It’s deceiving to look at the map of Winnipeg and think of it as simply “one city.” A massive, sprawling hunk of Manitoba, dotted with Slurpee cups and Jets jerseys. It’s only when you look at the individual communities, each area operating a little bit differently than the next, do you get a sense of who lives here.
The New Kid - Corydon Avenue
Corydon Avenue’s reputation as merely a string of Italian restaurants has been inaccurate for years. Great new coffee shops, drinking establishments, restaurants and boutique stores have added variety to the area’s flavour. These booming, independently owned businesses, which include Normandy Shoppe at 791 Corydon, have breathed new life and eclectic flair into the neighbourhood.
Inspired by spots such as Vancouver’s Old Faithful Shop, Normandy’s owners Chris Saniuk and Amanda Remond opened shop in November 2014, and have been overjoyed by what has become a neighborhood hangout. The majority of their customer base lives in the surrounding area, but many patrons will cross the city for a chance to shop there. Saniuk feels the initial idea for Normandy Shoppe was born out of necessity.
“Nobody was really doing what we’re doing,” he says. “We really just filled a void. All our products are stuff that I believe in and wanted to be wearing anyways, just no one was selling them in the city.”
For Saniuk, running a business in the Corydon area makes going to work an absolute pleasure.
“It’s the kind of place where you can walk down the street and run into someone you know everyday,” Saniuk says. “It’s got a lot of like-minded individuals and design tastes and aesthetics. You kind of just find each other.”
Quick Picks: Normandy Shoppe, Marble Slab Creamery, Green Apple Skate Shop, Kristina’s on Corydon
The Up and Comer - Elmwood
Elmwood was named after its once-abundant elm trees that lined residential roads. Many of those trees are gone today, but some can still be found on the picturesque streets that run off of Henderson Highway. Conveniently located near the downtown area, the reasonable real estate costs are drawing many young couples to the area. Elmwood resident Emma Durand-Wood runs a blog called Winnipeg O’ My Heart, focusing on her experience as a former Vancouver resident moving to Manitoba. She and her family have called Elmwood home for over six years.
“It’s a very special part of the city and most people don’t even know that it’s here,” Durand-Wood says. “Buying a house in this area, you’ll pay like $100,000 less than if you were buying in the Corydon or Wolseley area.”
The resurgence of Elmwood doesn’t stop with the real estate. Retailers and small businesses have also caught a boost. Unique spots such as Sam’s Place at 159 Henderson Highway are changing the way Winnipeggers think about Elmwood. Sam’s Place is a used-bookstore-coffee shop-live music venue run by the Mennonite Central Committee. On the second and fourth Saturdays of every month they host a free open musical jam session, affectionately titled Jammin’ at Sam’s. All are welcome to attend, bring a guitar and have some fun.
Quick Picks: Sam’s Place, Savoir Faire Shop, Fresh to the Bone grocery store, Bikes and Beyond
The Underdog - St. Boniface
Arguably Winnipeg’s most culturally distinct area is St. Boniface, a place where you could live your whole life and only speak French if you wished. A mere baguette’s throw from downtown and scenically located right by the river, St. Boniface has something for everyone. A newly sprouted live music scene has appeared in the area, emanating from spots like Le Garage at 166 Provencher Blvd. Le Garage owner Ray Beaudry feels this change has been long overdue.
“We’ve established ourselves as the neighborhood place in the area,” Beaudry says. “We grew from there. We’ve become a destination place. I don’t take it for granted that we’re one of the places people consider.”
Beaudry thinks of St. B as a “city within a city.” The neighborhood’s population is made of people from many varying socioeconomic backgrounds, including many university students, living side by side. St. Boniface resident Nicolas Audette feels the area’s central location is another major draw.
“Everything that you need is within a five mile radius,” Audette says. “That was the first thing I noticed when I moved in.”
Quick picks: Le Garage, Chocolatier Constance Popp, Red Top Drive-Inn, Deen’s Caribbean Restaurant
The Always Been There - St. Vital
Whether it’s old or new, St. Vital has always been there. Beautiful tree-lined streets, ideal for walking or jogging merge with roadways with fast traffic flow, connecting residents to the many businesses in the area.
The notion that St. Vital feels remote and disconnected from the rest of the city is a common misconception. The route to the downtown area is actually rather swift, even by public transit.
As one of the most historic neighborhoods in Winnipeg, St. Vital is also home to the city’s first mosque, the Hazelwood Mosque at 247 Hazelwood Ave. Built by Winnipeg’s Islamic community in the 1976, the mosque remains open today.
President of the Manitoba Islamic Association, Dr. Idris Albakri feels the Hazelwood Mosque has maintained its architectural beauty.
“It hasn’t changed that much over the past 40 years of its existence,” Dr. Albakri says. “It has a high wooden ceiling like an old ice rink. It’s very rustic from the inside, which is why I like it.”
Quick picks: Hazelwood Mosque, St. Vital Park, Dairy Delight, Limelight Karaoke Bar
The Future - The North End
Across the railyard lies the most talked about part of Winnipeg, the North End. The rumours you may have heard are greatly exaggerated. The North End is a significant and historic multicultural area, with some of the oldest and most architecturally beautiful houses in the city. Thanks to low real estate costs and a thriving school division, Winnipeg’s North End is a perfect fit for a young family.
Michelle Arnaud is the chair of the Farraday Neighborhood Resident’s Association (FNRA) an organization whose goal is to provide a sense of well-being for the North End community. The FNRA often host events around the area, including Hockey Night with the Farraday School Division. Arnaud believes the neighborhood is the quintessential place to look for a starter home.
“You really do get a good sense of family here,” Arnaud says. “I’m very chummy with quite a few of the people on my block. You see kids running around and playing with their friends. It’s really a great place for a family to come and move in.”
Many prominent businesses can be found on Selkirk Avenue including Gunn’s Bakery at 247 Selkirk Ave. Operating from the same family-owned location since 1937, Gunn’s offers some of the finest pastries and sweets in Manitoba. Arthur Gunn, the bakery’s owner grew up in the area and still hangs his hat in the North End today.
“All my friends were born and live in the North End,” Gunn says. “It’s a nice place to be. There are quite a few people involved in changing what’s going on here. We’re on the cusp of reinventing the North End again.”
Arnaud feels her home neighborhood has amazing potential to grow, given the proper encouragement.
“We really do love this area,” Arnaud says. “(The North End) like the little gem that’s just waiting to be polished to become the brightest star ever.”
Quick picks: Gunn’s Bakery, Luda’s Deli, Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, Windmill Lunch Ltd, Neechi Commons
Part of the series: The Urban Issue 2015
Published in Volume 69, Number 26 of The Uniter (March 25, 2015)