Fivie Gunn - began work folding boxes in 1951

By MYRON LOVE
On June 30, after a lifetime (68 years) working in the family business, Gunn’s Bakery on Selkirk Avenue, Fivie Gunn will walk away – – and into retirement – but not before Selkirk Avenue bestowed its own recognition on one of its oldest sons.

 

 

 

 

 


On May 9, Gunn was one of 16 recipients of the annual Mayor’s BIZ Award. Fivie was nominated for the award by the Selkirk Avenue BIZ (Business Improvement Zone), of which Gunn’s is a charter member.
“It was a terrific gathering,” Fivie says of the presentation. “It is nice to be recognized by your peers.” Gunn’s has been in business at 247 Selkirk Avenue – a half block west of Main Street – since 1937, and Arthur “Fivie” Gunn has been part of the business that his parents founded almost since the beginning.
In 1937, Selkirk Avenue – from roughly McGregor to Main Street – was the main thoroughfare and heart of the old Jewish North End. And, although the neighbourhood has considerably changed in terms of demography, Gunn’s Bakery has remained one of the few constants and continues to be a mecca for Jewish and other customers from all over Winnipeg and beyond.
So naturally, when the Selkirk Avenue BIZ was launched more than a quarter century ago, Gunn’s was quick to sign on. And when there was a call for new leadership eight years ago, Fivie stepped up to play a larger role.
Business Improvement Zones, he explains, collect money from businesses to improve their neighbourhoods. “Our Selkirk Avenue BIZ plants flowers along the street, produce banners promoting Selkirk Avenue and organizes clean-up crews,” he points out. “We try to make shopping along Selkirk Avenue as pleasant an experience as possible.”
The BIZ also lobbies government. In the case of the Selkirk BIZ, that lobbying effort paid off in the successful transformation of the old Merchants Hotel (built in 1913) on the corner of Selkirk and Andrew from a drug-infested eyesore to a multi-use building focused on affordable housing, education and some retail.
“There is a terrific school in the building now,” Fivie says. “The program gives a second chance to people who were not able to succeed in mainstream schools. Education is the key to improving your life.
“It gives me a wonderful feeling every time I drive by that corner and see that what was formerly a no-man’s land is now a safe space for kids from the nearby daycare.”
Selkirk Avenue as a whole, he observes, is undergoing a revival with a number of new restaurants and other businesses opening up in recent years.

At the beginning of this year, Fivie and his brother and partner, Bernie, sold Gunn’s Bakery to Jon Hochman. Under terms of the agreement, Fivie was to remain at the bakery – advising the new, younger owner, until the end of June.
But, even though his working life on Selkirk Avenue is now at an end, his dedication to the betterment of the neighbourhood will be continuing. “I am remaining with the Selkirk BIZ as a member at large,” he says. “I have met people from all walks of life and made many friends through my association with the BIZ and I want to remain involved for as long as I can.”