Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/4/2008 (4206 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The windows of the longtime eatery at the corner of Kenaston Boulevard and Grant Avenue have been papered over and a message to its customers posted on the door.
"After 28 years at this location we have decided to move on. Thank you for your past and continued patronage," it said.
Patrick Munroe, franchiser of one of Winnipeg's oldest and best-known restaurant chains, said the decision not to renew the lease was made because the location had "run its life cycle."
"It seemed to be the prudent thing to shut it down," he said. "If it was making money hand over fist, we'd keep working on it. You don't shoot yourself in the foot. The question was: Would it be better off financially if it closed now or at the end of the summer? If anything, it would have been more expensive at the end of the summer."
The closing reduces Grapes locations to four — one on King Edward Street, another on Pembina Highway and one each in Thompson and White Rock, B.C.
Munroe said sales at the two other Winnipeg restaurants spiked to 15 per cent in the week following the demise of the Kenaston location March 31.
Grapes was once one of the dominant restaurant chains in Winnipeg, peaking with six locations. It also had one each in Brandon, Calgary and Vancouver. Gradually, all but two — Grapes Kenaston and Grapes Leon Centre near the airport — were shut down.
Munroe, a former owner of the Kenaston and Leon Centre restaurants, said other contributing factors in closing the Kenaston eatery were a relative lack of parking and undisclosed conditions in the lease.
"Even if (a customer) wanted to sit in an old booth, it was harder to get in there," he said.
A spokesman for the landlord, Shelter Canadian Properties, could not be reached for comment on the future of the former Grapes site. It has, however, posted a notice of lease termination on the door.
Munroe, a former dishwasher at the Kenaston restaurant, admitted its closure was the first negative development since he came forward to help bail out the chain five years ago.
"If you close a location, you're stepping backwards," he said.
Scott Jocelyn, executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association, agreed.
"It's never good to see somebody close up shop," he said.
Jocelyn said Grapes Kenaston is far from alone. From 1997 to 2007, the number of eating establishments in the province has dropped to 1,786 from 1,956.
Jocelyn said he believes the Grapes brand is still relevant to consumers, but the ongoing challenge remains to constantly reinvent itself.
"A lot of the things we do are driven by what customers want. If you're not continually moving ahead, you're left behind," he said.
Munroe said he's looking for other expansion opportunities to build on the late-2007 addition of the Pembina site. He said feasibility studies have been completed for various communities in Saskatchewan, Ontario and British Columbia, as well as Winkler.
He said a final decision hasn't been made on what to do with the abandoned equipment, glassware and furniture at Grapes Kenaston, but selling them at an auction is possible.