Sunday, September 18, 2022

427 Parr Street- Former Roshko Grocery

© 2022, Christian Cassidy

Place: Former Roshko Grocery / Nick's Grocery
427 Parr Street
Architect/ builder:
George Roshko

Roshko and parents at 427 Parr in 1926 census (Library and Archives Canada)

George Roshko was born in present-day Western Ukraine and came to Canada as a boy with his parents and siblings in 1896.

Roshko trained as an accountant and went to work for the Northern Crown Bank which merged with the Royal Bank of Canada in 1918. Street directories show that in 1910 he was a teller at the Main Street at Selkirk Avenue branch and lived in the quarters upstairs. The following year, he is listed as living in a rented room on Aberdeen Street.

The family bought a house at 244 Parr Street at Burrows Avenue around 1913. It was a large house as Mary and John Roshko had six sons and one daughter. George, who may have been the eldest, was 32 at the time and two of the youngest siblings were students at St. Boniface College.

The 1921 census shows just George, listed as the head of the household, living there with his parents.

After nearly two decades of working for the bank, Roshko decided to go into business for himself. He bought out a small grocery store at 415 Parr Street around 1922 and he and his parents lived in the adjoining suite.

Faraday under construction. August 25, 1922, Winnipeg Tribune

The first Roshko Grocery was located on the same block as Faraday School which opened in December 1922. It wasn't long before the school had to expand and the school board expropriated his property in mid-1924. 

Roshko was allowed to stay on the property until the school board was ready to start construction but he was not happy with the terms of the expropriation. In October, he took the school board to a board of arbitration seeking reimbursement for the interest he had paid on the land since he purchased it back in 1922. It is unclear if he got the additional money.

In late March 1925, Roshko was issued a $5,000 building permit for a new store with attached dwelling located on the other side of St. John's Avenue at 427 Parr Street. The single-storey with basement building measured 24 feet x 80 feet. Roshko is listed on the building permit as both the architect and the contractor.

The tender for the construction of the school addition was awarded in May 1925 so there was likely a period of a few weeks or months where the store did not operate.

November 16, 1933, Winnipeg Free Press

Roshko Grocery did not advertise in the papers but made the news on a couple of occasions in the 1930s for armed holdups, something common for all stores during the Depression.

In November 1933, a trio of youths, one armed with a gun, held up the store. Roshko was made lay face down on the floor with the gun pointing at him as they stole $52 in cash and some cigarettes.

In August 1936, an armed man caught Roshko coming up from the basement storage area. He was forced back into the basement, stuck with a blackjack, and the robber and his accomplice tried to tie him to a pole. As noted in a news story about the incident, “the victim put up such a fight that the thugs weakened and fled empty-handed.”

In 1943, Roshko was around 56 years old and sold the store. He became a  real estate agent, one of his brothers was in the profession,  and at one point had an office in the Boyd Building on Portage Avenue.

Roshko was still selling real estate in 1955 when he moved into the Harrison Block at 818 Main Street at Jarvis. This was primarily a residential block with 15 suites and he acted as the building's manager, though did not own it.

Roshko, who appears never to have married, died at the General Hospital on May 24, 1963 at the age of 74. He is buried in Pinewood Cemetery.

May 4, 1945, Winnipeg Free Press

The next owners of the store were Albert and Gladys Brew.

Brew had been the chief engineer with Burns and Co., the meat packing company, and lived on Sherburn Street. Like Roshko, it seems that after a career with a big company he wanted to work for himself in a neighbourhood store.

Mrs. Brew and friends threw a surprise party at the house in April 1945 for Derina Atkinson, a new war bride who had just arrived in Winnipeg from her native Scotland. There were 18 guests in attendance and tea was served and gifts presented.

Sadly, there would be no other parties at the house as Mr. Brew suddenly fell ill and they had to sell the store in May 1945. He died at Vancouver in September 1946 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

May 18, 1991, Winnipeg Free Press

The next long-term owners of the store were Nick and Anne Genyk.

Nick was born and raised in Fisher Branch and worked on the family farm. He married Anne in 1937 and the couple began to buy and sell land as extra income. Eventually, they moved to Transcona where they bought and managed an apartment block.

The couple sold the block in 1948 in order to buy the store, which they renamed Nick's Grocery. The couple lived in the residential portion with their son Ronald. 

In September 1964, the Genyk family sold the store and bought the Glenboro Hotel in Glenboro, Manitoba.

March 1946 Red & White ad, Winnipeg Free Press

From the mid-1940s to mid-1950s, the store is sometimes referred to in directories as a Red & White store, (i.e. Nick's Red & White Grocery.)

Red & White was a type of local grocery chain during this period. It didn't own any stores, but independent grocery and corner store owners could pay a fee to be part of the chain and in return got bulk purchasing power on staple goods and the chain took out regular ads in the newspapers to promote the week's special buys.

It seems that Roshko signed on in the mid-1940s and the chain itself disappeared around 1956.

December 23, 1970 CZAS (Polish Times)

After the Genyk's the store appears to have had a number of short-term owners. (Online versions of Henderson's Street Directory of Winnipeg end in 1965. Paper versions can be consulted at the legislative library of Local History Room at the Millennium Library if you want to carry on until the late 1990s when the directory ended.)

Using newspaper mentions to piece together its more recent history shows that in 1967 the building was repossessed by a bank and ads appeared in November of that year offering the store and living quarters with rec room for immediate sale for $29,000.

The Polish-language CZAS carries an ad for Jan's Grocery in 1970 and there are a couple of mentions of it being Tony's Grocery in the early 1970s.

The building is now two residential units.

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