Beauty inside

Winnipeg hair salon owner overcomes uphill battle to reopen a month after Kirkwood Block fire

The co-owner of a hair salon forced to close last month due to a massive fire on Winnipeg’s Portage Avenue says she’s had to deal with smoke damage, lack of heating and even a flight before reopening this week.

Meanwhile, nearly a month later, others affected by the fire are still coping with the loss of the Kirkwood Block building on the corner of Portage and Langside Street.

Lola Omoniyi co-owns Lola’s Beauty Gallery & Supplies with her husband, Isaac. The business sells hair products and also houses a salon on Portage Avenue near Young Street, just two doors down the Kirkwood block.

When this building caught fire on February 2, Omoniyi temporarily closed his business because of the smoke.

Weeks later, she says half the business still has no heat, but she can’t wait to reopen.

“I’m just frustrated because it’s been too long since I’ve been able to serve my customers, and everything is just frustrating,” she said.

A sign outside Lola’s Beauty Gallery & Supplies lets people know they are open for business again on Tuesday afternoon. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

She was able to reopen the living room part of the building on Tuesday. But the part where she sells hair products still can’t open, because it doesn’t have a heater.

She said Manitoba Hydro told her it was difficult to reconnect the natural gas line because of the severe damage to the Kirkwood Block building.

On top of that, Omoniyi’s business suffered a burglary on Sunday night. Thieves broke down the door and took hair products inside, she said.

Winnipeg police confirmed that the break-in had been reported to them and they were investigating.

Despite all the challenges, Omoniyi says she is happy to welcome her customers back.

“I would like to thank them, let them know that we are back,” she said.

West End BIZ without an office, mourns the loss of a cat

The Kirkwood Block housed Eben Convenience Store, Not a Donut and the West End BIZ offices, all of which were destroyed in the fire. All that remains is a pile of ice and rubble covered in snow.

West End Business Improvement Area staff have been working at other sites, such as the Exchange District BIZ and Downtown BIZ offices, while the organization works to secure a new space, said its executive director.

“It’s been difficult working without a desk. It means a lot more working from vehicles and sort of coping with a lot more travel,” Joe Kornelsen said.

Kirkwood Block seen on Thursday, February 3. Since then, city crews have begun demolishing the building. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

The BIZ was able to rebound fairly quickly, he said, but lost graffiti cleaning equipment in the fire, which temporarily affected its ability to provide the service to businesses in the area.

The organization is also mourning the loss of its office cat, Selena, who had lived in the building for three years.

“I think a lot of us were hit very hard to lose Selena,” he said.

Meanwhile, a fundraiser on crowdfunding site GoFundMe for owners of Eben Convenience, who also lost their homes in the fire, had raised more than $42,000 by Tuesday afternoon.

An Instagram post from Not a Donut says they are working on finding a new location, but their sister business, Not a Waffle, is still open and taking orders.