Something Unique in the Hood

The exciting part of my neighbourhood is its diversity. If I'm going for a stroll with my children, I invariably head to St Viateur where I never feel underdressed and where my children are always welcome. In addition to restaurants, bagel shops and Montreal's best English-language used bookstore, St Viateur has several cafés with patios that are invariably packed, even during the week. This is the area where many of Montreal's self-employed live. At any given time, you will hear schmoozing, flirting, bragging, socializing and cheering (the cafés are also the venues for watching World Cup soccer games) in several different languages. You will also notice at about the intersection of Jeanne Mance that this is the neighbourhood of Montreal's Orthodox Jewish community. St Viateur is indeed the closest incarnation of Sesame Street that I have ever seen.

In stark contrast is Laurier Avenue West, just a few blocks south. To the west of St.Urbain, Laurier Avenue has a decidedly Outremont feel to it. For those who are not acquainted with Montreal, Outremont is the city's French equivalent of Westmount--rich and known to be snobby. The shops cater to les Outremontais(es), and I rarely enter the shops unless I see something truly irresistible. Is it because I'm usually woefully underdressed, my children would be unwelcome, or because I fear cardiac arrest upon seeing the price tag of some coveted item? Whatever the reason, window shopping is still a treat. And dear reader, don't be put off by my description, there are still some gems on this street.

One such gem is Marché G. Young's Exotic Plant and Flower shop at 232 Laurier West. Mr and Mrs Young have taken a former convenience store from the 1970s and turned it into an exotic plant shop without changing the original décor one iota. On a street known for ripping out any sign of past retail existence and starting anew, this shop is a fine example of upcycling. As you walk around the store, mesmerized by their collection of exotic plants, you will notice the Molson clock and the fact that the produce aisle has been converted into the cactus and orchid section. I always wondered why the orchids were put there until I learned that these flowers enjoy artificial light. The owners will be pleased to show you around the store, as they genuinely enjoy the beauty of their plants. Their 15-year-old dog sleeping in the back corner also gives the shop a homey "dep*" feel. (See note below picture.)

If you love orchids, G. Young has a beautiful selection year round. And if you call ahead of time, the owners will tell you the day of the best selection. For more pictures of some of the exotic plants you can find here, visit my Flickr photostream on the right sidebar.

*Dep is short for "dépanneur" the French word for convenience store, but you will also hear English speakers refer to a convenience store as "the dep." In addition, deps often carry quite a range of house plants, particularly if the owners hail from South East Asia. As someone who grew up in Ontario, I've always found it an odd place to pick up a house plant.

2 comments: | February 4, 2010 at 4:55 PM

Yeah, but the inclusiveness of some deps is one of Montréal's real plusses. Where else can you be late to a dinner party and get dessert, flowers, and mostly decent wine all at the same place? Please check out the great dep/health food store/florist/fromagerie at the corner of Esplanade & Bernard for a possible review!

Heather | February 4, 2010 at 10:33 PM

I'll check that out. Yes, the deps are fantastic. As someone who grew up in Ontario, I was initially thrilled to buy a beer on my way home from work! However, I quickly discovered that the wine was only fair. An excellent dep wine was average at best, and I quickly discovered that while a dep red was acceptable, a dep white was a dinner party faux pas! Best save it to remove the chipped red. SAQ oblige!

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