main st

a blog with drawings of interesting businesses and places on Main Street, Winnipeg.

1748 Main St. The Royal Canadian Legion

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The things I like about this building — the way the tower reminds me of a Spanish mission, the nice landscaping and flowers in front, the music and dancing that happens inside on a Saturday evening — seem almost insignificant when I consider the reason for its existence. There is a haunting mural on the side depicting soldiers pouring out the door with rifles and bayonets, wading into the ocean. I think of words like courage and sacrifice and the incongruity of peace and killing. I think of a soldier being shot in Ottawa and being held tenderly by strangers as he dies. I realize I don’t know anything.

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1034 Main St. Bird Shop and Aquariums

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The murals on the outside of this storefront are impossible to miss. This aquarium shop might well be the brightest spot on Main Street. But if the outside is colourful, the inside is more so. Hundreds of colourful Nemos and Parrotfish and Cichlids swim in elaborate walls of tanks. I am aware that the pet store fish trade is having a serious effect on tropical ecosystems, and for that I am sad. I wish this whole story could be only about the beauty of the fish – their iridescence and exotic names, their dreamlike movement, and the obvious care they are given – but as I open my eyes to the bigger picture, I realize it is not as perfect as it once seemed.

Still, I buy six little goldfish and take them home in a plastic bag to live the rest of their short lives in the pond in my backyard. I hope they will be happy there.



1441 Main St. Safeway


It’s a fading old Safeway store, with shabby floors, and uncertain doors that creak open slowly as customers approach. Its big parking lot is handy for cars, but all in all, not pretty. What makes this store special, though, is that it’s the last operating Safeway store in Winnipeg with the ‘Marina-style’ design, characterized by the sweeping wave of the roof. Built in the early ’60’s, this store was modeled on the prototype store on Marina Boulevard in San Francisco. So wow, pretty cool. In its day, it was something.

I confess to going to the bigger stores for bigger shopping trips, but this is my go-to Safeway when I need to make a quick trip close to home. It’s a pretty good store. The people who work there are friendly. The produce is nicely arranged. There is a long-time employee named John who always says hello. I’ve heard that there will be new owners soon. May the marina roof and all the people who work under it wave on.


Main Street at Mountain Ave. St. John’s Park


Warmest wishes for a season of hope, joy, light and beauty.

Merry Christmas!

1175 Main St. Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral


This church is striking at almost any time of day, looming up against the sky. Grand, imposing, beautiful. All those steps. The fantastic mosaic by Leo Mol swirling with light and grandeur. Speaking to the heritage of this old street.

I climbed the steps one afternoon, wondering if the doors would be open. They were locked. But tiny ladybugs were making an autumn pilgrimage across their broad wooden expanse and I stopped to watch for awhile.


1052 Main St. Taste of Europe

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“Do you speak Russian?” were the first words I heard when I walked into the store. They were addressed to the delivery guy, not to me, and I didn’t hear the answer. There were rows and rows of jars, all labelled in charming Cyrillic alphabet — all completely unintelligible to me. I looked at the pictures and made some guesses and some choices. Eggplant relish, I think. And plum jam — pretty sure. The lollipops were easy. Came away feeling like I’d left the country, just for awhile.

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1136 Main Street Billy Mosienko Lanes



I like seeing Billy Mosienko’s cheerful grin on the side of the bowling alley when I drive north on Main Street. Grinning because way back in 1952 he scored a record three goals in 21 seconds for the Chicago Blackhawks. And when his lustrous hockey career ended, got into the bowling business. I tend to take this kind of history for granted because I see it every day, but recently find myself thrilling at the colour it adds to my street.

Mosienko was a small player, well-liked by his teammates, and won the Lady Byng one year for gentlemanly conduct. I like that too. Feel kind of proud, as if I have some part in it.

I wonder if he was good at bowling.  Inside the bowling alley there’s a larger-than-life mural where he takes a mighty slapshot with his hockey stick and sends the pins flying. There’s a spray of ice around his feet, and he’s smiling like all getout.


1783 Main Street Baraka Pita Bakery



One winter day when I stopped in at Baraka the fellow behind the counter seemed sad as he told me how cold it was here compared to his home in Lebanon. Later I thought of winter and the bleakness of the street and, with reference to the Lebanese flag, tried to compensate by imagining the store in the comforting shade of two big cedar trees,


Last time I was there I noticed how much heat the fiery oven gave off as it cooked my spinach pita. Enough to warm up even the chilly June day.


1791 Main St. Newbridge Toy Shop

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Welcome to the neighbourhood, new little toy shop! I wish you all the luck in the world. May you thrive and prosper.

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Circus Sam the Balancing Man comes from the Newbridge Toy Shop. He’s very good at balancing and has a face that guarantees a smile.

1170 Main St. Blackletter Books


I remember having my cards read at Blackletter Books a number of years ago, and the reading was freakily accurate. Reassuring, actually. I felt understood. And now, years later, when I wanted to go back, it was closed. I stood on the sidewalk with my camera and memories and a woman walked up to me and said, “It’s closed, you know.” Then she walked away.

On the door, now barricaded behind an iron grate, was the word Welcome, and a painting of an old man holding a lamp. The Hermit, from the Tarot deck. I looked it up at home. Something about a journey and mysterious adventure. Withdrawing and returning.  I used to find him a little spooky, but now it was okay. Reassuring.

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