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Food

Don't Have a Market, Have a Baby: Marche St-Jacques

Posted by Amie / November 8, 2010

MarcheStJacquesWait! That's not the series name! Haven't I spent the summer and fall extolling the value of markets over babies? Well, the world got a little turned upside down when I walked into the muzak-playing, sterilized air-pumping, recently renovated and re-opened Marche St-Jacques, and suddenly babies, by comparison, didn't seem like such a waste of space.

When I first heard about the new Marche St-Jacques, I thought someone on high had heard my plea for more markets and opened (well, re-opened) a new public market in the Centre-Sud at rue Ontario and rue Amherst, but no, turns out that in 2006 the Ville-Marie borough sold the over 100-year old market to the private sector, to a company called Rosdev for $2.3 million. The Montreal Public Market Management Corporation (CGMPM - it's in charge of the Jean-Talon, Atwater, Maisonneuve, and Lachine markets) couldn't afford the price tag, and neither could the previous ground floor tenants of the Marché St-Jacques building afford the new rent.

Who could afford the rent? Gourmet food stores.

Who can't afford the market? A good chunk of the people who live in the area, a generally low-income neighbourhood that includes the Habitations Jeanne-Mance, one of the country's largest subsidized public housing units. There is a big upswing in condo building nearby, though, and Rosdev is probably banking on their business.

There's nothing wrong with a specialty store. In fact, I love Olive et Olives who have an outlet in the new space, but the mandate of a public market (which this originally was before the 2006 sale) includes providing accessible, affordable food purchasing options for local residents. That usually means being able to buy staple goods directly from local producers and discount sellers (think those enormous $7 bags of Quebec carrots at Jean-Talon. Organic they're not, but well-priced and local they are). Compared to Marche Jean-Talon and even Atwater (which recently did its annual winter down-sizing, getting rid of most of the outside vendors and leaving residents and market-goers with fewer local, farm-fresh options), Marche St-Jacques feels like a private club...you know, one where you have to wear all white, never smile, play lots of tennis, and pay a ridiculous membership fee, which is what you essentially will be doing by buying anything here (the money part, not the tennis. The smiling is up to you I guess).
FruiterieIf you read French check out the Rue Frontenac article by Marie-Eve Fournier on le Marche Claude Plouffe, one of the former market stores, now moved across the street to rue Amherst south of Ontario. Ever had a lease that was supposed to run until a certain date and then you get notice that you have a year to get out? Sucks when it's your apartment, but it also sucks when it's your business. Moving fees are not included in the less-than-polite upheaval.

So should you shop at this market? Well, it's a tough call. The coffee and tea shop is beautiful, the preservative-free fresh pasta sauce shop (the pasta itself was ambiguously not described as "preservative-free" by comparison) is run by a very nice man and offers an incredible looking lamb sauce made from something ridiculous like 12 lamb shanks, there's a Poissonerie La Mer outlet (but it's better to go to the original shop down the road at Rene-Levesque and Papineau for selection and a wealth of fish knowledge from the staff), a fruit and vegetable place with a smaller and only slightly less local selection than Marche Claude Plouffe down the road, a Fromagerie Atwater outlet (guess they couldn't really change the name), and a Premiere Moisson, with several empty shopping mall-like slots in the building for future businesses (definitely not local farmer stalls).

BYO-headphones though, because I've been in elevators with better music than this place.

Discussion

15 Comments

Jer / November 8, 2010 at 05:33 pm
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Zing. Burn. Ouch.
Amie / November 8, 2010 at 10:34 pm
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Too much? I swear I edited.
Emory / November 9, 2010 at 01:23 am
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Thanks alot for posting this article, I grew up here and still live in centre sud, super cool place, this market definetly isnt cool or cheap enough for this part of the city though, its style doesn't work either. I went in once and had the exact same impression: sterile, white, empty, strange and expensive. I mean, when would I ever think of going there just to buy olive oil? I stick to claude plouffe, that market outside was great and I'm really sad it was replaced by this foreign upper-crust oddity.

sibustat 10 / November 22, 2010 at 04:59 am
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I do not understand why such a fuss. Anything new and different opinions.
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