Salisbury House comes home to the East Exchange District

Iconic restaurant chain opening in historic building a stone's throw from Portage and Main

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Salisbury House, the quintessential Winnipeg restaurant, will soon be taking up occupancy in one of the most iconic buildings in the city’s historic East Exchange District.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/09/2018 (1531 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Salisbury House, the quintessential Winnipeg restaurant, will soon be taking up occupancy in one of the most iconic buildings in the city’s historic East Exchange District.

It’s almost like Sals is coming home.

The Winnipeg restaurant chain will open a 3,500-square-foot restaurant at 177 Lombard Ave., the original headquarters of Great-West Life Assurance Co. when it was built in 1909. (Sals’s original location, 87 years ago, was on Fort Street south of Portage Avenue.)

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Salisbury House’s new location at Lombard Avenue and Rorie Street is a 3,500-square-foot space, previously occupied by the Great-West Life Assurance Co.

 

Noel Bernier, the enthusiastic CEO of Salisbury House, was a long-time resident of the East Exchange and a vocal promoter of the district, previously participating in the development and operation of several other restaurants in the neighbourhood over the past decade.

“The light came on two months ago when we were thinking about the potential to be downtown.” he said.

“The space had been vacant for a year, but I’ve been so busy, I didn’t pay attention to it. But when I saw it, I immediately understood it would be the perfect home for Sals first downtown family restaurant location.”

Up until this year, Sals had a couple of Express locations downtown — at Shaw Park and in the Medical Arts building.

But with the current re-development of the old Medical Arts building and a decision to end “an amazing, positive 10-year relationship with the Goldeyes” — there was no way you could get a Nip downtown.

That will change sometime late this year when the southeast corner space of the building — complete with ornate pillars, period moulding and big light fixtures — will be transformed into a typical, homey Sals.

“People have asked me if this is going to be a fancy Sals,” Bernier said. “No, it will be exactly our family restaurant… our booths, our menus, our food, exactly the same… just within this absolutely historic, grand setting.”

With seating for just over 100, it will be a medium-sized Sals. While the restaurant business is a notoriously risky enterprise, Bernier said Sals’ chain of eight restaurants and four Sals Xpress locations have been jam-packed.

“Because the stores are very busy — four of them right now have basically reached their maximum capacity for traffic — at peak times, there are lineups and we lose customers,” Bernier said.

Since buying the chain last December — with partners including the Métis Economic Development Fund (MEDF), Winnipeg lawyer David Filmon and a number of current Salisbury House senior management — the chain has seen a renaissance of sorts. Additional dinner items have been added to the menu, while other items have been culled.

But Sals’ all-Manitoba beef burger — the famous Nip — continues to be the draw and the chain has benefitted from the trend from fast food to family restaurant concept. Its fresh food and value pricing — including the $5.47 breakfast — can appeal to all demographics.

Bernier is extremely enthusiastic about the chain and its potential downtown.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Salisbury House CEO Noel Bernier, at the new location Friday.

“We are really good at what we do and our customers know us,” he said.

“This location is going to give our brand an amazing opportunity to showcase what we believe to be the greatest restaurant product ever.”

David Pensato, executive director of the Exchange District BIZ, said the East Exchange has been transformed over the past few years with a rising residential base — 2,400 and growing — and significantly increased foot traffic, at least partially a result of more than 1,000 new hires by SkipTheDishes in a few different locations in the neighbourhood.

Among other things, he said, the kind of breakfast and comfort food offering at Sals will be a welcome addition to the mix of restaurants in the Exchange.

“We are seeing time and again in tourism statistics that people visiting Winnipeg mention The Forks and the Exchange in the same breath as the primary things they enjoyed in the city,” he said.

“To have a classic, iconic Winnipeg restaurant chain in a classic historic building I think will really be beneficial. It ties it all together… the history of Winnipeg.”

Bernier said Sals and the owner of the building, Toronto-based former Winnipeger Takashi Yamashita, both made concessions to get the deal done.

“We feel so fortunate to be able to welcome Sals to the site,” Yamashita said. “We think Sals will be a very popular destination, not just something that one finds on the way.”

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

 

Martin Cash

Martin Cash
Reporter

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.

History

Updated on Friday, September 21, 2018 8:12 PM CDT: Adds photos

Updated on Friday, September 21, 2018 8:27 PM CDT: Removes older photo

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