Stopped in an aisle of the landmark downtown Hudson’s Bay Co., with a glossy wooden canoe on his right and striped apparel on his left, David Jasysyn speaks with urgency behind a red cotton mask.

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Stopped in an aisle of the landmark downtown Hudson’s Bay Co., with a glossy wooden canoe on his right and striped apparel on his left, David Jasysyn speaks with urgency behind a red cotton mask.

It’s an important day, David explains to a reporter: he and his wife Elizabeth are celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary.

To mark the occasion, the pair decided to take a Saturday stroll through the department store where their flame was first kindled.

More than four decades ago, when the upper floors of the Bay were still stocked and downtown Winnipeg was a hub for retail shopping, David first caught a glimpse of Elizabeth at the adult learning centre where he was taking a course, not far from the Bay, and was smitten.

Six months later he saw her again, this time outside the school dressed in graduation garb and congratulated her on the achievement, before heading inside without, regretfully, getting her name or number.

“I was looking at the books, and through the cracks of the books, there she (Elizabeth ) was. I said a prayer, and I asked God for the courage to ask her out." – David Jasysyn

It was on the fifth floor of the Bay, while browsing for books a few months later, that their paths crossed again.

"I was looking at the books, and through the cracks of the books, there she was," he says. "I said a prayer, and I asked God for the courage to ask her out.

"And so I walked around, asked her out, and she said ‘OK,’" David says.

After 39 years of marriage, and five children and two grandchildren, the Jasysyns returned Saturday afternoon to the sales floor, the same one where Elizabeth’s wedding band was purchased, to reminisce.

In February, the 650,000-square-foot, 94-year-old store will be shuttered.

"We came through here today because we heard about the sad news that it would be closing, which we always figured it would, but you know it still hits you when it’s said it’s going to happen," Elizabeth says.

“The downtown Winnipeg Hudson’s Bay store is one of HBC’s ‘original six’ and has been a landmark in a city that has incredibly strong ties to HBC’s history.” – Iain Nairn, president and CEO, Hudson’s Bay Co.

Officials with the company previously told the Free Press the closure is in part driven by changing consumer habits in favour of online commerce and suburban malls.

"The downtown Winnipeg Hudson’s Bay store is one of HBC’s ‘original six’ and has been a landmark in a city that has incredibly strong ties to HBC’s history," Iain Nairn, president and CEO, Hudson’s Bay Co. told the Free Press Friday.

While their love story has its origin at the Bay, the store was also a favourite shopping destination for the Jasysyns — the whole family would be hauled downtown when it offered its scratch-and-save promotion — and many Winnipeggers will feel sentimental about its closing, David says.

"I love the place," he says. "This store is probably the best Hudson’s Bay store across Canada. This one has a lot of history."

The closure will also sting for people who currently reside downtown, says Debasis Mondal.

He’s lived about 400 metres from the Bay for the past two years and works within walking distance. He frequents the downtown store regularly as part of his retail shopping trips or impromptu supply runs.

“We used to come to the Paddlewheel Restaurant and I remember meeting my grandma and grandpa up there, and it was the ‘in’ place to meet people.” – Janice Hamilton

"Under one roof we have a different variety, starting with garments, furniture and all sorts of essential things," he says, adding it’s a good place to go shopping for his wife. "It’s a good place for us, so I’m not very happy with the news that it’s closing."

Mondal expects he’ll be heading out of the downtown come winter to do his shopping, as other local retail options are not comparable.

"I know my friends come here frequently and look for the deals, because there are many items under one roof," he says. "It’s sad news for us, that’s for sure."

Larry and Janice Hamilton were part of the steady stream of customers trickling through the Vaughn Street and Portage Avenue doors Saturday afternoon.

While not ones to frequent the downtown, after hearing news of the store’s impending closure, the couple decided to take a trip down memory lane, and to check out any deals.

"We used to come to the Paddlewheel Restaurant and I remember meeting my grandma and grandpa up there, and it was the ‘in’ place to meet people," Janice says.

"It’s too much the same. We’ve lived through Eaton’s, we lived through Sears, we lived through all these things and it’s like somebody you know passing away," Larry says. "It’s the character that’s going with this location."

As a retired middle school teacher, Larry says he’s taught plenty of students about the relationship between Canada and the Hudson’s Bay Co. To see the nearly century old building close feels significant.

"This was the story of Canada — the Hudson’s Bay — and to have this store kind of represent that and be gone, is sad."

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Reporter

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

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