Friday, March 01, 2019

Retail community centre

Hub of the neighborhood
Montreal, QC
December 2018
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I grew up in Montreal, a city with a unique name for everything. Pop or soda is a soft drink. A dessert cake is a Mae Ouest or a Jos Louis. And the convenience store is called a depanneur, or dep.

Every neighborhood here has one, an unassuming little store that'll sell you anything, anytime, day or night. Chances are it'll look like a bit of a dump, you'll be overcharged, and whatever you get probably won't be all that healthy. But that's part of the charm of a place that on the surface seems increasingly outmoded in a retail landscape that's largely switched over franchise-owned stores where the folks who work there will never learn your name.

But there's something special going on beneath that withered, non-descript facade. Which probably explains why deps seem just as woven into the fabric of the neighborhoods they now serve as they did when I was a kid.

I came across this particular dep on Sherbrooke Street West in the NDG district, a tiny oasis of warmth and light on a windy, clear, and cold late afternoon. I was walking the neighborhood, a break from my father-in-law's hospital room a few blocks away - and from life in general. I knew this area well, as I went to university a a few blocks right-of-frame, but it had been so long since I'd been here that no one looked familiar anymore.

So I stood on the sidewalk for an inordinate amount of time, transfixed by the facade. This dep struck me as something of an anchor, a connecting point for the apartments and the well-established 'hood around it. And I imagined area residents popping in for whatever they needed, connecting with the owner and staff and each other before heading back out into the cold.

I would have hung around longer, but my face had gone numb and it was time to head back to reality. I could muse about these unassuming, magical places forever, but as the sun dipped toward the horizon, life clearly had other plans.

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1 comment:

Shammickite said...

A bright splash of sunshine among all that drab brickwork.