Slam on your brakes as you enter the commercial area of Academy Road near the giant Moorish-style building and park near Waterloo Street. We're going on a tour of four unique businesses in this little shopping mecca.
Academy Uptown Lanes
394 Academy Rd.
IN the 1930s, the Uptown Theatre used to be a combination moving picture palace and live theatre with its own orchestra pit, seating 1,627 people. It was designed by Russian-trained architect Max Blankstein to look like a Moorish town with stars twinkling through a cobalt blue roof. Walls on the sides of the stage were modelled in plaster to look like the town's buildings.
When the original business died and the building was resurrected as Uptown Bowling Lanes in the 1960s, the interior side wall sets were removed to make way for a two-storey bowling alley -- 16 lanes on the second floor and 14 lanes on the main. But in the 1990s, things got tough -- people were bored with plain old bowling.
"Luckily, we got the glow bowling idea from a trade show in Las Vegas," says Nathan Hogg, 36, who has worked at the business owned by Brian Britton and his son Todd since he was 19. "Now it's great for a night out everybody can enjoy. It's a blast and we go non-stop. You have to love kids to work here and finding that out is part of the interviewing we do."
Hogg used to bowl competitively and won a provincial championship in 1997, but now he doesn't have a lot of extra time. The busy bowling alley only closes two days a year. It's always bustling with groups from schools, group homes for challenged folks, adult leagues and kids leagues such as Sunshine Bowlers. There's also a Tuesday night program starting in February to teach people how to bowl. "And it's free," says Hogg. "The idea is to get new people interested in the sport."
Glow bowling attracts people with a glow. Stars who've signed pins in the lobby for an upcoming display include Carrie Underwood, who rented out the upstairs for her cast and crew when last in town, Jets Evander Kane and Thomas Steen, comic John Catucci of Ya Gotta Eat Here, and Mayor Sam Katz.
Tiber River Naturals
408 Academy Rd.
TIBER River may make all its own beauty and cleansing products eco-friendly, but the folks there aren't uptight and sniffy about it. For instance, Vodka on the Locks is the name of one of co-owners Adriana De Luca and Michelle Lalonde's own hair products. You can also get it in Honey Beer or Hula Berry scents. Adriana's grandma who first taught her to make soap, might be surprised at where this talent ended up. A men's product line is dubbed Hot Knights and baby body-wash and lotions are called Sweet Cheeks and Bottoms Up.
Says Val Bugera, holding down the busy front desk, "Our lab is on Keewatin and everything is 100 per cent hand made and packaged there."
The front part of the building is a lively turquoise and lime store full of unique products with samples to sniff. The back half is for beauty treatments -- manicures, pedicures, relaxing massages, body sugaring, waxing and shellacking of nails.
If you plan to go there, be warned: People reserve a month ahead to get an appointment at this spot on weekends and two to three weeks ahead for weekdays. Tiber River got so busy it's opened a second store at 3-1650 Kenaston Blvd. near Sobeys. Men also come into Tiber River for facials, says esthetician Natasha Hafey. "We extract blackheads so pores appear smaller and we exfoliate dead skin and moisturize."
"Who doesn't need a facial?" adds Bugera. Who indeed.
410 Academy Rd.
THIS upscale consignment clothing store has been through a bumpy business season, but is coming out the other side. "We had everything to keep people warm in this polar vortex -- even a lot of fur coats," says owner Allyson Linklater. "But people weren't going out shopping. We were down $20,000 in December and January between this store and our other one on Roblin Boulevard."
Linklater says they had four- to five-foot snowbanks in front of the shop for a month and No Parking signs for weeks, but now it's cleared and warmer and people have come out again. Things are looking up.
"We started this 70 per cent sale on Jan. 22 using Facebook and it went viral! People have been streaming in," says Linklater. We'll go with it until all the winter stuff is gone at both stores."
There is good news on another front as well. "We opened a store in Gimli on Nov. 9 and we were so warmly received, it brings tears to my eyes. Gimli's mayor even phoned to see if they could give us a ribbon cutting. The townspeople were so great -- they all came out and supported us. We made the $20,000 back we lost on our other two stores in Winnipeg. Now we're just trying to clear everything out here in Winnipeg, so we can let our 3,000-plus Winnipeg consigners bring in their spring clothes."
The Leather Patch
415 Academy Rd.
THIS is an old-fashioned shoe repair shop with a funky window display -- a big spray of upside-down high-heeled shoes painted in a rainbow of spring colours. It's the artwork of Nina Lund, who runs a funky shop with Merv Chyz. "We need that display. This winter has been getting on my nerves!" she says.
The inside of the old store smells like a pleasing mixture of shoe polish, glue and leather. "This has been a shoe repair shop since 1930," says Lund, with only two previous owners. She discovered it 16 years ago, went in and asked to buy it -- and got it." The beautiful old shop is a bright mixture of old and new machines in reds and greens, plus cobblers' work benches and artful displays.
Make sure you look on top of the wooden polish cabinet for the display of antique shoes. "People bring them to me."
Lund says people can become very attached to shoes and boots, and are anxious to get footwear they have loved fixed again -- especially people with foot problems who finally found something that worked. And people who really love certain boots "bring them in to get protected and winterized."
The shop also does stretching of shoes at pressure points (such as bunions) and on the calves of boots for people with plumper legs. They can even narrow boots down for slimmer legs, she adds. Who knew a cobbler could do all that?
Maureen Scurfield is a freelancer who used to line up all her dad's shoes and polish them like mad.