A final look inside Eau Claire Market as remaining tenants clear out

Landmark will be bulldozed in July to make way for Green Line station

Article content

Charlie Mendelman’s watering hole at Eau Claire Market served its final drinks two weeks ago.

But his Garage Sports Bar marked another last call Friday as it and other businesses at the often-struggling downtown mall bid goodbye before the bulldozers take their turn in July to clear the way for a Green Line LRT station.

“I just walked away from there just now,” said Mendelman, who’s been a presence in the mall since early 1995.

Advertisement 2

Article content

“I’ve had four businesses and each one I’ve sold and never looked behind. I was (at Eau Claire) for so long and it was rewarding personally and financially.”

Eau Claire Market
The deserted bar at The Garage in Eau Claire Market on Friday. Jim Wells/Postmedia

On Friday, a hair stylist ended 24 years at the market by performing his last three trims.

The market opened its doors in the summer of 1993 and initially seemed a promising venture, inspired by Vancouver’s larger Granville Island Market and envisioned as a bid to bring vibrancy to Calgary’s downtown.

But tenants said the city’s unrealistic demands on retailers, economic downturns and a poor mix of businesses and ill-fated revamping plans ultimately doomed it.

Eau Claire Market
Samer Zidan, owner of Eau Claire Hair, gives Nam Hoang a trim. Jim Wells/Postmedia

Two decades ago, Regina-based Harvard Development purchased the property and embarked on a series of ultimately abortive redevelopment plans for the site.

After the city announced in January 2023 that the market would be shuttered this year, its final 50 tenants began making arrangements for their exit.

Article content

Harvard has said it still has plans to redevelop part of the site that would dovetail with its new role as a public transit hub.

Mendelman said he has doubts those Green Line plans will ever come to fruition, but took satisfaction in the years he spent catering to well-known personalities such as former premier Ralph Klein and NHL and Olympic hockey players.

Advertisement 3

Article content

He recalled hanging out with former Friends sitcom star Matthew Perry, who became a regular while working on another production in Calgary nearly 20 years ago.

“He was a Boston Red Sox fan and he came in to watch baseball,” said Mendelman.

“We would sit in the back of the bar on the couches and chat . . . We planned on going to a Stampeders game.”

But they never made it to a game, said Mendelman.

Perry died last October in his Los Angeles home from the effects of Ketamine.

The Garage plans to reopen in downtown’s Bow Valley Square in mid-June, while other businesses say they’ll also carry on at different locations.

More photos from Jim Wells:

Eau Claire Market
A fake tree is one of the last remaining items in the main concourse at Eau Claire Market. Jim Wells/Postmedia
Eau Claire Market
The empty food court at Eau Claire Market. Jim Wells/Postmedia
Eau Claire Market
A worker eats a last meal in the food court area at Eau Claire Market on Friday. Jim Wells/Postmedia
Eau Claire Market
A sign board at Eau Claire Theatre flashes a quote from a movie. Jim Wells/Postmedia
Eau Claire Market
An empty theatre at Eau Claire Market. Jim Wells/Postmedia
Eau Claire Market
A deserted concession bar at Eau Claire Theatre. Jim Wells/Postmedia
Eau Claire Market
A frenzied store owner who didn’t have time to talk packs up a shop at Eau Claire Market. Jim Wells/Postmedia
Eau Claire Market
An empty restaurant on the upper floor of Eau Claire Market. Jim Wells/Postmedia
Eau Claire Market
Exterior signage at Eau Claire Market. Jim Wells/Postmedia

[email protected]

X: @BillKaufmannjrn

Article content