The city finally came to the rescue Sunday, but it might be too late to save a Transcona pet shop where the pipes have been frozen for more than a month.
Tanya Morgan, owner of Pet Peripherals at 114 Regent Ave. E., says she's not sure whether she'll stay open.
The little storefront pet shop and grooming business in the heart of old Transcona had sold its last pet reptile Sunday when the city called with an 11th-hour fix.
The timing couldn't have been worse for Morgan.
She watched several animals die in the last month, helpless to save them.
Before the city crew arrived Sunday, she faced a possible bankruptcy. Last week, she lost half her sales when her pet groomer quit and took the clients with him.
"I'm beyond frustrated," Morgan fumed after taking a call she would have welcomed even a week ago.
'I've got water right now, but I'm not sure if I'm staying open. I don't know if my groomer will come back or if my customer base will come back'
She said it might now be too late, even after city crews had the shop's water running again by 5 p.m. Sunday.
"I've got water right now, but I'm not sure if I'm staying open. I don't know if my groomer will come back or if my customer base will come back," she said. Pet grooming represented half her business and in the last month, Morgan estimated she lost $15,000.
The problem at the pet shop was a frozen pipe under Regent Avenue, Morgan said. It froze Feb. 20. Two weeks later, a city crew spent 30 hours on a weekend trying to thaw it and failed.
A temporary hose hookup froze a week later and the city refused to hook her up again, she said.
"They said it was a safety concern because the hose was hooked up across the back lane," Morgan said.
Before a repair crew's surprise appearance Sunday, the shop owner said she was told the only thing the city could do was dig up Regent Avenue, and that wouldn't happen for at least a month. "There's a four-week wait for the excavating truck," she said.
Sunday, the tables turned with a single call.
Russ Wyatt, Transcona's city councillor, referred a Free Press call about the pet shop to the city's emergency preparedness co-ordinator, Randy Hull.
"I hope we didn't just throw up our hands and say there's nothing more we can do," Hull told the Free Press. "I can appreciate the stress she's been through."
He said he'd have an update by today.
Morgan said she believes the only reason the city crew showed up was to stave off bad publicity from the media attention she got Sunday.
One lesson from this winter is the need for all businesses to keep a continuity plan, Hull said.
He was referring to plans such as lining up a new shop temporarily or piggybacking sales and services through a nearby shop.
Pet Peripherals is not the only business in trouble due to frozen pipes. Foon Hai, a Chinese restaurant that's been a mainstay on William Avenue for years, is also closed, read a sign on the front doors this weekend.
It's unknown if Foon Hai is closed for good, but a voice-mail message on the restaurant's phone line says the problem is frozen pipes.
"I'm closed. I have no water. Thank you. Goodbye," said the message Sunday.
Morgan built up a loyal clientele during five years, developing her pet-supply shop with sales of reptiles, fish and other animals.
In the last month, she said she'd watched about 100 fish, some reptiles, a newt and mice die for lack of water. Firefighters had brought jugs of water to her shop, but she said it wasn't enough to keep cages and tanks clean, and reptiles often require high humidity.
She told customers Sunday: "I've been out of water for four weeks, so unfortunately I'm closing my business. I had to get rid of all the animals."
Morgan pulled the plug on her shop through Facebook Saturday. A steady stream of customers dropped by Sunday, picking up deals on discounted supplies and taking home the last of the animals.
"It's pretty shameful for the City of Winnipeg," said pet-rescue volunteer Jessica Hansen, with Manitoba Underdogs. "It brings it to a whole new level when you have animals dying because of frozen pipes."
TV camera crews and pet lovers crowded into the long, narrow store, sharing space with the last fish, the last rabbit and a skittish guinea pig that squeaked in alarm.
Customers rallied around her.
Donna Kochie-Gillespie said the shop made a big difference to pet owners in the neighbourhood.
"It's an awesome place. It's all about the people, and animals know who likes them. And they're your fur babies. You don't trust them with just anyone," Kochie-Gillespie said.