Businesses

Embrace the Movement

What Next?

They came from all over Canada. A couple of weeks ago when I volunteered at the Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Shop on Selkirk Avenue we were inundated with two bus loads of visitors.  selkirk thrift shop visitors

These were Thrift Shop administrators, volunteers, board members and executive members from other cities. They had come to Winnipeg for a conference called Embrace the Movement where they could share ideas about how to run thrift stores more effectively and efficiently and to receive information and inspiration from guest speakers. visitors to thrift shopI talked with people from Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Ontario and other places in Manitoba. They were touring Manitoba Thrift Stores after spending a number of days attending workshops that addressed such things as recruiting volunteers, creating safe shopping and working environments, dealing peacefully and in restorative ways with shop lifters, quick merchandise turn around and handling conflict. visitors to thrift store

The people who came to tour were different ages, had…

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Mother’s Day Kitsch

What Next?

It’s the day after Mother’s Day and mothers are trying to find places to put all those lovely little gifts they received. Their hearts were touched by the sentiment the presents conveyed but what will they do with all those sweet knick knacks? I was working at the Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Store on Selkirk Avenue in Winnipeg last week and Mother’s Day kitsch was flying off our shelves. I took some photos before it was all gone.

If Mother's Were Flowers I'd Pick YouIf Mothers were flowers I’d pick you

Mother's Day Teddy BearsMother’s Day Teddy Bears

A Mother's Love Makes All Things Bright and BeautifulA mother’s love makes all things bright and beautiful

Plaque for Mother's DayPlaque for Mother’s Day

You who bears the sweetest nameTo one who bears the sweetest name

Mother's Day poem and Canada souvenir all in one ornamentA Mother’s Day poem and Canada souvenir 

What to do with your Mother’s Day kitsch? Bring it back to the Thrift Store and we’ll sell it again next year. Profits from our sales help to provide food, clothing, medical care and other…

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Chocogasm

What Next?

T-4's at chocolate eventSaturday day night I was in chocolate heaven for a few hours. Along with three good friends and former teaching colleagues, I attended a chocolate dinner at the McNally Robinson Community Classroom. ChocolatourHosted by Doreen Pendgracs the author of the book Chocolatour A Quest For the World’s Best Chocolatewe not only enjoyed a delicious meal where every course featured something chocolate, we also learned so much about chocolate from Doreen and her special guest Constance Popp who is a chocolateur with her own shop here in Winnipeg on Provencher Avenue. 

The menu included………

strawberry spinach salad

A strawberry, almond spinach salad with a dressing made from quince and dark chocolate balsamic vinegar

bittersweet chocolate beef ribs

Bittersweet chocolate beef ribs for the main course

caramel pepper chocolate mousse cake

and caramel chocolate pepper mousse cake for dessert. waitress mcnally's

A lovely surprise was having a former student of ours as our server. doreen chocolatour

Doreen is a chocolate expert and in between each course she shared…

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I’m A Shop Girl And I Love It

selkirk thrift storeI’ve been volunteering at a Winnipeg store on Selkirk Avenue that was featured in Winnipeg writer Sarah Klassen’s latest novel The Wittenbergs. Read all about it on my blog What Next.

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GoodWill and Good Memories

Last week while going for a walk in Winnipeg’s Exchange District neighborhood I found the GoodWill  Store on Princess Street. People donate clothing, books, appliances, furniture, dishes and other things they don’t want to the store and the GoodWill sells them, giving their profits to charity. The GoodWill was a place of wonder and delight for me as a child and I couldn’t resist going inside to see if it was as I had remembered it. I am sure the store has changed in the last 45 years but one thing hadn’t changed. On the far wall just where they had always been, were rows and rows and rows of books from the floor to the ceiling. The shelves of the Good Will Store were one of my main sources for reading material when I was a child. We lived in Steinbach which didn’t have a public library till 1973, the year I turned twenty. Our church didn’t have a library yet, in fact we didn’t even have a building. We met for services in a school basement.  The old Kornelson School where I first attended classes in Steinbach didn’t have a library either.  My parents couldn’t afford to buy me new books all the time and Steinbach didn’t have a book store. 

Perhaps because I had been read to often when I was a child, I grew up loving books and read voraciously. On family trips my Mom would tell me to get my nose out of my book and look at the scenery. Here I am setting off for my first day of school with a book in hand. I could read before I started grade one. So what was a girl who loved to read and had no access to books in her home town to do? My reading salvation lay at the GoodWill store.  On trips to Winnipeg my Mom often made a stop at GoodWill and patiently waited while I picked out books to read. Books were 5 cents each.  On my birthday my Grandma and Grandpa Peters always sent me a one dollar bill in my birthday card. That was 20 books! Should I choose a Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Box Car Children, Elsie Dinsmore, Bobbsey Twins, or another book in the Anne of Green Gables series or Little House series? I was in heaven in the GoodWill Store! All those books!

The GoodWill Store is still in the same location at 70 Princess Street as it was when I was a child. GoodWill was founded by a United Church minister Rev. J. Richmond Craig in 1931 as a way to provide employment to people who were out of work because of the depression. His slogan was “Junk into Jobs.” The store initially sold stuff left over from church rummage sales but expanded quickly. GoodWill continues to provide employment to people who find it difficult to obtain jobs. The GoodWill organization receives no government funding and every year they give their profits to worthy Manitoba causes. They now have 5 stores in Manitoba, four in Winnipeg and one in Ashern. The building at 70 Princess where I bought books was built in 1903 by the Bole Drug Company. Chemists manufactured their products in the building and they were shipped all across Canada. The Bole Building was one of the first to have speaking tubes that allowed the various departments in the building to communicate with one another. D.W. Bole who owned the company was a Winnipeg school trustee and a member of Parliament from 1904-1908.  Pharmaceuticals continued to be produced in the building till 1932 and in 1934 Good Will which was in need of bigger premises took over. In the last 75 years GoodWill has given jobs to hundreds of men and women and provided them with more than $12 million in wages. They have helped to recycle and reuse millions of items that might otherwise have been thrown away. They also made one little girl hungry for books to read very happy and left her with magical memories of their store. 

If you enjoyed this post you might also like…………

Children’s Party with Aunt Olly

Kornelson School Memories

Anne of Green Gables -A Faith Perspective

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The Mariaggi- A Hotel With A History

Meet Frank Mariaggi! He’s the dapper looking fellow in the mustache sitting front and centre in this photo. Mariaggi was born in Corsica in 1847. He came to Manitoba in 1870 with the troops sent here by Canada’s first prime minister.  Sir John A. MacDonald wanted to assert federal authority because the Metis led by Louis Riel were trying to set up a provisional government. 

Frank liked it in Manitoba and decided to stay.  He married a woman from Gimli, and began to dabble in real estate. In 1903 he opened a hotel named after himself in the Alexander Block which had been constructed by two Winnipeg lawyers at the corner of Winnipeg’s Albert and McDermot streets. 

The hotel was very elegant. It had both single rooms and suites. The suites had their own bathrooms, fancy furniture and steam heat. They were decorated with velvet carpets, thick drapes, oak chairs covered in leather, brass beds and oriental couches. An enclosed horse-drawn carriage picked up wealthy guests from the Canadian Pacific Railroad Station. Meals were served at all hours.

There were separate dining rooms for men and women and Frank himself was the chef. He had a farm on the city outskirts where he raised vegetables, poultry and Jersey cows so he’d have fresh produce for his menu items.  You had to pay extra for meals at the Mariaggi Hotel, but they were worth it. Most other hotels at the time included meals in their nightly rate. The Mariaggi boasted an oyster bar, a Turkish bath and a sparkling fountain. 

The Grotto made the Mariaggi the toast of the town. There were four small dining rooms and a bar in the hotel basement. Sand and mortar were knotted on the walls and at the centre was a pool with goldfish. The whole concept was intriguing and just a bit risqué and drew in patrons in droves. The Mariaggi was also a favorite watering hole for Winnipeg newspaper reporters. Interestingly today the Free Press Cafe is located in the same building that once housed the original Mariaggi Hotel. 

Frank Mariaggi was an innovative man and a successful one. He made a fortune in land dealings in Winnipeg and Port Arthur and then moved back to Corsica in 1908. He purchased his father’s estate and restored it and was named the mayor of the local village. He died in 1918. 

Today there is a new Mariaggi Hotel in the very same building where the old one was located. During Winnipeg’s Doors Open event last month I took a tour.

Owner Don Laluk told us the hotel is a theme hotel. Each room is decorated to look like a certain part of the world– Morocco, Japan, Rome, India, Hawaii, Bali and the Caribbean. The rooms rent from $245 a night to $600 a night. Each room is completely different. Although 80% of the hotel’s clients are Winnipeg people looking for a unique experience they also have guests from Europe and from all over North America. 

In February 2012 CBC News reported that the Mariaggi had won a Trip Advisor award for being one of the ten most romantic hotels in the world.  Although that certainly sounds promising, the sixteen comments posted beneath the news item resoundingly denounced the Mariaggi for many things including poor service, poor ventilation, paper-thin walls, pushy staff and having to pay extra to have the Jacuzzi filled.

However on the Trip Advisor site there are 147 reviews and virtually all of them are positive. So I guess you have to visit the hotel and find out for yourself. All the rooms have hot tubs, big screen TV’s and fireplaces. Meal service and spa service is available at an extra cost.

I had walked by the Mariaggi Hotel many times and wondered what it was like inside. I’m glad the Doors Open Winnipeg event afforded me a peek at the interior. 

Now that I’ve seen the hotel, I don’t really need to stay there. My curiosity has been satisfied.  The old photos displayed on the walls inside the hotel which I spotted on my tour, inspired me to do some research about the Mariaggi’s history and it was interesting to learn about Frank Mariaggi and the first Mariaggi Hotel. 

Information for this article came from………

A 1984 Winnipeg Historical Buildings Report

Virtual Heritage Winnipeg

The Manitoba Historical Society

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Tom Lamb-“Mr. North”

Every morning on my way to the gym to do my work out I pass by this statue of Tom Lamb on the main floor at the Lombard Place entrance of the Richardson Building. Many people rest their belongings on the statue’s base now in winter to give themselves free hands to secure their scarves and hats before stepping out into the snowy cold air. I’ve done it myself. Today I took time to read the plaque on the statue that told me who the pilot in the statue was, and why he merited a bronze likeness by the famed Canadian sculptor Leo Mol.   I was curious to learn more about Tom Lamb.  I found out he’d been born in 1898 in Grand Rapids Manitoba. His British father and mother were Anglican missionaries in the north. His Dad did many different jobs but was primarily a school teacher. He  moved his family to Moose Lake in 1900. 

Although Tom would later be awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Manitoba his formal education ended at grade three. In 1935 he  bought an airplane and learned to fly it so he could go fly fishing in the north. Four years later he had founded Lambair.

The airline hauled fish and furs, trappers and fishermen. They transported Inuit families and equipment for oil rigs. They handled emergency and medical evacuations. The motto of the airline was “Don’t ask us where we fly! Tell us where you want to go.”

Tom, also known as the “Babe Ruth of bush pilots” married Jennie and they had eight children.  The Lamb kids all started flying by sitting behind the steering wheel of a plane on their Dad’s lap in the cockpit. 

Their six sons all became career pilots as well and went into business with their Dad. By 1959 Lambair had logged more than 1,500,000 air miles, owned twenty planes and employed 40 pilots. In 1960 Tom, who by now had earned the nickname “Mr. North” let his sons take over most of the airline business since he still had his fur trading operation to run, a 7,240 acre cattle ranch to maintain and 24 grandchildren to keep him busy. 


Tom Lamb died in 1969 and his sons kept running the business till 1981. A 1981 Free Press article notes that Lambair is bankrupt and Calm Air is trying to buy the company. Only one of Tom’s  grandchildren, a granddaughter Tracy took up flying. Tom’s son Jack has told the family’s story in his book My Life in the North. 

 Although the Leo Mol statue in the Richardson Building bears the date 1991, the original piece was poured in 1971. There is another copy of  the Tom Lamb statue in the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Assiniboine Park. A fibre glass version sits in the airport at The Pas and there is another copy in the Canadian embassy in Washington DC. 

Leo Mol said he wanted to show Tom Lamb as a young pilot and he made the propeller in his hands look a bit like a clock because he wanted the statue to take people back in time to the era when Mr. Lamb helped open up the north as an aviation pioneer.

In September of 1977 at a ceremony where Tom Lamb was posthumously admitted to the Honor Roll of the Aviation Council he was lauded as an individualist, humanitarian, multi-skilled, community minded businessman.

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Gunn’s Bakery

Today Dave and I stopped by Gunn’s Bakery on Selkirk Avenue to get some pumpernickel bread and crusty rolls for our lunch. Gunn’s is a Winnipeg landmark founded in 1937 by Florence and Morris Gunn, the couple featured in this mural on the building beside Gunn’s Bakery. Morris,whose father was a baker, immigrated to Canada from Poland in 1926 and worked hard in a Winnipeg bakery to save enough money so in 1930 he could bring his fiancée Florence to Canada and they could get married.  The couple had three children and eventually gathered enough resources to open their own bakery at 247 Selkirk Avenue . At first they lived in the back of the bakery, but as their business and their family grew they had to buy a separate home.  Gunn’s Bakery is still at 247 Selkirk and now it is run by Morris and Florence’s sons Arthur and Bernie. Arthur who has his Masters Bakers Certificate is in charge of the producing all the baked goods, including the 25 kinds of bagels Gunn’s is famous for. Bernie, who is an accountant and business administrator takes care of the finances. Morris passed on everything he knew about baking to Arthur before he died in 1973. Florence lived till 1998, long enough to see her family’s business expand to a 24 hour a day operation that employs some 80 people. 

Nothing at Gunn’s is mass-produced and many of the products are still being made with Florence and Morris’ original recipes. Devout Jews, Florence and Morris wanted to have a kosher bakery and sought rabbinical supervision to insure that was the case. Morris and Arthur have maintained that tradition. Although they have introduced many new products they continue to make the European breads and pastries that were familiar to their parents’ neighbours in the North End of Winnipeg in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

 Gunn’s is famous for its wedding cakes and in a radio interview Arthur said people come in to the bakery to order wedding cakes for their children and tell him their own wedding cakes were made by Arthur’s father Morris.

It wasn’t easy to walk out of Gunn’s with only our bread and rolls. We spent a fair bit of time eyeing all the luscious looking pastries but managed to have enough self -control to leave without buying any. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like anything else?” the friendly clerk asked as Dave pointed to various desserts.  “We’ll be back,” he said as I led him out of the store. I’m sure we will. 

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