Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/2/2018 (625 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There are some who have thought the one thing missing from The Forks since it opened in 1989 was a bookstore.
Well, that chapter has finally been written.
McNally Robinson Booksellers has opened a second Winnipeg location at The Forks, in an 850-square-foot space on the second floor, overlooking the newly revitalized food and beverage area called The Common.
Chris Hall, co-owner of the iconic Winnipeg bookstore, said the new location — which opened less than two weeks ago — is being designed to feel like a familiar extension to its 25,000-square-foot bookstore/restaurant in Grant Park Shopping Centre.
"We are excited and very pleased to be involved at The Forks," he said.
He said the plan is to provide a selection of offerings from the main store, including some giftware, toys and games and to be attentive to what customers are asking for, while making additions over time. He said the intent is to provide the newest and best of what’s already on offer at Grant Park, including paying particular attention to Indigenous and local writing, as well as books for children.
"For instance, we’ve already heard that people are asking for baby clothes that we (have) at Grant Park," he said.
Even though the project has taken about a year to come to fruition, an extension of an additional 150-plus square feet has already begun, made possible by the recent closure of Sydney’s Restaurant. It will give the new McNally Robinson access to another set of windows.
Larissa Peck, co-ordinator of marketing and communications for The Forks North Portage Partnership said, "We are extremely happy to have McNally Robinson, a beloved local business, joining the ranks of many others who have seen great success at The Forks."
It’s the first foray outside the home base for the company since a flurry of store openings and untimely closings that happened near the end of the last decade, during the Great Recession, when locations in Portage Place and Polo Park, as well as stores in Toronto and Calgary, came and went.
The store also has a Saskatoon location, which includes a restaurant and is about the same size as the Grant Park store.
But, in this case, Hall said the scenario developed in a way that seemed to make sense to everyone.
"During the course of the last year, as we have been planning and putting the new store together, not one person said to me, ‘The Forks? Really?’" he said. "Everyone immediately gets excited. It makes perfect sense to everyone."
Hall, who took over ownership of the company with partner Lori Baker about 2½ years ago, said the addition of a second Winnipeg store will allow the company to leverage the operational infrastructure it already has in place.
"It’s not really even going to add another store’s worth of overhead because Grant Park is like the warehouse which we can draw stock from and we have all the human resource management, newsletter production and all the buying of books already happening," he said.
"The only overhead is labour and rent."
As for The Forks, which has about four million visitors per year, it is another premium offering for visitors, many of whom are tourists who might not otherwise have the chance to visit the main store at Grant Park.
"It’s another reason to draw more people in," Peck said.
"And if it’s something that makes a Winnipegger who has not visited The Forks in maybe 15 years come down, then maybe they will think they want to come back and have dinner with their family, walk around the site, go for a skate. That’s exactly what we are going for."
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.