Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché

Reporter

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning.

She’s back at the Winnipeg Free Press after spending the summer of 2020 there as an intern. In between, she wrote for Canstar’s weekly newspapers, covering everything from health to housing.

She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020, as everyone was grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, she finished her bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Winnipeg.

Gabby has chased stories across the province: she’s written for newspapers in the Interlake, Headingley and downtown Winnipeg. She won the Eric and Jack Wells Excellence in Journalism award in her final year of school, and she’s thrilled to be back at the Free Press.

Recent articles of Gabrielle Piché

Recovery still top of mind as Downtown BIZ aims to revitalize businesses, draw more people to city’s centre

Gabrielle Piché 5 minute read Preview

Recovery still top of mind as Downtown BIZ aims to revitalize businesses, draw more people to city’s centre

Gabrielle Piché 5 minute read Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022

Chinatown looked different Thursday afternoon.

Cars lined the streets around Kum Koon Garden, taking spaces that might otherwise be empty on a weekday.

Inside, the Chinese restaurant was packed. At one table, Mayor Scott Gillingham and Elder Barbara Nepinak; at others, city councillors, non-profits, tourism industry leads and police officers.

“We can’t do this on our own,” said Kate Fenske, CEO of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ.

Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Kate Fenske, CEO of Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, says the organization has budgeted more than $1.8 million for business development, advocacy and research for 2023, and another $1.7 million to clean, green and beautify the area.

Rideshare, taxi trips surge to record numbers

Gabrielle Piché 5 minute read Preview

Rideshare, taxi trips surge to record numbers

Gabrielle Piché 5 minute read Friday, Nov. 25, 2022

People are sharing rides at record numbers in Winnipeg.

This year, the number of taxi and other rideshare trips in the city is poised to hit a new high of more than six million trips, according to Grant Heather, Winnipeg’s Vehicles for Hire manager.

“You’re starting to see people maybe shift away from using their own vehicles and…. that just comes down to having choices,” Heather said.

Choices, plus skyrocketing fuel prices causing people to abandon their cars, more events and an uptick in air travel after years of restrictions, he noted.

Friday, Nov. 25, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Kaustubh Patil, manager of Spring Taxi and Blueline Transit, is having a hard time getting drivers with Uber in the market.

Human error knocks credit unions offline most of Tuesday

Gabrielle Piché 4 minute read Preview

Human error knocks credit unions offline most of Tuesday

Gabrielle Piché 4 minute read Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022

On Tuesday, Crystal Bornais scrolled, searching for answers.

She checked company websites, Twitter — what was happening with the credit unions?

“No (customer) was able to pay us,” the prairieHOUSE Performance employee said. “We kept getting all these messages saying ‘E-transfer has failed’ and things like that.”

Services at many Manitoba credit unions had halted. Technology company Celero Communications, which some credit unions use for their banking systems, lost power at its data centre.

Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022

Services at many Manitoba credit unions halted on Tuesday when power went down at a data centre. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Building jobs for the future

Gabrielle Piché 5 minute read Preview

Building jobs for the future

Gabrielle Piché 5 minute read Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022

Carol Paul is busy.

Last Wednesday, she flitted around the Manitoba Construction Sector Council’s second-ever women in trades conference.

Later, there would be school visits to organize, companies to connect with. Filling an estimated 4,800 Manitoban construction job openings over the next five years will not be as simple as posting positions online, Paul said.

“There’s that disconnect,” the MCSC’s executive director said. “(People) need to know ‘What company? Where’s the jobs? When can I start?’”

Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Vivica Green, a student with the Clan Mothers Turtle Lodge, attended the conference and is planning to learn a construction trade.

A visionary for Hutterite education

Gabrielle Piché 6 minute read Preview

A visionary for Hutterite education

Gabrielle Piché 6 minute read Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022

When Anna Maendel cold-called St. James Collegiate instructor Mike James and asked him to teach her Hutterite students Advanced Academic Placement biology, he was somewhat hesitant.

“I was kind of amazed, because I wasn’t sure that Hutterite students would be that academic,” James says of the early 1990s call. “I said, ‘Oh, it’s a pretty tough course. It’s pretty rigorous.’”

Maendel insisted. Her Fairholme Colony students would participate in James’ classes via two-way radio correspondence; he didn’t have many in-person students and was already doing some remote instruction.

“She said, ‘Mr. James, if they take this course, they will do well,’” he recalls. “And they did. They got the highest marks I ever had in AP biology.”

Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022

SUPPLIED

Anna Maendel shattered barrier after barrier in the education system involving Manitoba’s Hutterite colonies.

Feds spread $22.7M among 16 firms to spur innovation

Gabrielle Piché 4 minute read Preview

Feds spread $22.7M among 16 firms to spur innovation

Gabrielle Piché 4 minute read Friday, Nov. 18, 2022

Tamara Abas yearns to help Manitobans build worlds.

She stood in 201 Portage on Friday, a floor above her future workplace, surrounded by innovators.

Representatives from 16 organizations gathered in the Portage and Main skyscraper for a news conference. Federal PrariesCan Minister Dan Vandal took the podium, announcing more than $22.7 million in funding to the organizations’ projects.

“The possibilities are endless for what students can explore, and the jobs that are going to be available,” Abas said, beaming.

Friday, Nov. 18, 2022

Dan Vandal, minister for PrairiesCan, announces more than $22.7 million in federal funding to 16 projects across the province. (Winnipeg Free Press)

As one bakery closes… another rises to the occasion

Gabrielle Piché 4 minute read Preview

As one bakery closes… another rises to the occasion

Gabrielle Piché 4 minute read Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022

The Sleepy Owl is waking up.

Michel Saltel is losing sleep, making bread and preparing for the Wall Street bakery’s re-opening next Tuesday.

“I feel all the feelings,” he said. “I feel nervous, I feel excited, scared, intimidated.”

On Thursday, he had Sleepy Owl Bread specials — pumpkin cranberry sourdough, and a potato and onion type — fermenting in the fridge.

Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Michel Saltel, new manager of Sleepy Owl Bread, has not been getting much sleep lately as he gets ready for the grand re-opening of the much-missed bakery.

KUB Bakery's closure leaves big hole in Winnipeggers' hearts (and stomachs)

Martin Cash and Gabrielle Piché 5 minute read Preview

KUB Bakery's closure leaves big hole in Winnipeggers' hearts (and stomachs)

Martin Cash and Gabrielle Piché 5 minute read Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022

Winnipeg socials may never recover.

KUB Bakery, the family owned, near-century-old bakery that produces the singular, chewy rye bread familiar to generations, reluctantly closed its doors this week, another victim of the pandemic and its high-inflation aftermath.

KUB — the name stands for Kucher’s Ukrainian Bakery, after founder Alex Kucher — had been dealing with declining sales and skyrocketing input costs. Added to that, the bakery’s retail store suffered a significant loss of business over the summer because of season-long road work on Erin Street.

Ross Einfeld, whose family bought the bakery in 1982, said he’s talking to prospective buyers; there’s a chance the 99-year-old name could live on.

Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022

Ross Einfeld in the now empty KUB Bakery, which has closed its door. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

$1.1M in provincial funding helps grow farmers’ program

Gabrielle Piché 4 minute read Preview

$1.1M in provincial funding helps grow farmers’ program

Gabrielle Piché 4 minute read Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022

A non-profit organization connecting farmers with Manitobans in need — a program which, months earlier, risked extinction — is set to last another three years.

“We are beyond thrilled,” Kristie Beynon, Direct Farm Manitoba’s executive director, wrote in an email.

The non-profit is receiving almost $1.1 million from the province over the next three years to expand its food currency initiative.

“We have never been able to meet the demand,” said Justin Girard, a director on Direct Farm Manitoba’s board. “(This is) huge.”

Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022

PCs nominate Klein in Kirkfield Park

Gabrielle Piché 3 minute read Preview

PCs nominate Klein in Kirkfield Park

Gabrielle Piché 3 minute read Monday, Nov. 14, 2022

The Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba has officially nominated Kevin Klein as its candidate in the upcoming Kirkfield Park byelection.

“Over the course of the next number of days, of course, we’ll be calling the byelection,” Premier Heather Stefanson told the crowd at Klein’s nomination event on Monday night.

Former MLA and cabinet minister Scott Fielding held the west Winnipeg seat for the Tories from 2016 until he stepped down in June. Provincial law requires the byelection be held by Dec. 13.

“I’m excited to… get back in to representing the residents,” Klein said.

Monday, Nov. 14, 2022

PC candidate for Kirkfield Park, Kevin Klein, jokes with Premier Heather Stefanson at Klein's nomination meeting on Monday. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

Downtown BIZ grant program gets $2.5M federal boost

Gabrielle Piché 4 minute read Preview

Downtown BIZ grant program gets $2.5M federal boost

Gabrielle Piché 4 minute read Friday, Nov. 11, 2022

The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ Building Business Grant program got a $2.5 million federal boost Thursday.

Federal minister Dan Vandal, who oversees Prairies Economic Development Canada, announced the funding that partially reimburses eligible companies for renovating or expanding their downtown locations, or for opening a new workspace in the city’s core.

Those who submit bills to the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ for exterior or interior changes, including painting and signage, could get 50 per cent of their money back.

The program also covers business development expenses, including outsourced marketing or accounting, up to 75 per cent.

Friday, Nov. 11, 2022

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

‘We want to get as much support out the door as we can,’ Kate Fenske of Downtown Winnipeg BIZ said at the funding announcement at Bison Books, alongside federal minister Dan Vandal.

Good Morning America… from chilly Churchill, Manitoba

Gabrielle Piché 2 minute read Preview

Good Morning America… from chilly Churchill, Manitoba

Gabrielle Piché 2 minute read Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022

Michael Strahan traded the warmth of a New York network TV studio for Churchill’s frozen, snow-covered ground this week.

The Good Morning America personality and former NFL star travelled to northern Manitoba for a GMA segment on climate change’s effect on polar bears that aired Thursday.

“I just think he’s a really nice guy,” said Wapusk Adventures owner Dave Daley. “He’s just down to earth.”

Strahan showed up at the tour company Wednesday, ready to give dogsledding a shot.

Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022

@michaelstrahan / Instagram

The Good Morning America personality and former NFL star Michael Strahan travelled to northern Manitoba for a GMA segment on climate change’s effect on polar bears that aired Thursday.

Ottawa earmarks more cash for National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

Gabrielle Piché 4 minute read Preview

Ottawa earmarks more cash for National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

Gabrielle Piché 4 minute read Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022

It seemed like a positive omen: eagles, which are considered sacred in Indigenous culture, circled around the future site of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation on Wednesday.

Marc Miller, the federal minister for Crown-Indigenous relations, had just announced his government would give $88.5-million towards a new learning facility on residential schools, and other initiatives.

“This tells me that the government knows there is decades of work to do,” said Stephanie Scott, the centre’s executive director.

The organization, which preserves residential school records and provides educational resources, has been at the University of Manitoba for seven years.

Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) held a ground breaking event at the site of the future NCTR building on the northeast corner of the University of Manitoba Tuesday. Murray Sinclair, Commissioner of the TRC, places tobacco into the ceremonial fire at event.

Store owner’s melancholy message prophetic

Gabrielle Piché 4 minute read Preview

Store owner’s melancholy message prophetic

Gabrielle Piché 4 minute read Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022

Instead of greeting customers Friday morning — the same day his longtime Chinatown business was featured in the Free Press about its imminent closure — Francis Tsang cleaned up glass and stared at an empty cash register.

“This is unbelievable,” Tsang said on Tuesday as he walked around his grocery store, which had been broken into after he closed up shop Thursday.

He pulled back a large calendar hanging on Oriental Market’s wall. It covered a large hole — one Tsang suspects thieves made during their break-in.

He will close Oriental Market on Nov. 30. Not because of crime, but because he and his sister are retiring; the kids don’t want to take over, he said.

Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Vandals have thrown rocks through Tsang's windows several times over the past three years.

Housing market experiences a ‘return to reasonable’

Gabrielle Piché 3 minute read Preview

Housing market experiences a ‘return to reasonable’

Gabrielle Piché 3 minute read Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022

Manitoba’s housing market is experiencing a “return to reasonable,” industry experts say.

Last month, the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board tracked 1,063 home sales. It’s a 30 per cent decrease from October 2021 and a 33 per cent drop from the year prior.

The average single family home price dropped roughly $2,500 from September, to $377,000. It fell 1.2 per cent from October 2021’s average home cost.

“We’re in very good shape,” said Michael Froese, a managing broker with Royal LePage. “We were in an unreasonable real estate market for 18 months… the return to reasonable is in effect right now.”

Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / FREE PRESS FILES

Setbacks cited in closure of Quest Musique’s Portage Avenue location

Gabrielle Piché 5 minute read Preview

Setbacks cited in closure of Quest Musique’s Portage Avenue location

Gabrielle Piché 5 minute read Monday, Nov. 7, 2022

Quest Musique on Portage Avenue is being silenced by a symphony of setbacks, among them soaring inflation, staffing shortages and supply chain issues.

A “perfect storm” was hitting the decades-old music shop and that’s the reason for downsizing, according to owner Sam Trachilis.

The goal is to sell remaining musical stock by Dec. 31 when Quest Musique’s retail side shutters.

He greeted Shane Anderson, a 15-year customer, near a row of acoustic guitars. Anderson had come for the deals: everything is on sale.

Monday, Nov. 7, 2022

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Sam Trachillis, owner of Quest Musique, tests out a guitar in his Portage Avenue store in Winnipeg, November 07, 2022. Trachillis is closing his store. Re: gabby

Latest death breaks Winnipeg homicide record

Tyler Searle and Gabrielle Piché 6 minute read Preview

Latest death breaks Winnipeg homicide record

Tyler Searle and Gabrielle Piché 6 minute read Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022

A 21-year-old man is dead after a Saturday morning shooting, cementing 2022 as the deadliest year in Winnipeg’s history.

The man, who police have not identified, becomes the 45th person slain since January, breaking the previous record of 44 homicides set in 2019, according to Winnipeg Police Service data.

Around 2:20 a.m. Saturday morning, police responded to reports of a shooting in the 200 block of McDermot Avenue, the WPS said in a Saturday press release.

When officers arrived, they found a man with a gunshot wound in his upper body. First responders provided medical care before transporting the victim to the hospital in critical condition. He later died of his injuries.

Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Old-school Portage Avenue diner will deliver retro ’50s vibe

Gabrielle Piché 5 minute read Preview

Old-school Portage Avenue diner will deliver retro ’50s vibe

Gabrielle Piché 5 minute read Friday, Nov. 4, 2022

We might be on the verge of 2023, but the ’50s are coming back to Winnipeg.

Peek through the windows of 2615 Portage Ave. and you’ll see red-and-white striped chairs stacked on black-and-white checkered floors. A bubble-gum pink piano stands near an ice cream counter. A neon sign announcing “Dreamland Diner” pops against a light blue wall.

“I’ve always, always, always wanted a diner,” said Ravi Ramberran, 39. “(A) ’50s classic diner — milkshakes and the ice cream and the hotdogs and the fries.”

He’s getting his wish.

Friday, Nov. 4, 2022

Ravi Ramberran (right) and co-owner Kevin Ramberran hope to open Dreamland Diner in the winter. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Oriental Market shutting its doors after 43 years

Gabrielle Piché 4 minute read Preview

Oriental Market shutting its doors after 43 years

Gabrielle Piché 4 minute read Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022

Heather Sharpe’s tradition of making dumplings is in jeopardy — the 43-year-old Oriental Market is closing.

Sharpe drove past building after building, many empty, in Winnipeg’s Chinatown Thursday. She then scoured Oriental Market, searching the near-bare shelves for dumpling wrappers.

There were none: the grocery store is shuttering Nov. 30, and its owners are not restocking.

“I’m sad,” Sharpe said. “(Oriental Market) was always kind of like a destination… Where am I gonna get my dumpling wrappers?”

Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Tsang, whose family moved from Hong Kong 44 years ago, says he and his sister, a co-owner of the grocery store, are retiring.

Ready for her closeup

Gabrielle Piché 5 minute read Preview

Ready for her closeup

Gabrielle Piché 5 minute read Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022

Lois Janz carried her clothing and camera equipment past the bowling alley, up the stairs and into heaven.

At least, that’s her description of Earthling Studios.

“You feel like you’re kind of transported,” Janz said.

White walls, white floors, white furniture and white bedsheets greeted her as she set up a photoshoot for her children’s clothing company, Kindly.

Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Kat Willson opened Earthling Studios after almost a year spent renovating, designing and decorating the space herself.

Manitoba film-industry, government and Indigenous delegates board first of WestJet’s direct flights to L.A.

Gabrielle Piché 8 minute read Preview

Manitoba film-industry, government and Indigenous delegates board first of WestJet’s direct flights to L.A.

Gabrielle Piché 8 minute read Monday, Oct. 31, 2022

LOS ANGELES — Heard of a New York minute? Same sort of thing, only warmer. And sunnier.

WestJet’s plane hadn’t been on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport long, but Flight WS1315’s Winnipeg passengers had no time to waste; they had places to go and people to talk to in Hollywood.

Interim Manitoba Film and Music CEO Rod Bruinooge was meeting with executives from the Lionsgate entertainment conglomerate. Sit-downs at Sony and Netflix were on Culture and Heritage Minister Andrew Smith’s agenda.

Nearly two dozen people connected to the province’s burgeoning film industry were on the airline’s inaugural direct flight between Winnipeg and the City of Angels early Monday morning.

Monday, Oct. 31, 2022

A WestJet Airlines Boeing 737 Max aircraft arrives at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Airports in Atlantic Canada are resuming operations after hurricane Fiona stopped most flights in and out of the region over the weekend. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The faces of inflation

Gabrielle Piché 8 minute read Preview

The faces of inflation

Gabrielle Piché 8 minute read Friday, Oct. 28, 2022

A higher cost of living does not discriminate.

Everyone from seniors to students have adjusted and made sacrifices as they’ve watched the soaring costs of their day-to-day expenses.

Nearly half of Manitobans believe a recession is coming, according to a recent Dye & Durham survey conducted through the Angus Reid Forum. One-third of Manitobans delayed making a major purchase this year, and almost half plan to spend less this holiday season, the poll found.

The Free Press spoke to three Manitobans in different walks of life. All have changed their spending habits and outlooks for the future.

Friday, Oct. 28, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Lila Larson is 79 and can’t retire, nor does she know when she’ll be able to. ‘I’ve become more aware of where every penny goes,’ she says.

Winnipeg airport reaching new heights of recovery

Gabrielle Piché 3 minute read Preview

Winnipeg airport reaching new heights of recovery

Gabrielle Piché 3 minute read Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022

Winnipeg’s airport is flying to new heights of recovery.

The travel hub marked its busiest three months — July through September — since the pandemic’s beginning, according to the Winnipeg Airports Authority.

“It’s just a reaffirmation of people’s desire to get out there, see the world, see friends,” said Nick Hays, the organization’s president.

This last quarter, 955,467 people travelled through Winnipeg Richardson International Airport, a 23 per cent jump from April through June 2022, the previous record-breaking quarter since the pandemic, a WAA release states.

Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022

Entrepreneur expands Teekca’s Aboriginal Boutique to five locations

Gabrielle Piché 6 minute read Preview

Entrepreneur expands Teekca’s Aboriginal Boutique to five locations

Gabrielle Piché 6 minute read Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022

Teekca’s Aboriginal Boutique could have been a wedding shop.

It was 1997. Nurse Marilyn Tanner-Spence had just moved to Norway House with her husband Walter Spence, a social worker who’d gotten a new job. Tanner-Spence agreed to a nursing contract in the northern community.

A new mall was opening in Norway House and, without much forethought, Tanner-Spence decided to rent space there.

“I had no clue what to do,” Tanner-Spence said.

Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022

Marilyn Tanner-Spence, right, owner of Teekca’s Aborginal Boutique, and Amy Der-Ironstar, co-owner of the location at Pineridge Hollow, are celebrating the store’s 25th anniversary. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)