Downtown Winnipeg business owners optimistic despite low foot traffic

As many office towers in downtown Winnipeg remain far from capacity, new and existing businesses in the city’s core are hopeful foot traffic will return soon.

Bobby Mottola recently opened a grocery store on Hargrave Street. He says opening a new business during the coronavirus pandemic has come with unique challenges but it gave him more time to fine-tune all the systems he has in place.

“It’s also kind of an exciting thing to have happen in Winnipeg and our downtown to open up something new amidst a pandemic,” Mottola said.

Read more: Downtown Winnipeg BIZ offering $50K to offset COVID-19 costs

Parts of Mottola Grocery, such as the hot table, were geared towards office workers, but with little foot traffic in the area, Mottola replaced the section with new products.

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However, Mottola said he was never relying on the downtown crowd to support the store.

He’s instead hoping to bring suburban shoppers to the downtown by offering hundreds of unique products, including his own brand, which can only be purchased at the grocery store.

“The package as a whole, the development and where we are was always intended to elicit a response from people coming from their south-end homes, their west-end homes, their north-end homes, wherever they are,” Mottola said.

Read more: Coronavirus: Downtown Winnipeg reopening, but businesses still facing challenges

Many other businesses, such as downtown lunch spots, continue to struggle with the lack of foot traffic downtown.

About 20 per cent of downtown workers are back in the office full time and another 30 per cent are splitting their time between home and downtown offices, according to Downtown Winnipeg BIZ.

Obby Khan, the owner of Shawarma Khan, said business has picked up slightly in September, but not as much as he was anticipating.

“If you’re downtown, please come support local businesses because we really need that $5, $10 from every customer coming through the door to really make the difference,” Khan said.

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Khan is reopening his sixth and final restaurant on Graham Avenue Sept. 21 and is hoping it won’t be long before business picks up again.

“I hope that we’ll be able to get through this and come out brighter and better on the other end.”

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