Winnipeg's Exchange District is a national historic site that is home to North America's largest collection of heritage buildings in a span of 20 downtown blocks. But it's the future, not the past that's attracting next-gen chefs, mixologists, boutique owners and designers to its ongoing rejuvenation effort. Alicja Dalecki, born and raised in Winnipeg, opened Boutique Anya in late 2015 with a focus on local and European fashion and accessories.
"I wanted to bring my life experiences in fashion and travel to Winnipeg," she says. "I chose to locate in the Exchange due to its history and uniqueness." There are over 60 small businesses joining her in the area, including Hilary Druxman Design, a jewellery boutique, Tiny Feast, a paper goods and gift shop, and celebrated restaurant Deer + Almond. "As a collective, we are working to make this area the place to be and visit, in both Winnipeg but also on a larger scale," Dalecki says.
Where the diverse interests come together is a multi-purpose space called Forth, which opened last January. It's a café, cocktail bar, restaurant, gift shop, rooftop event space and co-working office. "The Exchange District is an interesting, thriving neighbourhood that's a total destination now that people want to live and work in it," says Megan Heke, executive director of Forth. "I think that we've been very fortunate to inherit that movement and push it forward."
Heke is also a Winnipeg native and has worked on and off in the neighbourhood for the past 12 years. "It's just the past two years where it's taken on a new life and become a really cool, interesting place," she says. "I think that's because it's not complete yet. It's still taking on this life."
For more information, visit www.exchangedistrict.org.
LOCAL INTEL: SEAN MCCORMICK
In work and play, the president and founder of Manitobah Mukluks pays homage to his Metis roots
STAY: "If you're travelling for a short time, I always put up my visiting staff at the Inn at the Forks in Winnipeg. It's one of the city's only true luxury boutique hotels and is conveniently located in the Forks area, a must-visit National Historic Site that has borne witness to six thousand years of human history." www.innforks.com
EAT: "I spend the most time at Neechi Commons, an indigenous food co-op down the street from our headquarters. This is a true community grocery store, where you can find everything from oven-fresh bannock, berries, wild rice and Manitoba-caught fish." www.neechi.ca
ESCAPE: "If you really want to get out of town, fly into Molson Lake Lodge in Manitoba's Northern Region. This is the best place to fish, and you'll support the indigenous community of Norway House Cree Nation at the same time. They've been fishing these waters for thousands of years." www.molsonlakelodge.ca