Jan 092010

This afternoon, Mr. Nothing and I were on our way to document the rally at the Windsor Hotel, which as been transformed from a valiant attempt to save it from civic demolition to a grassroots movement to get the ol’ dear listed as a municipal heritage building.

Then we realized we were an hour late (whoops!) and there were only about 10 people of the original 80 left, so we kept driving…

Out to the (relatively) new Berns & Black, which not only is the co-brainchild of Winnipeg hair whisperer Kitty Berns, but also home to the satellite location of ooh-la-la Lilac boutique, Cha-Cha Palace. (Need I remind of this coat?)

Located, perhaps somewhat incongruously, next to the good ol’ Woodbine Hotel on Main Street, the salon and shop sits in what used to be Birt Saddelry, which I remember as a place of pony-lovin’ fantasy from my early childhood.

We had been told by staff at the Lilac Cha Cha that the Main Street shop had a wider selection of men’s shoes. Since Mr. Nothing has a hunger for Fluevogs (and really, who among us doesn’t?), of which Cha Cha Palace is one of the very few carriers in Winnipeg, we figured it was time to pay a visit.

We were a little disappointed that the stock was much smaller than we had assumed: just a few dozen shoe styles and some accessories. (If you’re in the market for some distressed-leather biker boots, though, they had a sick pair, as well as a nice selection of Fly London.)

But all was not lost.

As it turns out, one of Berns & Black’s stylists (either Lori or Laurie, I decided to take my weekend off work for all its worth and refrain from asking for the spelling) also makes some pretty damn adorable hair accessories.

See? How cute are these?

Headbands with lace and feathers; headbands with flowers; and that sweet little crimson velveteen headband witht the flat bow, at left.

The same creator also made a selection of pretty feather and peacock earrings.

Best part? The headbands were a very reasonable $15. And they look very, very cute.


But we weren’t done there.

I’ve already written in praise of Vintage Glory on Albert Street, so I won’t belabour the point. We stopped at F&Q, the sister store of Osborne Village staple ParaMix, for jeans and a floral quilted jacket… thing, a thing that shall undoubtedly feature in future What I Wore episodes.

And then I found these.

Modelled here by the dessicated corpse of our white pine Christmas tree, these earmuffs are one of a delightfully varied series at Ragpickers.

Made, apparently out of recycled materials, by a local imprint called D&Y (which I can’t find any reference to online: does anyone know who these guys are?), this pair — a candy-coloured plaid — were only $16.

Other prints included red houndstooth and black houndstooth… and if you’re looking for earmuffs that aren’t tacky, fluffy and strapped by chintzy plastic, I must insist you go buy a pair.

And yes, they are quite warm.

To close today’s edition of shopping success in downtown Winnipeg, a What I Wore. I seriously dig this outfit, and it marks the debut for the red plaid skirt:

Hat: Not mine! It’s a delectable black, blue and red feather contraption at Vintage Glory for $30.

Tank: American Apparel, the world’s best basic cotton tank. Washed at least 100 times, has kept its black and its shape.

Waist cincher: Lucy’s Hidden Closet.

Plaid skirt: Vintage Glory

Buckled stiletto boots: ParaMix

Chain necklaces: Set from ParaMix from last year… that they had back in the store last week!

Scarf: Silk scarf that was used as a bag by Dahlia Drive, the most incredible dress designer in Canada

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Jan 052010

Oh, right, it’s 2010.

Seeing as we only have slightly under two years left on the planet*, and given that there is wide agreement amongst the mainstream media, my friends, and disgruntled cab drivers that 2000-09 was a pretty crap ten years, it can only start looking up this year, right?

Here’s a shortlist of what I’m pumped about seeing in the next 12 months:

  • All hail, our new H&M shall arrive at Polo Park by the end of the year. This is a godsend, especially for men who want cool clothes that don’t look like a logo factory threw up on them.
  • Manitoba Homecoming 2010. I know, I know, common wisdom on news site comments suggests I should froth at the mouth whenever government funds anything that sounds too suspiciously like it might be fun. What can I say, I’ll take parties over potholes any day.
  • The old Basil’s restaurant at the corner of Osborne and Stradbrook is finally under renovations, after a water main break two years ago shuttered what is, inarguably, the most gorgeous summer patio in Winnipeg. If it’s back by summer 2010, it will be a joyous summer indeed.

There are more things I’m amped about — music, films, stuff on teh Internets — but I’ll blog about that at a later time.

For now, let me conclude with a brief roundup of interesting tidbits:

  • Manitoba Homecoming 2010 announced its official anthems. Yay: local darlings Keith and Renee’s song Good Year makes the cut. Yawn: so does BTO’s Takin’ Care of Business. Love BTO and glad to see them reunited, but it’s high time we stop hogtying ourselves to everything Burton and Randy do, or did.
  • The Downtown BIZ released its top developments of 2009 today. Long story short: crap year for much of the world, busy one for Winnipeg’s slowly revitalizing core.
  • The ambitiously large Blush Ultraclub is now closed, after two years in business and steadily declining attendance. The big ol’ Portage Avenue space is being remodeled into a sports lounge. That will be… interesting.
  • The Winnipeg Folk Festival is hiring.
  • Iconic punk group NOFX — which is almost as old as I am — is coming back to Winnipeg on April 26 at the Burt. Tickets onsale on Jan. 8 at Ticketmaster for $19.50 and $29.50. Not bad.
  • The Winnipeg Free Press website discovered colour today. But why is business green? Is this a coded message from the liberal mainstream media and the global warming conspiracy? Or is it green for the colour of the oh-so-retro cold, hard cash?

*Unless you hook up with a moody John Cusack, in which case he will suddenly overcome his uberloser tendencies to heroically usher you to salvation whilst shrugging off the horrific deaths of billions.

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Jan 032010

Today was the last day of business for McNally Robinson in Polo Park.

Only six days ago, the company informed its employees that it was shutting down the store, its second in Winnipeg, which moved to the mall from Portage Place in 2008. (It also ceased operations at its ambitious Toronto location.)  

My husband and I decided to go pay our respects for the store’s last day. Why? Hard to say: we usually shop at McNally’s Grant Park location (as do, apparently, most other people). Maybe it was a show of solidarity. Whatever the motive, others felt the draw: by 2:30 p.m., the store was full of people.

As we waited in line to buy our books (his: The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami, mine: the 2010 edition of my favourite dayplanner), we listened as the store’s staff — 100 of whom are now out of jobs - patiently answered customers’  expressions of sympathy.  

“Yes, it’s very sad.”

“Oh, thank you. We’ll miss it too.”

“It’s starting to sink in. It’s been a hard week.”

Across the aisle, another employee rested her elbows on the desk and her face in her palms. She gazed at the shelves and blinked away tears.

Perhaps this story has hit Winnipeggers so hard because nobody, not even its employees, saw it coming. It was, after all, named one of the 50 best-managed companies in Canada in 2006. Now, it’s wobbling on the edge.

In 2008, when McNally Robinson announced it would open a Toronto location, it was headline news. Splashed all over the Free Press, interviews on TV. And I remember the first  thought I had when I read the announcement: “Wait, there isn’t a McNally in Toronto?”

I wasn’t the only one surprised. Chalk it up to the curious business of branding: for many of us who grew up in Winnipeg, McNally Robinson was the bookstore. It had the best selection, the best atmosphere, the best readings. Founded the year I was born, 1981, it became a destination, part of our cultural dialect. Many Winnipeggers never just  “go book-shopping.” We “go to McNally.”

Maybe, playing on our great prairie inferiority complex, we assumed that anything so popular had to have its roots in other, more lucrative cities in Canada. Maybe the company’s airy Grant Park flagship seemed too pretty to be thoroughly homegrown. Maybe we just assumed that since we knew McNally so well, other Canadians must, too.

Either way, once we realized that McNally Robinson was unique to the prairies, the simultaneous news of its expansion took on new gravity. If McNally Robinson could make it work in Toronto, it could take on the world… and we would have the proud distinction of saying, “we knew it first.”

Less than two years ago, we were holding McNally up as a Manitoban success story and buzzing about its power to take on some of the faceless U.S.-based mega-chain. Hell, even Toronto media was warming to the idea that McNally Robinson had the tools to solve the dilemma of the internet and competing with a multi-billion giant.

On Dec. 28, pop went that bubble.

Let’s not wax poetic too quickly. Though the company’s filing for bankruptcy protection isn’t exactly reassuring, the Grant Park flagship and the Saskatoon location are still in operation. Maybe this partial-death experience will provoke Manitobans to rally this, one of the best and last big independent bookstores in the country. Time will tell.

In the meantime, it did darken my heart to see this sign outside of McNally’s Prairie Ink cafe, where empty cups and other trash stood guard over the place where I was officially offered my first full-time writing job:

Good luck and hang in there, McNally Robinson.

On that note, since this is in part supposed to be a style blog, I’ll end with my outfit of the day, as I pimp out our last-ever purchases at McNally Robinson Polo Park:

Pink plaid coat: Cha Cha Palace

Turquoise cowboy boots: Ragpickers

Black calfskin gloves: Vintage Glory

Black faux-leather tights: American Apparel

Headscarf: Chanel

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