Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Thanks, Stafford Square. It's been a slice

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3In this funny little triangle whose third side is Harrow Street, you can get your fingers and toes done at Nails Zoo, get moving again at Re-New Mobility, go crazy trying everything at the Miso Sushi all-you-can-eat restaurant, buy a pile of groceries for the week at Price Chopper, deke across the street for nips at the Salisbury House, or check out the Electrical Museum across Harrow. Now here's the hot details on a few spots yours truly discovered:

STAFFORD STREET HOT YOGA: Step in and you feel like you've arrived at a spa in Arizona, with plush sofas and soft chairs in a big lounge. There's a kitchen, natural fruit juices on sale, gifts, books, tapes, velvet pillows, large modern change rooms. Then there's the giant heated yoga studio. It feels like the desert, as it's set for 40 C, but it has 40 per cent humidity. You're there to sweat, people, and to increase your flexibility, balance and strength with rapidly warmed muscles. The doors are locked while each 90-minute session is in progress, and there are up to three sessions or so a day, giving ample time to enter and exit and visit. Here's the wild part: Some people are so devoted to this hot practice "they come twice a day, morning and evening or even back-to-back," says instructor Jenn Marr, one of a half-dozen teachers and guest teachers.

So what do they get out of all this sweating and posing and stretching?

Marie Brock has been practising several forms of yoga for many years and has been at Stafford Street Hot Yoga since it opened its doors. She can even pose like a bird in flight and hold it perfectly. She says the 26 positions can't help but improve your posture. "There's a real spine awareness." She says the studio, owned by Amanda Ing and Kevin Barkman, helps people with core strength, chronic pain, back pain and overall strengthening.

"You may not get taller, but you don't lose any height (as you age)," says former schoolteacher DeeDee Rizzo, who, in her mid-60s, has the body of a 30-year-old. She takes classes with her husband Harold Wright, a former engineer. He's not the only guy in the place. "About a quarter of the population are men," he says and adds, "I like it for the flexibility."

Adds instructor Marr: "It's like a shower from the inside out."

LONG & MCQUADE: One of the anchor stores in Stafford Square was started by two Jacks in Ontario. After a stretch in the music business, Jack McQuade went off to seek his fortune as a working musician while Jack Long opened more and more music stores across Canada. In the Winnipeg store, 38 staff members work with store manager Fred Harling. "It's the largest music chain in Canada and the sixth-largest in the world," says Harling.

The giant store stretches out like a large rabbit's warren across the lot. Designated rooms house regular guitars and high-end guitars (selling for as much as $4,000- $5,000). Down in the drums department, there are electronic drum sets you can play with earphones and not get kicked out of your apartment, plus acoustic drums for playing in a real band onstage. A big room for brass instruments is inundated with rental requests for school band programs this time of year. Then there's a big classroom for music workshops taught by veteran musicians for kids and adults. A final area at the very back has small studio rooms for private music lessons.

Local musicians -- well-known and on the way up -- can be found coming in and out of the store, hitting the rental section for instruments, speakers and lighting for gigs and then loading them up in trucks outside. Famous people have been known to stop by, says Harling, but most send their "go-fers." Mick Mars of Mtley Crºe came to the store "with a bodyguard who could block out the sun." KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer came in for a meet-and-greet recently, and donated his appearance fee to a charity he supports. And Buffy Sainte-Marie was a big hit in the store. "She was so charming!" says Harling, Michael Jackson's former guitarist Jennifer Batten came by, and she loved to say to male guitar players: "Not bad for a guy!"

SWEET IMPRESSIONS: Tucked into the core of this retail wedge, is a '50s kitchen-style bakery decorated in icing colours that 100 per cent guarantees everything is nut-free. The bakery also stocks home-baked treats that are egg-free and dairy-free in the freezer, and also makes them on request. Co-owner Krista Robertson, who is an enthusiastic cake and cookie decorator, comes from a design background. She says she's proud everything at the bakery is baked from scratch. "We have a grocery bill that is thousands every month." Cookies are decorated by hand with many bright icing designs. "We also make corporate gift boxes (full of treats) that kind of look like hat boxes, edible place cards and five-tiered wedding cakes."

The eye-popping shop has a gift section and a big studio for classes for schoolkids, adults and girls'-night-out gangs. Central to the shop design are fridges and a double stove made from antique units -- cleaned-up, repaired and painted blue and pink. "The stove actually came from a friend. I'm kind of frugal, but then I spend on other things," says Robertson.

Robertson and her partner, Aynsley Rosin, get a big kick out of their business success. Many people thought it wouldn't float because their ingredients cost so much and they'd be too hard to find in Stafford Square (they used to be on Tache Avenue). But the new place is always super busy.

"It's old-fashioned baking at its best and people are finding us!" says Robertson.

Maureen Scurfield is a reformed Cookie Monster who isn't feeling very reformed anymore.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 8, 2013 A1

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