Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 03/7/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Tom Kisiloski's face broke into a wide grin when he spotted a reporter waiting for him at the bottom of the big spiral staircase that runs up the middle of Main Streets's new Neechi Commons complex.
The 84-year-old former structural engineer has been a regular visitor since the Neechi Commons Community Business Complex quietly opened its doors on Feb. 9. And he was more than happy to tell the reporter what he thinks about this new North End jewel.
Kisiloski explained that he drives by the two-storey brick complex at the corner of Main Street and Euclid Avenue nearly every day on his way from his West Kildonan home to a rooming house he owns on nearby Austin Street. And he often stops in on his way home to pick up a few groceries in the main-floor supermarket and fruit-and-vegetable courtyard.
Although the supermarket shelves aren't fully stocked yet -- the official grand opening isn't until March 19 -- Kisiloski said the prices on most of the items he's seen are in line with what he pays at his neighbourhood Extra Foods store.
"They're very close, as far as I can see. And they may even be a little cheaper for some things."
But groceries weren't why he was there Wednesday. It was the opening day for the second-floor Come 'n Eat restaurant, and he was there for a coffee and some bannock.
"I paid $1 for the coffee and 50 cents for my bannock bun," he proudly stated. "Where else are you going to get that for that price?"
And it wasn't just the price and quality of the bannock and coffee that impressed him.
"It's a nice, clean place with a very nice view," he said, motioning towards the big bank of second-floor windows that give a bird's-eye view of the street below. "Everything is nice here, and I hope it will be very successful."
Talk like that is music to the ears of Neechi Foods Co-op Ltd. president Louise Champagne and general manager Russ Rothney. They've been the driving forces behind the $8-million conversion of two century-old buildings at the corner of Main and Euclid into what they hope will be a thriving North End business centre, community gathering place and one-stop shop for everything that's North End and aboriginal.
But even Rothney admits the centre's long-term success is by no means guaranteed at this point, due to a series of unexpected structural problems and construction delays which added more than $1.5 million to the original cost of the project, and delayed the completion by more than a year.
"We are carrying a large debt load," Rothney said in an interview, although he wouldn't reveal the exact figure. "So we need to raise another $2 million within the next year to ensure its long-term viability."
The co-op hopes to raise at least half of that through a series of share offerings -- it has sold about $365,000 worth of shares so far, with another offering due to be launched within the next two to four weeks. And the other $1 million hopefully will come from a series of capital grants and donations from the city, through its tax-increment-financing program, and a variety of outside foundations, organizations and individuals.
That will be added to the $5.5 million the co-op has already raised, including $2.3 million from the province, $1.3 million from the federal government, and $400,000 from co-op members.
Rothney admits raising another $2 million will be a challenge. But the naysayers said they'd never even get this far.
"It's been far more challenging than we expected. But as you know, we don't give up easily," he said.
When it's fully operational, hopefully by early this summer, Neechi Commons will include a supermarket, a bakery, a fruit and vegetable courtyard, a specialty foods store, a fish market, a small general store, the 80-seat restaurant, an arts store, a catering/wholesale-foods operation, a seasonal farmer's market, a second-floor meeting room, and some second-floor office space.
The supermarket, fruit and vegetable courtyard, bakery, restaurant and catering/wholesale operation are already open. And the art store, specialty foods store and fish market should be open in time for the grand opening.
The farmer's market, which will operate from late June to mid- to late September, will open this summer. An opening date for the general store hasn't been determined.
Neechi Foods Co-op Ltd. hopes its new Neechi Commons Business Complex will attract shoppers from all over the city with its offering of standard grocery fare, locally-produced food products, North End favourites, and aboriginal-themed foods, clothing, and art. Here are some of the things shoppers will find when they visit the complex:
-- A main-floor supermarket offering a variety of brand-name and Co-op brand grocery items, including cereals, canned goods and household products.
-- A meats department offering regular meat products -- chicken, beef, pork, etc. -- and eventually some specialty meats such as bison, elk and venison.
-- A fruit-and-vegetable courtyard featuring imported and locally-grown products, including wild blueberries.
-- A fish market carrying fresh, frozen and smoked fish products purchased from local fishers, including pickerel, whitefish and tullibee.
-- A specialty foods store featuring popular aboriginal and ethnic foods, either made on-site or purchased from local producers. That includes things such as wild rice, homemade jams and syrups, and popular aboriginal, Ukrainian, East Indian, African, aboriginal and Eastern European dishes.
-- A bakery and take-out-foods section featuring traditional baked goods as well as specialty items such as bannock bread, buns and tea biscuits, bannock pizza, fried bread, wild-rice bread, hamburger soup, and three sisters soup (corn, bean and squash).
-- An art store featuring aboriginal-themed art, crafts, and clothing.
-- A general store carrying a variety of high-demand hardware and household products.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 7, 2013 A16
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
CRA 'accidentally' gives CBC tax info
NDP MP says she's open to misconduct probe
Crocus wants to recoup costs from Canad Inns
Winnipeg candidates eye new campaigns
Hutchinson's hand still hot
Protesters return to riot-scarred Ferguson streets
Municipalities to get more input on mosquito-fogging rules
Butt thought 'don't ruin' Corner Gas movie
Hong Kong police arrest student protest leaders
Canucks salute late Pat Quinn with ceremony
Protests against Ferguson decision grow across US
'Bannock Lady' faces $3,000 in tickets; vehicle seized
Head of Winnipeg Regional Health Authority stepping down after five years at the helm
Ghomeshi withdraws lawsuit against CBC
Father pleased outlet published victim's name
City endorses plan for 'Precinct E' while questions are raised about costs for services
Manitoba Hydro to begin expropriating land for Bipole III hydro transmission line
Winnipeg joins in on UN campaign to end violence against women
Councillors growing weary of last-minute reports from the city administration
Zoo's harbour seal dies after getting caught in drain
Vets wait eight months for benefits: auditor
Flin Flon RCMP looking for 40-year-old man who approached 11-year-old girl near school
City to study how pipeline could affect Shoal Lake and aqueduct
CancerCare Manitoba setting up a virtual cancer hub to guide patients after diagnosis
City looking for ways to help residents with accessibility issues clear windrows
Commons committee tasked with making sexual harassment policy asks for more info
Jets down to 20th on Forbes' list of NHL teams
Manitoba appeal court to review 27-year-old murder conviction
Mayor meets with editorial board at News Café today
Archives failing to preserve memory: auditor
BlackBerry will pay iPhone users to switch
City agrees to sell former Kenaston snow dump for $5.2m
Magnotta doesn't testify as defence rests
Reitmans shutting down Smart Set stores
Police bust North End grow-op and seize marijuana plants worth $292K
Police make renewed call for help in locating Colten Pratt, 26, missing since Nov. 6
Chaotic protests fill Ferguson streets after grand jury declines to indict police officer
Judge's long ordeal finally over
Pharma giant Valeant Canada makes major investment in Steinbach plant
Court hears from Manitoba mom fighting parental abduction charge