Little City Gems 3: Ode to Bygones

A few of my favourite little shops in town (all on St. Denis street, actually) have sadly closed their doors in recent years and months and this is my ode to them.

A Japanese-style tea-house that closed a couple of years ago was O-Chai which had one location on St. Denis just above Mont-Royal and later on just below Laurier. They had a cute and cozy décor and served wonderful teas (including my favourite green matcha latté) and delicious little snacks that came in the form of samosas, sushi, noodles, scones and personal dimsum in bamboo containers, all for bargain prices. It was a perfect place to relax on a quiet Sunday afternoon, and read a good book. (Their sub-Laurier location has since been taken over by Les 3 Petits Bouchons, which is a thankfully yummy resto I would definitely recommend.)

It’s been at least a year, but I’m still getting over the closing of the Japanesey home decor, gift, paper and tea shop Carton which came to an end when the owners decided not to renew their lease and that twenty-five years was a good enough run. They were done and it was time to move onto the next part of their life adventures, whatever they were.

Madras, on the west side of St. Denis street near Duluth sold great items of clothing, run by a French man who always sported a casual and unimpressed ennui. It used to be a mix of frippe and local and NYC designer clothing shop, and gradually the fripperie section became smaller and the local designer section grew larger. They had sales often enough and I always found such neat little pieces most every time I went, all of which I still wear.

Feu Vert, to my dismay, also on St. Denis but on the east side just above Marie-Anne greeted me recently with papered up windows when I was hunting for a new year’s eve dress this past season. Deceptively kitschy looking, this tiny shop packed full of sequined, scarfy, beaded things, and dresses, tops and bottoms and accessories of all colours and textures was run by an even tinier tough-as-nails Argentinian woman. She would look down at you (somehow, from her height of under 5′) over her glasses on a chain and let her irritation flare when you chose the “wrong” style of clothing for yourself. She would never let you try on anything that was not exactly right for you and had no qualms about making realistic comments about your weight or shape. Thick skins were necessary in her shop, but boy did you ever walk out with a fantastic properly accessorized outfit at a well-bargained price.

I will miss them all dearly.

3 Comments so far

  1. seekodin on March 5th, 2009 @ 9:45 am

    I am not really familiar with any of those stores, but I just wanna say something related to the topic. I find that Montreal has way too many stores and restaurants closing on a regular basis. I mean compare it to many US and European cities, where even little corner stores have longevity.

    It seems the small size of Montreal’s economy has a lot to do with this. But seriously, think of all that we have lost in the last 5 years: Caban on Ste-Catherine & McGill, DixVersions on Sherbrooke & Guy, so many of the downtown junk food chains such as Wendy’s, Harvey’s and McD’s (not that I care about these in particular) …

    What can we do? That’s life I guess.


  2. elvi on March 5th, 2009 @ 5:40 pm

    Seems like a really good reason to tell us about the other gems you know of that haven’t yet closed, so that we can all frequent them and with any luck prevent them from closing, too. :-)


  3. seekodin on March 9th, 2009 @ 5:02 am

    Hmmm … well … A couple places that I really like and would be very disappointed if they were to close:

    Bonne Bouffe de Jamaique: Jamaican food takeout counter on Sherbrooke West in NDG.

    Cocorico: Portuguese chicken takeout counter and stand on St-Laurent, between des Pins and Mont-Royal.

    Those places in Old Montreal (don’t know their names) that sell Italian design stuff from Alessi, Umbra etc …

    The Zone on Sherbrooke West in Westmount: sells design items, household decoration stuff and some furniture.

    There are many more … but it would take forever to remember and list them all.



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