The Main Revisted

This article by Rima Elkouri I think sums up best my feelings about the main that solicited so many comments. Especially this paragraph and quote:

Trouve-t-il que la «Main» change pour le mieux? «On ne peut pas arrêter le changement. Mais on peut être nostalgique de certaines choses qui ne sont plus», observe-t-il, en notant que le boulevard offre de moins en moins de diversité et de plus en plus de commerces pour plaire aux touristes du Grand Prix.

Si certains commerces mythiques ont survécu, ils sont de plus en plus rares. L’épicier Simcha Leibovich, par exemple, un des derniers commerçants juifs de la «Main», qui avait pignon sur rue depuis 40 ans, n’est plus. Lui qui racontait en riant avoir acheté sa propre stèle funéraire chez son voisin d’en face, L.Berson & Fils, est mort il y a un an et demi.

My article, of which many really missed the point of, was a lamet. It was nostalgia for 15 years ago when the Main still had its charms. You can’t stop “progress” and I never suggested that this be done. Nor was my article about Le Plateau or the surrounding areas of The Main. It was about The Main itself.

As I stated earlier, the Main has changed and that it has changed for the worse.

2 Comments so far

  1. aj (unregistered) on July 26th, 2007 @ 7:24 pm

    I dunno. I think that the Main cannot be viewed as separate from the surrounding neighborhoods that it touches as it goes from the Old Port all the way to the Back River…its character changes all the way through. It’s like trying to describe a person based solely on their spinal column, and not the whole thing, but only one or two vertebrae.

    Everyone has a different “memory map” of the Main depending on where they were / are in life. In 1992 the city of Montreal was VERY different. Arguably you could say we were at our lowest point, economically, since the boom times of the Roaring 20s, Expo, and the Olympics; there was a real recession on, and many people only survived on 99 cent pizza… The city was awash in violent crime, drugs and gangs that were active in the downtown core and Sud-Ouest… Ste-Catherine Street was a sea of A LOUER signs from one end to the other… and yeah, there was lots of cool underground artist lofty stuff happening in the spaces upstairs on the Main and there was the last wave of old family retail on the ground floor.

    What’s really happened since then? The successful artists had their run, got their TV shows, got fat, got lazy, surviving in a subsidized, vertical-media-market bubble, or they became “The Man,” replacing IBM with a host of other software companies that are apparently less fun to work for by the accounts I’ve heard. The loft spaces are now condos, the families sold up and moved on, and new people are having a kick at the can selling different things to a different neighborhood.

    Maybe it’s not better, but it’s quantifiably more active and alive than it was in 1992; I know, because I was there, working in community radio, going to school, going out on the Main (as it was — which was basically a choice between the Copa, Bobards and the Bifteck). Like Sainte-Catherine street there were many closed storefronts, many mysterious fires, it was dangerous for women to walk around at night (or you certainly ran the risk of being harassed)

    So your definition of “worse” — ill-defined in your original article — is at best highly subjective.

    I don’t want it turned into any sort of suburban shopping mall either, but if an independent clothing retailer dares to put a spiffy sign up and use nice merchandising, is that somehow “inauthentic?” Authentic what, anyway? Ghetto cred? Please. People have to make money or go out of business so why shouldn’t their stores look modern, clean, and attractive?

    The Main has changed because the demographics of the surrounding neighborhoods have changed! Take the area bounded by Sherbrooke, Esplanade, Laurier, and Laval — who lives there? Aside from some longstanding communities (the Hasidim, the Portuguese and Spanish), the “new” residents are not poor immigrants from the old country any more. They’re established Canadians, educated, creative, professional, and if not Summit Circle rich, then not exactly Pointe St-Charles poor either. Their tastes are more varied, their needs are more complex, their ability to research more sophisticated, and they have credit and buying power. If the stores on the Main weren’t offering something people wanted, they’d be out of business. To nostalgize the period when the Main was at its most decrepit, rather than celebrate its renaisssance, seems just…odd to me.


  2. mtlanglo (unregistered) on August 3rd, 2007 @ 7:14 pm

    I’d rather celebrate The Main during it’s 90’s period as an alternative (albeit somewhat down-trodden) community than it’s current status as a consumerist-mecca.



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