‘Anchor’ of the community: Winnipeggers mourn 3 Point Douglas businesses destroyed by fire

Point Douglas business owners and residents are saddened by the loss of three Winnipeg businesses destroyed by a fire early Saturday.

Flames began to shoot from the roof of the Surplus Direct store on Main Street around 2 a.m., spreading through the roof line and engulfing Top Pro Roofing to the north and Lord Selkirk Furniture to the south, according to Scott Wilkinson, Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service assistant chief.

Due to the extensive damage and the collapse of such a large building, Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service assistant chief Scott Wilkinson said Saturday it would be a ‘lengthy’ investigation into the cause of the fire.

Kern Hill Furniture co-owner Andy Hill said his father’s business spent its first twenty years in the building that later became Surplus Direct, before moving to Nairn Avenue.

“We spent half our life in that place,” he told CBC. “As kids, we grew up there. That’s how dad babysat us. We knew every nook and cranny.”

His phone started going off shortly before 8 a.m. with news of the fire, he said.

“I just looked at pictures online and it’s gone.”

The building was “like a home,” to him and his brothers. Hill said he’d often drive by the place during Sunday night cruises and reminisce about his childhood memories there.

Businesses ‘anchor’ of community

He said the loss of the businesses will have an impact on the area.

“It’s going to hurt that whole block.”

Keith Horn, owner of the Northern Hotel across the street, said he spoke to the owners of Lord Selkirk Furniture as they watched their business burn on Saturday morning.

“They’re very hardworking people,” he told CBC. “They’re quite devastated.”

Several fire trucks respond to an emergency call.
Three businesses in Point Douglas are now a total loss after being destroyed by a fire early Saturday. (Pat Kaniuga/CBC)

He called the three businesses an “anchor” of the community. “People were coming down here to come to these stores and now they’re not going to be here.”

Horn said Saturday’s fire will affect the quality of life in the area, as it has been difficult to fill vacant buildings in the area, he said.

“Now, to lose three viable businesses, is just another step backwards.”

Losses leave ‘a big hole’

Point Douglas resident Kate Sjoberg agrees that it has not been easy to attract new businesses to her neighbourhood. She was glad to hear that no housing units were lost in the fire, since the area suffers from a lack of housing, as well as economic activity.

“It’s worth it for people to be paying attention to this on a few levels,” she told CBC.

She lives seven blocks east of where the fire took place. She was letting her dog out in the early morning hours when she noticed smoke in the air.

“By the time the sun came out, there was like a wall of smoke,” she said.

Fifteen homes on Austin Street North were evacuated by emergency crews as a precaution, as was a three-storey apartment building on Main Street, Wilkinson said. Combustible products within the businesses resulted in toxicity escaping into the air.

Sjoberg said that smoke infiltrated many homes on her block, and imagined it would be harder to breathe for residents who lived closer to the fire.

She sees the loss of the three longtime businesses leaving “a big hole in the community.”

“That’s a really difficult thing to overcome,” she said. “We really value those places and we hope to see them continue.”