Google Street ViewEarlier this week, Mitchell Fabrics at 637 Main Street at Logan Avenue announced that it was closing after not being able to find a buyer. It will be a huge change to the area as the store has been in business for 70 years at the same location.
The roots of Mitchell Fabrics go back to a dry goods wholesale company called Mindess, Gilfix and Malt that appears to have been created in the 1920s.
Initially, it was located at 645 Main Street and by the 1940s was at 637 Main Street. Both of these addresses were in the same block, just different retail units.
The building is known as the Bon Accord, which once stood five storeys tall but in the mid-1930s the owner had it dismantled so that only one floor remained. (The story behind that is a whole other blog post !)
Source: Reinland - An Experience in Community (page 105)
Mendel Berl Mitchell was born in Russia in 1907 and came to Manitoba with his family in 1921, settling in Reinland, Manitoba, near Winkler. His father, Monty, was a peddler who started a store in the home the family rented. (The photo above is of the site in Reinland, though the house was rebuilt after the Mitchells relocated to Winnipeg ca. 1947.)
After serving in World War II, Mitchell settled in Winnipeg in 1946 at 488 Flora Avenue. In the Henderson Directories of the period the house is listed as being owned by Leon Mitchell, a CPR employee. Around the same time, other Mitchells, including Benjamin, Flora, Beril and his wife Ruth also lived there.
Top: September 5, 1956, Jewish Post
Bottom: November 28, 1966, Winnipeg Tribune
Mitchell started working for Mindess, Gilfix and Malt and became a partner with Frank Gilfix in 1947. The store was renamed Mitchell and Gilfix, Wholesale Jobbers.
Mitchell's father would join him, both working at the store and living at 488 Flora.
It is unclear what happened to Frank Gilfix but around 1960 the store was renamed Mitchell Fabrics. It never changed locations, just expanded over the decades to take up more retail units within the block until it filled the entire 10,000 square foot building plus basement.
September 28, 1981, Winnipeg Free Press
Mitchell died on September 14, 1981 at Misericordia Hospital at the age of 74. It appears that he never married.
His obituary reads, in part: “Mendel was the creative and managing force behind Mitchell Fabrics from its beginning till his death. His ingenuity and imagination are reflected in the unique store which Mitchell Fabrics has become.”
The store has remained a family affair.
David and Ruth Ann (Mitchell) Borenstein married in 1965. The two co-owned and worked together at the store nearly 30 years.
Harry B. Mitchell, who owned and operated Western Garment Manufacturing Ltd from 1936 to 1971, worked at the store for a number of years after his retirement.
Paula Mitchell, (Winnipeg Public Library Annual Report, 2010)
Mitchell has been praised by civic organizations for her dedication to the North Main Street area. She was a member of the 1997 North Main Task Force, part of the MuralFest advisory committee, chair of the Downtown BIZ and co-chair of the Winnipeg Library Foundation which successfully fundraised for the creation of the Millennium Library and Millennium Library Park.