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This article was published 24/5/2009 (3771 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Two Winnipeg hairdressers are breathing new life into a vacant Main Street storefront with tomorrow's opening of a new hair salon in the former Birt Saddlery building.
Elynore Kendryna, longtime owner of Angles Hair Salon on Lilac Street, and Kitty Bernes, a former stylist at Vault Salon & Spa, have joined forces to open what they describe as the city's first eco-friendly hair salon.
Called Berns & Black, the salon is located on the main floor of a three-storey, brick building at 468 Main St. Although officially known as The Baker Block, most Winnipeggers refer to it as the Birt Saddlery building because from 1964 until the firm closed in 1995, it was home to Birt Saddlery Co.
The company, which sold western clothing and gear and had roots dating back to the 1880s, was owned and operated for 61 years by the Thompson family, including former Winnipeg mayor Susan Thompson.
The last business to occupy the space was Borealis Books, which moved out in October 2004.
After a failed bid by Blue West Construction to convert it into affordable condominiums, Kendryna acquired the building about a year ago along with the adjacent one-storey Duffin Building on the southwest corner of Main and Bannatyne Avenue.
Since then, she's spent about $200,000 renovating the main floor of the Birt Saddlery building to make room for two new businesses — the hair salon and a small shoe shop.
The shoe shop will be a satellite outlet for Cha Cha Palace, another store Kendryna owns on Lilac Street. It will sell women's and men's shoes.
A spokesman for the Exchange District Business Improvement Zone said the stores are welcome additions to the Exchange.
Jarrett Storey, the BIZ's manager of marketing and communications, said the Exchange District has been undergoing a growth spurt in the last year or so, with at least 11 new retail businesses opening in the area.
The others include nightclubs, clothing stores, a flower shop and a record store.
"It's great to see these distinct and unique businesses choosing to set up shop here in the Exchange District," Storey said.
"The district really is Winnipeg's cultural epicentre, and I think businesses are aware that their workers and patrons alike desire to work and shop in this beautiful and historic gem in our city. Especially with world-class cultural opportunities like the Fringe Fest and the Jazz Fest right around the corner."
The president and CEO of CentreVenture Development Corp., the city's downtown development agency which provided Kendryna with temporary mortgage financing, is also pleased to see someone breathing new life into the 108-year-old Main Street building.
"She's done a great job of rehabilitating an old building," Ross McGowan said in an interview.
The two new stores are arriving less than a week after the federal and provincial governments announced $14.5 million in funding for the $27.5-million conversion of another vacant Main Street property — the Union Bank Tower at Main and William Avenue. That 104-year-old building will become the new home for Red River College's culinary/hospitality school, as well as for student housing.
"As I said earlier... I think we have reached a tipping point here," McGowan said. "We're getting all kinds of inquiries now about more development in the Exchange District."
He said at least three more housing projects are under discussion — he said it's too soon to release any details — and the corporation continues to talk to grocers about opening a grocery store in the area.
"You're starting to see the emergence of a real neighbourhood here. But it's still a tough sell because they (grocery retailers) still don't believe there's a critical mass there yet."
Kendryna said she was drawn to the area because she wanted to be part of the efforts to revitalize Winnipeg's struggling downtown.
"I love the downtown area. I think the heart of a city should be it's downtown, and in Winnipeg I don't know why it's not. I come from Saskatoon, and the heart of the city there is its downtown."
She said she looked at a half a dozen buildings before choosing the Birt Saddlery building. She liked that it was a heritage building and was structurally sound. She also liked the fact the top two floors were already being rented out as artists' studios and the adjoining Duffin Block already had a tenant — Antiques & Funk.
So all she had to do was fill the 3,000 square feet on the main floor.
She said the renovations, which included refinishing the hardwood floors, erecting some new walls, and installing a new air exchange system, took about six months longer than she expected.
The new salon is twice the size of her Lilac Street shop, and will employ about 20 people.
The services it offers include hair cuts, hair colouring and highlighting, hair extensions, manicures, pedicures, and facials. On Fridays it will also offer old-school men's grooming, including straight-razor shaves.
All of the products the salon uses and sells — it plans to sell its own line of hair-care products to other salons — are made with natural, chemical-free ingredients.
"They'll be as organic as one can get," she said.
Know of any newsworthy or interesting trends or developments in the local office, retail, or industrial real estate sectors? Let real estate reporter Murray McNeill know at the email address below, or at 697-7254.
WINNIPEG's historic Exchange District has been going through a retail growth spurt, with at least 11 new businesses opening in the area in the last year or so. They are:
"ö Berns & Black/Cha Cha Palace
468 Main St.
Eco-friendly, avant-garde hair salon and shoe shop.
"ö The Haberdashery Guys & Girls
84 Albert St.
Specializing in men's & women's hats and other accessories
"ö My Secret Garden
84 1/2 Albert St.
Specializing in flowers for events, gardens and gifts
"ö Shop Sixty-One and a Half
61 1/2 Albert St.
Specializing in trendy shoes and accessories for men and women
"ö The White Star Diner
58 Albert St.
Fast-food restaurant specializing in Butter, Cream, Bacon Fat... and Other Vitamins
"ö Unfold Apparel
225 McDermot Ave.
Upscale men's/women's fashions
"ö F & Q
75 Albert St.
An eclectic mix of fashion-forward women's clothing
"ö The Estate Nightclub
441 Main St.
Nightclub in the old Hollywood Style, catering to the 21-plus crowd
"ö The Republic Nightclub
291 Bannatyne Ave.
Upscale nightclub specializing in Electro/House music
"ö Vintage Glory
88 Albert St.
Unique vintage gear for men and women
"ö War on Music
93 Albert St. (lower level)
Record store/print shop specializing in independent hardcore, punk and metal music
— Source: The Exchange District Business Improvement Zone