Manitoba

How the Queen unknowingly gave a Winnipeg business a boost and created memories for a generation of Jets fans

In the wake of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, two Winnipeggers are remembering her influence in the city, including a woman who owes her business's success to the monarch.

Winnipeg bakery made 3,000 specialty cookies for Queen's last visit

High Tea Bakery made Queen Elizabeth imperial cookies for a private event just a few days before the monarch died. Owner Belinda Bigold owes the success of her business, in part, to the Queen, for whom she made cookies in 2010 during the royal visit. (Submitted by Belinda Bigold)

Belinda Bigold says her business owes its success to Queen Elizabeth II.

Bigold's High Tea Bakery was commissioned in 2010 to make 3,000 imperial cookies to serve to the Queen during her last visit to Winnipeg, at a garden party hosted by the lieutenant-governor of the day.

The sandwich cookie filled with jam and covered in white icing skyrocketed in popularity in the city in the years following and meant the shop went from making hundreds of the biscuits per week to thousands.

"The Queen of England is really responsible a lot for the success of High Tea Bakery. It's a sad day. I had a lot of respect for her," Bigold said on Thursday, the day the Queen died at age 96.

"It was just a huge turning point in our business and a real honour to get to serve her, quite frankly."

High Tea Bakery made specialty imperial cookies for the birth of Princess Charlotte in 2015. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

In the years following, Bigold's staff has made imperial cookies with baby pink crowns to celebrate the birth of Kate Middleton and Prince William's daughter Charlotte in 2015 and other cookies with the Queen's face for a private event.

Bigold isn't sure if she'll make specialty imperial cookies to mark the Queen's death because she doesn't want to profit off her passing, but many people have been requesting them.

Another Winnipegger, who is in possession of a famous portrait of Queen Elizabeth, is taking the time to remember her influence in the city.

Security business owner Ron D'Errico is the current owner of a massive portrait of the Queen that loomed large over the Winnipeg Jets from 1979 to 1999.

The five-by-seven-metre painting that hung from the rafters in the old Winnipeg Arena became iconic, with fans who remember it dressing as the Queen to attend Jets games at the new downtown arena.

It was taken down when the Pan Am Games used the venue in 1999, and ended up in storage in Whitby, Ont., for more than a decade before it was bought by two CN executives.

The massive portrait of Queen Elizabeth II that once hung in the Winnipeg Arena is now in storage but its owner wants to share it with the public. (Tanner Grywinski/CBC)

Their plans for the painting fell through, so D'Errico ended up getting his hands on it.

The large painting elicits "memories of an innocent time when families would get together [at the arena] and wholeheartedly partake in family functions — concerts, events, circuses, Ice Capades, all the kid-friendly events of an era bygone," he said.

"When this thing was on the rafters, you couldn't help but glance at it, because it was eye-catching. It was beautifully done and it distracted you at times during the game."

D'Errico is saddened by the passing of the Queen but will remember her legacy when he looks at the painting.

Currently it's in storage under lock and key while a hangar at his security firm is renovated, but he hopes to offer tours to the public when the massive painting is hanging.

"I would love to see the portrait go back to the Winnipeg Jets organization, and if there was ever an opportunity to bestow it back to the the club, I definitely would like to see it take place."

Queen Elizabeth II makes an appearance at a Jets fan party in 2018, a nod to the iconic portrait that famously hung in the old Winnipeg Arena. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Bergen is a journalist for CBC Manitoba and previously reported for CBC Saskatoon. Email story ideas to rachel.bergen@cbc.ca.

With files by Joanne Roberts

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