Heard on the Street – February 2020
An often-overlooked Windsor neighbourhood is quickly becoming a hot real estate and commercial area with as many as six properties recently being snapped up by individuals seeking to launch businesses in “Ford City” along Drouillard Road. Shane Potvin, who heads up the Ford City Business Improvement Area, mentions there had been little or no activity for more than two decades, but people are now starting to take notice of the area with the realization that it’s affordable and becoming more popular. “I moved here in 2017 and started renovating my building, and while there are still a number of vacancies, people are talking about the area,” says Potvin who operates Spotvin Designs. Potvin indicates his organization is always seeking businesses that are compatible with the street. The most recent business launched on Drouillard is Pressure Drop, a combination café, bar and retail space, which Potvin describes as creating “a unique vibe, which we hope to establish elsewhere in Ford City.” Potvin adds he’s not at liberty to divulge the nature of future businesses, but believes all will bring something new to the area. Potvin points out The Grand Cantina, a popular Mexican-style eatery, opened a lot of eyes to possibilities along the street, as did Michael Difazio Reclaim Artistry. “It’s taken a great deal of work by many people to get the ball rolling and our challenge is to maintain the momentum,” he says.
Rumours that an Olive Garden restaurant is returning to Windsor after a lengthy absence appear to be just that — rumours. Windsor’s Olive Garden closed its doors at 2491 Ouellette Avenue more than 10 years ago. The chain, now a subsidiary of Darden Restaurants, operates almost 900 Olive Gardens across the globe, according to its website, including two in Winnipeg, two in Edmonton and one each in Calgary and Langley, B.C. Calls and emails to Darden seeking comment went unanswered. Local REALTOR Mike Sleiman of Valente Real Estate became aware of Darden’s potential interest through conversations with other real estate agents across Canada. He believes Darden is still conducting its due diligence and market studies to determine whether or not to return to the Windsor market. “It’s a long way off yet, if it even happens,” says Sleiman. “There are no guarantees.”
Look for Ernie & Rusty’s Dairy Bar to open inside Bubi’s Awesome Eats at 620 University Avenue East, in Windsor, beginning in March. Owners Jeff Allard and partner Clarice Coyle are currently renovating the space and aiming for a March 1 soft opening. The dairy bar will feature a variety of handcrafted, hand-scooped, premium ice cream flavours, including vanilla bean, grape, strawberry, butter pecan, Key Lime pie, cherry cheesecake and Wolfhead banana caramel vodka. Ernie & Rusty’s Dairy Bar will be located just inside the restaurant’s main entrance. The business is named after Coyle’s two dogs, Ernie (a Beagle) and Rusty (a Puggle, a Pug/Beagle mix) and an illustration of the two cute pups can be found on the company’s official logo.
At the end of January, Kabab Village, a popular east side Windsor restaurant was sold by the Hatoum family to a local entrepreneur, Ali Hamie, who promises to build on the restaurant’s success. “We are immediately extending our business hours, and after a period of adjustment, we’ll be revamping the menu,” informs Manager Abe Habhab. “Kabab Village has a rich heritage and loyal following. Our priority will be to continue to satisfy the needs of existing clients while expanding our appeal.” Open since early 2019, Kabab Village is situated at 6124 Tecumseh Road East (Jefferson Boulevard corner). The new hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.Lazares & CO., a retail staple in downtown Windsor for almost 100 years, will be closing its main showroom March 31, and instead focusing on its storage, repair, cleaning, restyle, insurance services and some online sales. Owner Warren Twigg let Biz X know that changing tastes and a greater focus on online shopping are the main reasons for the shift in emphasis. “The service side of our business is certainly growing and that’s where we’ve decided to direct our resources,” explains Twigg. “We may add a small retail component at some point in the future, but for now, we are going to concentrate on building the service component.” The building at 493 Ouellette Avenue contains a basement and two upper floors in addition to what had been the main floor showroom. Twigg admits it’s a large space and there are plans to seek a tenant for the showroom floor. In the meantime, the store is currently holding a 50 percent off sale on all its current stock. It’s another change in the downtown landscape following on the heels of the recent announced closures of Bread Meats Bread, 33 Chatham Street East; The Foundry Pub, 459 Ouellette Avenue; and Rino’s Kitchen and Ale House, 131 Elliott Street West.
The City Grill, part of the WKND Hospitality Group, is listed for sale with CBRE Group for $1.375 million, or alternatively for lease at $13 per square foot. Located at 367 to 375 Ouellette Avenue, in the heart of downtown Windsor’s hospitality district, the restaurant/bar/event space is zoned for restaurant, commercial or office uses, says listing agent Brook Handysides. “It’s a great location for any type of use,” he believes. “Overall, there is remarkable potential.” The property includes 4,263 sq. ft. on the main floor; 2,545 sq. ft on a mezzanine level and 4,292 sq. ft. on an upper level for a total of 11,100 sq. ft. It also comes with a property tax bill of $31,350.48, according to an offering memorandum, published by CBRE. City Grill owners were unavailable for comment on the business, which did operate as a restaurant and later as an event centre plus a high end nightclub upstairs, under a different name. According to WKND’s website, the company also owns the Bull & Barrel Urban Saloon, Wild Child Nightlife and G.O.A.T. Tap and Eatery locations in LaSalle and Lakeshore.
Ending with some good downtown news, 40 years after it opened its doors, one of Windsor’s most popular and respected restaurants has changed ownership. Spencer Dawson is the new owner of The Cook’s Shop, taking over recently from Lino Catroppa who has decided to retire. Dawson doesn’t plan to make any major changes, but has bought new kitchen equipment and completed some minor renovations in the space at 683 Ouellette Avenue. He’s keeping the same staff including chef Lee Beneteau. Dawson mentions he may also re-open the upstairs space, where The Pasta Shop was located, for private parties.