Polo Park mall opened its brand new wing for the first time Wednesday morning to big crowds.
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Hundreds of people waited to be the first to get inside Fossil, Nine West, Thomas Sabo and The Disney Store.
A total of 17 stores opened at 10 a.m., with several more expected to open in the coming weeks.
"We're introducing a total of 23 in the next year and 17 of them opened today," said Polo Park general manager Deborah Green. “Disney, I think, is everyone's favourite."
The new wing sits on the second floor where the former Zellers department store was, between the mall’s centre court and The Bay.
The latest opening was part of a $49 million redevelopment plan.
“You won’t even believe Zellers was here at one time,” said Green. “It was one great big huge box of a space. To look at it now to see the new aisle-ways, the skylights especially — Zellers had no skylights."
Green said workers were at the mall as late as 1 a.m. the night before putting the finishing touches on the space.
St. James MLA Deanne Crothers was also on hand for the event, praising the 200 full and part-time jobs the expansion created.
“People outside of Manitoba recognize this is a stable place to come. It’s a good investment. There's nothing wrong with that. We're happy to celebrate that,” she said. “It would just be nice if more Manitobans recognized that."
Crothers said St. James has seen major improvements in recent years, with the expanded airport, several hotels going up and a host of new retail options.
She said she thinks the expansion will help attract shoppers from outside of the province to Manitoba.
More stores to come
For Nine West, Thomas Sabo, Fossil, Watch it!, Journey's and Saje, Wednesday marked their debuts in Winnipeg.
Swarovski, Tommy Gun’s, Pandora, Lids and Bench also opened locations.
But Disney was by far the busiest store at opening time – with several shoppers saying they had been waiting five years since the last Winnipeg location closed to come back.
Dusank Berkovic brought her grandson Arturo to the store to check it out Wednesday morning.
“He’s addicted to Mickey Mouse!” she said.
As for the expansion, “I love it, [but] it's kind of empty, for the opening,” she said. “It's only a few stores, but [the rest] are coming later on so it's really good for Winnipeg, especially Polo Park."
Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie will open Oct. 16 and 17, coming on the heels of Swedish retailer H&M opening on the main floor in September.
Winnipeg shopper Brenda Hilderman said anything was an improvement on the previous department store.
"It's nice to get Zellers out and get some other options in,” she said, adding she planned to come back to check out the Disney store again for her grandchildren.