Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hip to be Square

Corydon, Osborne Village have a new rival

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This intersection is booming! You can find almost 30 stores and businesses where Stafford Street and Grosvenor Avenue meet in the elegant old Crescentwood area. Just so you know, it's properly known as (harrumph) Grosvenor Square. But no one calls it that -- yet.

This growing pedestrian shopping mecca is starting to give Corydon Avenue -- only three short blocks over -- a run for its retail and restaurant money. In fact, there's a parking problem at peak periods.

"We're just getting busier and busier, but it's not just us. All the shops are doing a roaring business," says Miles Gould, owner of The Grove Pub & Restaurant. Less than two years old, this Cheers-style neighbourhood bar with gourmet British food is pulling lineups, if you please.

The folks who hang out there for specialty beers and dinners follow a distinct pattern. First there's the noon-to-four-p.m. crowd -- lots of men and a few women sit at the big circular bar trying to solve the world's problems. They're followed by the 4-to-8-p.m. after-work gang, a mix of males and females de-stressing over bubblies and getting a tasty dinner before going home. Then there's the diehard 8-p.m.-to-closing group -- both singles and couples in the 25-45 age range -- talking, drinking and flirting. "I opened a place I would want to go to. I'm too old for bands and that kind of bar scene," says Gould.

He stresses the corner is not so much competitive as co-operative. "Actually, I took my wife across the street to Spuntino's for dinner on Valentines Day."

"This corner's come alive again," agrees Michael Larocque, owner of Hair FX. "People go to many places in one visit. For instance, they get their hair done here, and then they're down to The Grove for lunch and then over to Lilac Bakery to pick up dessert. If they've got time, they hit These Four Walls for furniture shopping. We are mostly youngish entrepreneurs in our 30s and 40s on this corner. With youth comes change, and that has been part of the reason for what's happening."

Larocque started his first shop when he was just 23 years old. Now he and the busy Yoga Centre occupy a building at 915 Grosvenor. He and his stylists do hair and wigs for media outlets like Breakfast Television and theatre groups such as Rainbow Stage. "Actually, I'm one of the few people Norm ever bought a beer for," Larocque quips, referring to Cheers' George Wendt ,who wore Hair FX wigs in his starring role in Hairspray.

Across the street, Lilac Bakery has become famous for its red velvet cakes -- like Eaton's used to make -- plus fancy cupcakes and large shelves of dainties.

"I've seen the traffic picking up more and more in this street," says Chris Atkinson, who started the bakery three years ago with his mom -- head baker Linda Atkinson -- and his sister Michelle. He's had to double his staff already.

"There are a lot of apartments and condos and houses in this neighbourhood, so our price levels vary from $1.50 for big cookies to $60 for a red velvet or chocolate cake."

Atkinson says he loves being on this street "because it's not a strip mall. Its like shopping between Eaton's and The Bay used to be."

Next door, Girl Candy is very popular with fashionistas. At the busiest corner sits These Four Walls, a très chic home-decor shop with loads of black and white for designer types and DIY decorators.

"This area is so quaint and lovely," says These Four Walls proprietor Susan DeLuca.

"I used to drive by here and think how much I loved the windows and the area -- and now I am here myself." But it's not just the physical charm of Grosvenor Square that's caused the boom, she says. "I think the biggest reason for its success is the energy from the community of people on this corner. We like each other and we support each other. Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?"

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 19, 2012 A8

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