over the entire main floor the following year.

The original proprietors of Radio Confectionery were Harry Dumas and Chris Kelekis. Kelekis would go on to sell candies by pushcart and in 1931 started a chip wagon that eventually became the iconic Kelekis Restaurant.

Radio Confectionery closed around 1927 though it was reborn a couple of years later on Hargrave Street.

The main floor of 680 Victor remained empty for a year then housed some short-term businesses, including Modern Ladies clothing store (1929), Stefan Johnson's Boots and Shoes (1930), Nellie McSkimmings' flower shop (1929 to 1933), and West End Book Store (1935).

Jakobson returned in 1939 and re-established West End Food Market. He managed it until around 1950 when M. Murphy took over. When Murphy went out of business in 1956, Jakobsson reopened it and ran it until 1958.

Left: Steindor escorts 1941 Maid of the Mountain
Right: Halldora as Maid of the Moutnain in 1938

Considering the number of times over the decades he ran a business here, it is likely that Jakobsson owned the building.

Steindor Jakobbson was born in Iceland and came to Winnipeg in 1913 as a nineteen-year-old and trained as a butcher. His wife, Halldora, was born in Duluth and came to Winnipeg with her parents in 1908. They had two sons, Brian and Steindor ("Steini").

The couple were heavily involved in the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba. Steindor served as president from 1946 to 1948. Halldora was on many festival committees and was Maid of the Mountain in 1938.

The family home was at 676 Agnes Street through the 1920s and 30s. By 1946, they had moved to 800 Banning Street where they remained until Steindor's death in 1965.

April 22, 1997, Winnipeg Free Press

The building would not have a tenant that took up the entire main floor again.

The 678 address housed a number of short-term restaurants through the 1960s, including: Honcho's Hacienda Restaurant No. 2 - E. Cox proprietor; Susie's Inn - Susie Turi, proprietor; and Edward's Grill - Ann Loiselle, manager. In the early 1970s it was Nanwah Chop Suey House then The Soup Bowl.

The 682 address housed and upholstery shop in the early 1970s, Apollo's Travel Agency from the late 1970s to early 1990s, and from at least 1997 to 2017 was home to Divinity Hair Designs. In 2018, it returned to its roots as a grocery store with the short-lived Crown Grocery.

May 21, 1938, Winnipeg Tribune

The two suites may have become three suites in the 1960s. A 2019 era online rental ad described suite 1 as a 2 bedroom, 700 square foot apartment for $650 a month.

Hundreds of tenants came and went over the decades.  This included The Chapmans who celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary there in 1938.

Tragedy struck the residential portion of the building in 1996 when an eight-year-old boy killed Crystal Ducharme, his thirteen-year-old babysitter. The boy found a loaded gun his father kept in the suite and fired it at the girl. Police said they considered the shooting a homicide but due to the boy's age he could not be charged.

In July 2021, the building was demolished. It is unclear what will become of the property.

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