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Winnipeg's Original Christmas Headquarters: The Imperial Dry Goods Store

Before Winnipeg had Eaton’s, it had the Imperial Dry Goods Store. Built in 1899 by wholesale merchant Robert Jones Whitla, the Imperial Dry Goods Block was one of many buildings under Whitla’s control. Whitla, Irish-born, arrived in Manitoba in 1878 where he began selling dry goods out of a store on Main Street. Four years later, in 1882, Whitla partnered with Dawson Kerr Elliot to create R.J. Whitla & Company. Together, Kerr and Whitla supplied wholesale clothing, fabrics, and furs to the rapidly developing Canadian west. By all accounts, the company was a success and between 1884-1899 R.J. Whitla & Co constructed three new warehouses throughout the Exchange District to store their goods.

However, until 1899, Whitla & Co didn’t cater directly to the Winnipeg market.
This all changed when ground broke on Whitla’s newest project: The Imperial Dry Goods Department Store; a brand-new retail wholesaler that was located right in the heart of downtown Winnipeg. The store’s grand …
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