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'Our own kind of community': Local businesses thriving at Manchester Square

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After getting off to a slow start, business is booming at Edmonton's Manchester Square.

The development in Queen Mary Park opened in March 2020, right as the pandemic began.

Even before it opened, reception to the design was mixed.

"In the very beginning it was 50/50," says Giordano Morgulis of 76 Group, which owns the development. "Fifty per cent of the people liked it, 50 per cent of people didn’t like it.

"They said "It’s not Edmonton.' - and I said, 'Well what is Edmonton then?' To that - we didn’t get an answer."

Since then, content creators have flocked to the building to take photos and videos.

It's also a popular spot for wedding and engagement photos.

Manchester now has 10,000 followers on social media, which tenants say is a big boost to business.

"If you’re just eligible to get five per cent or even one per cent for that matter, with such a high number, coming to your store, you should be doing OK," Dirk Ziegler of Das Brezel House told CTV News Edmonton.

Ziegler opened the business in Edmonton last summer after moving from Ontario, and he says he loves the vibe of Manchester Square.

"The building itself has a unique presence that is not seen anywhere else in Edmonton."

"Just so many diverse shops and bringing new people into Manchester Square and an opportunity for everyone to somewhat make a living."

Das Brezel House in Edmonton.

The diversity of businesses is a draw for other tenants as well.

"One thing we love about it is it is local Edmonton owners, who are opening up here, versus having a Starbucks or a Subway sandwich," said Julie Morrison of Majesty and Friends, a local boutique that has called Manchester home for about 18 months.

"This definitely has become a destination. Spend the afternoon here. Park your car, get a beer at Arcadia, come see Majesty, versus just driving to the mall."

She says the design of the building and the local businesses bring a special feeling to the development.

"Nowhere else in the city are you going to find this kind of ambience and this type of design. It is incredibly unique."

Majesty and Friends in Edmonton.

Morrison uses the second floor of her shop as a space to manufacture merchandise, and hold special events.

"On Saturday we’re going to be having a petting zoo from 12 to 3, so if you’ve never met a bunny rabbit, come on. We’re going to have bunny rabbits, guinea pigs, and sometimes they bring baby goats or baby sheep."

And Majesty isn't the only business hosting events. Several doors down at Arcadia Brewing, trivia, bingo, and drag shows are a mainstay.

"We’re creating our own kind of community here, and people are loving it," said owner Darren McGeown.

Arcadia was the first business to open up at Manchester in November 2020, and McGeown says there have definitely been growing pains.

"We opened up in November 2020, closed the week after we opened."

"First year was pure madness. Second year didn’t get much better, but we’re here."

Arcadia Brewing in Edmonton.

He says he believed in the building right from the design concept.

"I was signed up with Manchester Square probably a year and a half before we opened."

"I spend a lot of time in Europe, so I was really drawn to this building. Especially my old location being on 124 Street, and being a Westmount person myself."

Twelve of the 19 bays in Manchester Square are now leased, with deals pending for four more stores, including an e-bike shop and a chocolatier.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson. 

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