THE Nairn-Regent strip is always buzzing with people racing like mad to the big stores. But there are some charming spots you miss if you don’t look sharply.
It doesn’t help that everything’s obscured from the road by mountains of snow this year. But yours truly, the shopping pirate, has dug out some treasures.
Here are three highlights near the busy junction with Lagimodiere Boulevard.
Pieces of Paradise (1094 Nairn Ave.)
As you head east toward Transcona on Nairn Avenue, keep looking to your right.
Close to the Lagimodiere junction you’ll spy a South Pacific-style sign on a pole high above the snowy parking lot announcing... Pieces of Paradise. Really? Brrrrr! Gotta see this!
Enter Rick Boily’s tropical store and it feels like the perfect antidote for the endless winter of 2014!
The interior glows, with gigantic, multicolour kites flying just under the lights.
Granted, Winnipeggers are not known to be big kite flyers, but that’s not a problem for kite sales here, says Boily.
"Some people want a great big butterfly for their sunroom or a big eagle at the cottage."
Kites are very popular in Bali, particularly for a day at the beach with the family, he says. "And they have one of the biggest kite festivals in the world."
He whips out his iPhone and shows photos of huge, fanciful kites such as one in the shape of horses pulling a cart across the sky.
Ocean winds are mighty strong in Indonesia.
Dramatic lighting is a big seller in the store. Hundreds of handcrafted lamps in unusual shapes give off warm oranges and reds, and moody blues and greens.
One whole room at the back is dedicated to lamps and furniture set up as you might see them in a beachfront home in Bali. "Some people do a whole room in this furniture, but you can just buy pieces alone as accents," says Boily.
His passion for the South Pacific began in the early 2000s when he went travelling in Indonesia. He fell in love with Bali and nearby Java and Lombok.
"The economy was bad and people were suffering. I went several times and felt I wanted to help by opening up some distribution for them."
So he went looking for all the artisans who could supply his dream of a store back in Winnipeg. Now the Pieces of Paradise owner tries to go back on a buying trip once a year, but he also has people set up there to find artisans for him and ship the merchandise to Winnipeg.
Once Upon a Child (2-1600 Regent Ave.)
The moment you step into this 3,200-square-foot store, you know business is booming. It’s packed full of kids and parents and babies in snugglies and strollers.
What’s the attraction? At the front, buyers are paying cash immediately for gently used children’s clothing from newborn to size 16 and q8 for big kids — not to mention all the baby equipment and toys.
It makes sense not to force parents, who are often counting their pennies, to wait for their items to sell to other customers before getting paid for the clothes they bring in.
"It’s not consignment here," says store manager Kayla Klassen.
"We ask people to bring in gently used children’s clothes, freshly laundered," she says.
Then they look over the clothes and the store’s computer program combines different ratings to calculate the amount they will pay. On the spot!
Later, they sell the clothing at up to half off the retail price when it was new.
Klassen says the biggest money she’s seen paid to a person bringing in clothing was $500.
"The lady brought in four big tote bags full of really beautiful things!"
Once Upon a Child is a franchise originating in Ohio and has about 300 stores now, but the one on Regent Avenue is the only one in Winnipeg, says owner Chantelle Harder, herself a mother of four. She opened the doors in 2011.
"I love my business. I feel good about it." At the end of seasonal clearance sales, she gives clothing away to charity.
"Last time, we gave away $1,800 worth to a community in need and they were so appreciative!"
Strictly Amish (11-1600 Regent Ave.)
What a treat — solid wood furniture with a silky satin finish, brought to Winnipeg by Larry Kornelsen for his local store.
The custom pieces come from Amish craftsmen in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
There’s a large showroom on Regent Avenue, but people generally order from catalogues in the alcove at the back. When the furniture arrives by truck, it is wrapped in soft blankets and delivered to customers all over Winnipeg and western Ontario.
Sales rep Myrna Bartsch is clearly proud of what she sells.
"It’s for real! It’s solid wood furniture, and you get what you pay for — no veneer, no particle board."
Every six weeks, owner Kornelsen, who lives in Arborg, makes a trip to the U.S. and brings back another truckload of beautiful pieces made by Amish craftsmen.
Bartsch says Amish folks work co-operatively. One outfit will make tables and another makes the chairs for them, and then they will send them to the same finisher so they match perfectly.
The motto at Strictly Amish is "furniture for the generations."
Although the furniture is new, it is art. They are antiques and family heirlooms in the making, she explains. "You will pass it on to your kids and they will pass it on to theirs."
Maureen Scurfield is a freelancer who could have stayed and patted the satiny wood furniture all day, but it would have looked odd.