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'The new Corydon'

Two-block strip along south Osborne Street rising fast

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Snarky types call the far end of south Osborne Street "the poor man's River Heights."

"That's just not true!" says Jane Wilson, chairwoman of Osborne South BIZ, who owns Pinqk hair care in the area." We attract people from all over the city and restaurants like 7 1/4 and Deseo's attract a high-end clientele!" For good measure she adds: "Many of the businesses, like the Mexican food store BMC, (initials of owner Beatriz Marivel Calderon) -- attract people from all over the city!"

So there.

Other folks call this increasingly competitive area "the new Corydon Avenue." Whatever you call it, something exciting is building up between Oakwood and Rosedale avenues. The two-block strip is crazy-busy in the daytime, and visitors compete for parking spots on the long side streets at night. New owners are replacing old businesses with trendy new restaurants in the last two years such as Deseo's restaurant (Scott Bagshaw, Alejandro Mora), three-month-old All About Thai owned by two working engineers, Pinita Pirompak and Helix Li, who cook and serve every evening. Then there's the intimate Cafe D'Amour coffee shop right across the street for people who like their java hot and fancy.

Bistro 7 1/4 gave the neighbourhood a boost when it bet on the area and moved into a former second-hand clothing store at 725 Osborne St. in 2006. They've been enticing a large upscale crowd of foodies from all over the south end of the city to their dining room with a viewable bar-style cooking station.

Luxalune Gastropub, which specializes in all kinds (many unusual) of beer, popped up across the street with its jazzy patio loaded all summer with patrons They offer suds-tasting nights and educational classes on beer given by a beer expert on a travelling microphone. And, the gastro part of the name means they sell food, too.

Of course, old Riverview faves such as Monticchio Italian restaurant and Oakwood Cafe are still hopping.

Most area people point to Erick Casselman as the entrepreneur who inspired the first stages of a big renaissance in the district when he bought the Park Theatre in 2007. It's now one of the busiest music-booking venues in Canada. "We have about 100 to 250 people a night for different events, seven days a week," says Casselman. He says he bought the forlorn looking empty theatre when he was desperate for a change in his life.

"For three or four years, I'd been renovating and flipping houses -- you could still buy them for $20,000 to $40,000 then. But it got to the point where I couldn't stand my job anymore and I was in a good place (financially), so I just bought it. With permission to make necessary nighttime noise from the neighbours, he reopened the Park Theatre as a live music, film and event venue. This week it is up for the Best Music Venue in Western Canada award at the WCMA Western Canadian Music Awards in Regina. Casselman says the neighbourhood supported him big time from the get go -- and he lives in the neighbourhood himself.

"I have an absolute love for this area, and I like to give back," he says.

A neighbouring businessman, Gary Nerman, says Casselman is very considerate of the people around him. "He spent thousands of dollars on a (sound-proof) door, so the noise wouldn't bother a neighbour who had complained."

Many business owners live within a block of their businesses, some right on top of them. "I love, love, love this area and I will never move away from it again," says Scott Tackaberry of GameKnight.

Some people can't can't get close enough. Barb Gerrie, a long-time resident, helped spearhead the trend to live on top of businesses in along this stretch of Osborne Street. "I have a very large apartment on the third floor," the owner of Baltimore Insurance says proudly.

... and there's more

People visit south Osborne Street come to the area for more than food and music these days:

Park Alleys bowling lanes has been taken over by new owner Sat Sharma and his young relative and manager Vishal Sharma. They reinvented bowling in the Riverview neighbourhood with a desert mural motif, glow-bowling, a big music system and LED lights, not to mention the liquor licence and new patio.

Board games lovers and aficionados of games such as magic cards and Dungeons and Dragons hang out on the three levels of GameKnight and Cool Stuff owned by Scott Tackaberry. The store seems to have every game ever invented.

Across the street, Metaphysical Sands store offers psychic readings; for quieter folks, classes in the lower level on chakras and healing; and a huge crystal collection that draws people from all over the city. "People come in here because they love the ambiance from the crystals," says owner Denis Prairie. "It's very relaxing." Metaphyscial Sands has "the largest collection of medicinal herbs in Winnipeg."

Nerman's Books & Collectibles has one of the largest collections of used children's books in North America, about 35,000 titles in the basement plus all other genres. "We have 100,000 books listed on Amazon and AbeBooks.com. And we have the best science-fiction section in the city."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 23, 2012 A6

History

Updated on Monday, September 24, 2012 at 11:28 AM CDT: Corrects spelling of name.

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