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Arts

Construction Closes a Chapter for S.W. Welch

Posted by Laura / February 26, 2007

One of Montreal's most beloved English used book stores is moving from its prime spot on the Main. S.W. Welch has been at 3878 Saint Laurent for 15 years, but high prices and the construction in the area have pushed owner Steve Welch to finally pack up his volumes and say goodbye to his view of Schwartz’s. "It's been some of the slowest business I've ever seen," he says, and Kahn, the fluffy grey cat on the counter, sleepily agrees.

Welch has little love for the Boulevard Saint Laurent association, whose helpful bulletin about the construction cheerily advises businesses to expect a 20% drop in business over the two years of the street work. "Reduce your inventory and use it to hold sales and promotions," they suggest. But there is no recompense from the city to help fund these sales, and "the landlord still wants his rent every month.” So Welch, like many others before him, leaves the lower Plateau for cheaper digs in Mile End.

The store closes a week from today for inventory and other moving tasks, but will open again temporarily on Friday the 9th of March for a bonanza of a sale: every book in the store will be priced at $1. So support S.W. Welch the weekend of the 9th, and, later in the month, at their new location, 225 Saint Viateur Ouest.

Discussion

158 Comments

Jer / February 27, 2007 at 09:31 am
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Welcome, Laura.

I like how the bulletin says they are striving to bring the Main into the "21st century". Let me know when they get the flying cars ready.
matthew / February 27, 2007 at 11:54 am
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At least it's moving closer to my house. With a little more construction down there I'll never have to leave the Mile-End.
blork / February 27, 2007 at 12:12 pm
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Nooooooo! I'm hardly every up on St. Viateur these days but I still go to the Main a lot. Welch was perfectly located for me -- a great place to browse while waiting to meet people for drinx or dinner. Damn, I'm really going to miss that.

Stupid construction. Why the heck is it taking so long? For such an important street you'd think they'd give it a higher priority. But no, it seems like every couple of weeks they've made a day's worth of progress.
laura / February 27, 2007 at 01:08 pm
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Jer: Thanks! With the incredibly bad St. Laurent traffic these days, flying cars would come in handy.

Matthew: Aw, don't gloat!

Blork: Same for me re: the location. And I agree about the construction-- 2 years is a long time to subject business owners to -20% profits, and it seems like the workers are jumping from block to block with little rhyme or reason.
Dave / February 27, 2007 at 01:48 pm
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Good news that it will be moving about a block away from me. But I may have to pay a visit before the move so he'll have less books to transport.

Michael Black / February 27, 2007 at 04:39 pm
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The street has changed. When the sidewalk sale first started, about 1979, it was mostly neighborhood stores and you were always likely to bump into people you knew from around, while it's increasingly morphed to fashion and restaurants. Welch moving to St. Lwarence Blvd, is one of the few things that reversed that trend, not just a bookstore but something to do late at night during the sidewalk sales.

Of course, this will be at least the fourth time Welch has moved. I first came upon them in '86 or '86 and they were on Decarie somewhat above Queen Mary, and was actually on a second floor of some building.

Then they moved to Sherbrooke Street a few years later, a couple of blocks west of Cinema V, right across from where Encore Books is now.

They were well established by the time they moved to St. Lawrence Blvd, but in retrospect they've been there the longest, and I guess th business has grown quite a bit.


Michael
laura / February 27, 2007 at 05:43 pm
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Michael Black: Thanks for your comments. I think more posts about urban changes will be a great way to get us talking about the culture of Montreal and how we as citizens can respond to boutique-ization and other issues of public space and resident comfort. I hope you stay tuned and keep commenting!
Christopher DeWolf / February 27, 2007 at 06:29 pm
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At least it's not going out of business.

In any case, I've always thought that Mile End is in dire need of a good English bookstore... and voilà! Now we've poached one of the best in the city.
Christopher DeWolf / February 27, 2007 at 06:30 pm
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Of course, in an ideal world, this story would be about S.W. Welch opening up a <i>second</i> location on St. Viateur. Oh well. We can dream...
Hannah / February 28, 2007 at 10:10 am
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The boutique-ization (as you so artfully name it) of St. Laurent is getting tiresome. First the European bakery with the best 12-grain bread in town shutters its doors and becomes a hovel for the second deadly sin of sneakers, then Warshaw's is transformed into a sparkling Pharmaprix. I know it didn't start with those two, but they resonate the most. Any guesses on the fate of the Welch's building?
OJ / March 16, 2007 at 04:18 pm
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I believe there is a final, free giveaway, before the move, this Sunday March 18th. At least that's what the sign on the store window says.
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