My WPG: Alyson Shane

My WPG is a monthly series introducing you to awesome Winnipeggers who share our passion for community-building and localism. In the latest post, meet writer, business owner, digital media expert and proud Peg city ambassador, Alyson Shane.

 My story: I was born and raised in Winnipeg, and I grew up in a suburb by the North Perimeter. As a result, I was completely disconnected from the city. I moved away and lived in Hamilton for about a year when I was 19 with a guy that I was dating. It didn’t work out, and I moved back to the city and immediately walked into this $40,000 a year job with the provincial government. I was like 20 years old, making stupid money, and I was so miserable. I was not happy to be in Winnipeg, I was not happy to be working for the government, so I quit. I quit my safe government job and I applied to The University of Winnipeg and graduated with a B.A in Rhetoric and Communications. I took a class about the history of Winnipeg and it completely changed how I viewed the city. I remember being like, “Oh, it’s just the history of Winnipeg, how is this going to enlighten me?”

My professor had our classes in the Ukrainian Labour Temple, so once a week I had to bus there to sit in the big old halls and talk about the history of the city, and I developed this appreciation for the heart we have here. We learned about the strike in 1919, which you kind of gloss over in school but you don’t really understand in depth. Our professor took us around to all these important spots in Winnipeg’s history and explained the things that happened here and the people who changed the city, and the vision we used to have for ourselves was really inspiring. So, I decided to stay after I graduated and I’ve been here ever since. I bleed 204 (laughs).

Then I spent a couple years working. I worked at an ad agency, I worked for a real estate agent for a while. And I’ve been blogging and publishing content for a total of 16 years, I think. I started to emerge as this person who, because I’ve been in this world for so long and understand personal branding and social media, and my schooling, it equipped me with the tools to start my own company. I’ve been running Starling Social for two and a half years now. We have a variety of clients both in the city and internationally, so we’re doing alright.

 My hood: I live in Wolseley. I do not like the suburbs, I’m very anti-suburb. I’m a huge fan of living downtown and focusing on urban development and sustainability in the city. After moving out of my parents’ place, living downtown completely changed my life. I felt connected to the city, like I had my finger on the pulse of Winnipeg. I could step out my door and there were a million things to do and a million people going places, and it felt like the city I knew Winnipeg could be. I’ve lived in Osborne Village, I’ve lived in West Broadway, and now I live in Wolseley. I’m getting progressively more granola the longer I live downtown (laughs).

The thing I love about Wolseley is the sense of community you get living there. I know all of my neighbours, we wave to each other from across the street, and it’s just a sense of community I didn’t really get to experience growing up. I feel an affinity to the neighbourhood that I didn’t expect.

 My go-to takeout: I’m obsessed with the chicken pad Thai from Thida’s Thai on Donald. So good.

 My ideal date night: It depends on the weather. In the summer I just like to bike around, you know, get a cocktail from here, sit on a patio there. I like to stay downtown primarily and shift between West Broadway and Osborne Village, then head down to The Forks and The Exchange. One of the things I love about biking around here is the canopy of trees. It’s just really beautiful to experience being surrounded by nature while in this urban environment. Winter would be skating at The Forks. It’s all about drinking a spiked hot chocolate, eating some mini doughnuts, and going for a little skate date. Classic Forks.

 My guilty pleasure: Baked Expectations. I have the worst sweet tooth ever and I can’t have sweets around me, so we go maybe once or twice a year and I always get the red velvet cake.

 My favourite patio: The Roost. Not only are their cocktails impeccable and their food is great, but it’s a really great place to people watch.

 My favourite coffee shop: Thom Bargen. I like both, but I’m partial to the Sherbook location because it’s close to my house and because it’s the first one that opened up. I do have a soft spot in my heart for Parlour. I interviewed Nils (Vik, the owner) years ago and he made me a cup of espresso that made me feel drunk. It gave me such a jolt of caffeine, and sort of introduced me to the world of good coffee.

 My favourite brunch spot: If I want to be fancy, I’ll go to Clementine. But I have this huge soft spot for The Nook Diner.

 My favourite event: Province-wide would be Rainbow Trout Music Festival. It is the best music festival this province has to offer. In town, I would say The Fringe. I think it brings Winnipeg together and it feels like people come out of the woodwork for that one. No matter when you go down to The Exchange, it’s hoppin’, there’s stuff to do, and it’s just so classic Winnipeg summer. I love it.

 My best-kept secret: The Neighbourhood Bookstore and Cafe. It’s literally right down my back lane and I work there all the time. You go in and you’re surrounded by books. He has live shows from time to time, the owner will come over and start chatting with you, he’ll ask you what kinds of books you like and make recommendations, and they have a great selection of board games. It’s a great place to go and get a little window seat, do a little work and watch people walk by. It’s an incredible spot.

 My ideal day off: I’d definitely sleep in, go for a little mosey to The Nook, and then just walk around the city. One of the things I like about downtown is that everything is walkable. If you’ve got a good pair of shoes on you can walk from Wolseley all the way to The Forks and have a beer at The Common, walk over to the Exchange District and catch a play or see something at the Cinematheque. My favourite watering hole is the Yellow Dog, so I’d finish the day with a couple beers and a club sandwich.

 My favourite local band: The Weakerthans. I’m a huge John K. Samson fan. I started listening to Propagandhi when I was a teenager, and I actually have a Propagandhi lyric tattoed on my body. It’s from the song Gifts and it says, “Slightly insane on the 18 North Main.” When I was working for the province, I was living in the suburbs and where my parents live, it’s the last stop on the 18 Riverbend bus so it’s a 45-minute bus ride downtown and it was a nightmare. So I’m working for the province, hating my life, and I was listening to Propagandhi on the bus and that line came on and I was like, “That’s me! This is my life. John. K. Samson is literally singing to me right now.” So I got the tattoo to celebrate the first full year of business ownership to remind myself where I came from and where I’m going.

 My favourite splurge: Tiny Feast or Verde terrariums.

 My favourite place to take out of towners: The Exchange District. As a whole, I think it’s representative of the best things Winnipeg has to offer. There are watering holes, theatre, there’s cool stuff happening in the buildings on Albert Street all the time, there are shops and it’s primarily locally-owned businesses. It’s amazing, we always take people there.

 Best bang for my buck: The Yellow Dog. You can get a great selection of great local and international beers on tap pretty much any time of year, and their food is impeccable. There’s a reason I’m there like once a week (laughs). The best part of the Yellow Dog is that there are portraits of the dog the pub is named after all over the walls – like big portraits – with descriptions of the dog’s history and what he meant to the people who owned him. It’s really sweet, and the owner is a really nice guy.

 One place I can’t walk into without buying something: De Luca’s. I live like two blocks from there and I go at least twice a week. I’ll walk in and say, “Oh, I’ll just get some cheese,” or “I’ll just get some sausage for dinner,” and I walk out with an armful.

 My favourite day trip or weekend away: I live for camping. We went to Riding Mountain in September for some late season camping and we went for a hike and it was incredible. One of the things I love about Winnipeg is that we’re surrounded by all this incredible nature. I’d love to get into winter camping, but my boyfriend, bless his heart, he’s not from here so he’s not as hearty as some of us born and bred Winnipeggers (laughs).

 One thing I want everyone to know about Winnipeg: Winnipeg has the potential for greatness, we just have to believe in it enough to let it grow and succeed. One of my major challenges with living here is that you often encounter these very nay-saying attitudes like, “Why do we have to do this, it’s just Winnipeg,” or “Why do we have to invest in that, it’s just Winnipeg.”

Well, you know what, it is just Winnipeg, and that’s the thing that makes it unique. We have so much to offer and there’s so much here if you open your eyes and look for it. Focus on more than just driving to your house and driving to a Jets game. There’s this beautiful thriving city with people who are dedicated to helping it succeed and grow. I think Winnipeg is a great place right now, and it’s only going to get better, and I wish more people saw that. That’s the kind of message I try to portray as a business owner and an active individual in my community. If you aren’t an ambassador for your city, no one else is going to be.

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