The Good Will Social Club :: Pizza, beer, coffee and music

photo Sam Katz
photo Sam Katz

by Jillian Groening

Rising up from the ashes of venues past comes your new favourite hangout spot.

Sitting at the end of the über-cool Sherbrook strip, on the crossroads of West Broadway, the West End and the University of Winnipeg lies The Good Will Social Club. With those dreamy salvaged Lo Pub ceiling tiles above the bar and the city’s best sound guy manning the board, it was destined to be a Winnipeg institution well before the gender-neutral bathrooms were installed. The only thing missing is a pole in the middle of the stage.

“I want this to be West Broadway’s living room,” David Schellenberg, talent buyer and part-owner of the venue tells Stylus over morning coffee in one of The Good Will’s cushy blue velvet booths. “I want to see kids studying here and kids on first dates.”

Schellenberg’s vision seems to already be manifesting itself. At the venue’s packed opening he witnessed a young man standing with his pals watching Calgary’s Viet Cong, a pint in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other.

“It was the best thing I could have ever seen, it was pretty magical,” Schellenberg reflects. “I just want to see that everyday for the rest of my life.”

Schellenberg, who has previously worked booking acts for Union Sound Hall, The Park Theatre and the Lo Pub (RIP), is just one of nine partners, all of whom bring a special skill to the diverse team.

“It was a situation of ‘how do we get the best people together to help make the most awesome place ever’ and this is the answer we came up with so hopefully it works,” Tim Hoover laughs. Hoover, better known as DJ Co-op, is also one of the nine owners. “It was a perfect storm of people coming together, aces in every hole.”

It’s hard to disagree that the line-up is utterly golden. Peddling craft beer, treats from Tall Grass Prairie Bakery and Salisbury House, unpretentious coffee and the second location of every hungry stumble-bum’s favourite garlic-crusted pizza (A Little Pizza Heaven), the set-up couldn’t be more perfect. Oh, and there’s music.

“We designed the place with live music being the focus. The stage was even the first thing to be built,” Hoover says while taking a short break between editing buttons for the till, finding paring knives and installing a new keg.

The stage really is a thing of beauty. It’s deadened, Hoover explains, with sand underneath and curtains on the three walls surrounding so even five beers deep the band can hear themselves and their bandmates clearly.

“Not only are the acoustics of the room really good but we’ve got the best equipment and the best sound mixing,” Hoover says. “We’re setting up the artists to play as best as they can.”

“I think it’s already my favourite venue in the city,” local music hero, Executive Director of the West Broadway Community Organization, and Winnipeg’s kindest man in blue jeans Greg MacPherson tells Stylus over the phone after playing on the Good Will stage less than twelve hours before.

“When they were designing it, I mentioned to Cam [Loeppky, one of the partners and sound-man extraordinaire], ‘look here, if you’re putting in a new venue you gotta get it right,’” MacPherson says. “The height of the stage is a huge part of what brings energy to a show.”

MacPherson has a long history and a real affinity with the building. Apart from renting rehearsal space on the second floor for approximately the past fifteen years (along with what seems like every other band in Winnipeg), he also held the role as handy man for the previous owner. For him, watching the space turn into a sort of one-stop arts hub where you see students, musicians, local residents and the business crowd all inter-mingling, is both exciting and long overdue.

“There are already just so many ideas happening there,” MacPherson says. “It’s the whole energy really that’s perfectly centred around music, art and academia. We don’t have a lot of that in Winnipeg.”

Partner Anthony Kowalczyk, who does most of the marketing for the joint, agrees that it’s part of the venue’s casual, all-your-friends-are-here atmosphere that lends itself to fostering a solid community environment.

“You can go through your whole day here,” Kowalczyk explains over a Brewhouse, a choice many Grandmas would be proud of. “You can come to The Good Will between classes to grab a coffee or after work for happy hour, it can be everything to everyone.”

“All we’re bringing is something that Winnipeg should already have,” Schellenberg explains. “This is something that Winnipeg deserves.”

And so do you.