Boutique grocery store an 'exciting' announcement for downtown

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Windsor Star/Brian Cross


At long last, a boutique grocery store is opening downtown, a signal that the influx of residents is starting to attract new businesses catering to their needs.

In this case, the person opening the store in the Security Building at University Avenue West and Pelissier Street is Vern Myslichuk, who purchased the building on May 1 with a plan to convert much of the upper office space into apartments. Having a small boutique grocery store will give his new tenants a needed service and also serve the growing number of residents moving into other downtown buildings, he said Monday.

A boutique grocery store is one of the big wants for downtown boosters who have been seeking services like hardware, book and stationery stores that make downtown a complete neighbourhood. They’ve been trying for years to attract a grocery store.

“I think the circumstances are different now,” Myslichuk said, citing recent residential projects moving forward such as his own, the Canada Building on Ouellette Avenue, the Hive on Pelissier, and owners of Cypher Systems Group renovating several old buildings on Chatham Street West. There’s also a 70-to-80-unit condo building proposed for Pelissier and Wyandotte Street West, conversion of a vacant bar on Pelissier into 13 rental units, and hundreds of more units proposed for the former Grace Hospital site and the former Junction location just west of downtown on University Avenue.

The establishment of downtown campuses by the University of Windsor and St. Clair College in recent years have also brought thousands of students to the area, though their presence has been largely muted by the pandemic.

“I think the population residentially is going to increase dramatically in the next year-and-a-half, so (a boutique grocery store) is something people are going to be looking for and I think they’re looking for it right now,” said Myslichuk, owner of Better Made Cabinets who has renovated the Low-Martin House in Walkerville and who purchased the 93-year-old Security Building for $3.4 million.

As he was doing design work on the building, he initially thought he’d try to find a tenant to rent the long-vacant ground floor space for a grocery store. But the COVID-19 pandemic made such a search difficult, so he didn’t try very hard, he said.

“I thought, I’ll get it going and if someone wants to take it over that’s fine. If not, that’s fine too. We’ll just run it.”

He hopes to have it open in two to three months.

A grocery store is an essential service and so would be allowed to operate even during the current lockdown.

“What I’m excited about is he sees the potential for the residents to support a grocer,” Brian Yeomans, chairman of the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association, said of Myslichuk’s plan. “We’ve seen some really positive growth downtown and to see people such as Vern show confidence and putting their money where their mouth is speaks volumes.”

Yeomans said landing a grocery store is one more step toward creating a walkable environment where most services are within easy reach.

“I’m a downtown resident. That’s one of the things I wish I could do is get my groceries around the corner,” he said. “When you get things that deter people from driving out of the place where they live, the more vibrant that neighbourhood becomes.”

Myslichuk said he wants to take up as much of the main floor as he can for the grocery store, as well as the loft above. Perhaps when the pandemic restrictions are lifted the space will include a place to sit for a coffee, he said. He is in the process of recruiting a manager.

Myslichuk pictures his “little boutique grocery store” being similar to the Remark Farms market on Howard Avenue.

“It’ll just be nice, it’s going to be Better Made Cabinets nice,” he said. “When you look at all the apartments and condos in that area, I’m thinking that you’ll just walk over and get some groceries, versus getting in your car and driving to somewhere larger.”