The (Back) Street

by lindsay on April 28, 2012

When I tell Montrealers where our store is located, they tend to say “What a great street!”

This is invariably followed by a reference to how up and coming the area is.

The neighbourhood is indeed interesting. So too our part of Notre Dame. However, the real – if less told – story is what’s happening behind the street on our block.

There, you see, some of the street’s entrepreneurs have set up unique offerings that feed the block’s soul.

Joe Beef's raised beds

The gang from Joe Beef built their now famous garden several years ago. While there’s all kinds of hype about urban agriculture and local food, the produce they grow (and serve) in the summertime is delicious. It’s that simple. That their outdoor area is a pleasure to sit in only adds to what is always an incredible dining experience.

Lili and Oli's back patio

The guys at Lili and Oli serve one of the best espressos in town. Lindsay and I aren’t huge espresso drinkers, but when we want a latte there’s no better place to go. A few years ago, with the help of their brother in law Tony, Patrick and Dan created a great little space to enjoy their delectable coffee. The vibe out back is a mix of community centre and social club. Looking out on to the ballfield you almost feel like you’re in small town America. So cool.

The ballfield behind Notre Dame

This past week, we expanded our terrasse. It is the realization of a plan we’d talked about since opening almost two years ago. Yes, there’s a business rationale for this; we’ll be able to seat more people, and maybe rent the area out for functions. However, it is about creating a better customer experience  by giving more people the opportunity to enjoy a bite and cocktail, beer or glass of wine during the far too short Montreal summer.

The expanded back terrasse chez nous

Expanding the terrasse was fun. Since I’m a disaster with anything reno-related, Lindsay’s father and brother came up from Nova Scotia to oversee things. Both guys are tireless workers, and highly skilled when it comes to construction. They laboured through the cold and rain, soldiering on through various mishaps and unforeseens. Our gratitude to them cannot be expressed.

After the work was done something else occured to me about the outdoor spaces behind Notre Dame: each of the aforementioned projects was done DIY. No one hired expensive contractors. Fred Morin led the building of Joe Beef’s raised beds, Tony Campanelli oversaw the Lili and Oli expansion, and the Davis family our own. It’s an interesting non-coincidence that speaks to the entrepreneurial spirit which imbues these businesses.

If you haven’t already done so, I hope you venture behind our block on Notre Dame West. That’s where the real action goes down in the summer.

Hope to see you soon!

- Jackson

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Monsieur Tsé-Tsé

The chap you see above is known as Monsieur Tsé- Tsé.

When I first heard his name, sight unseen, I pegged him for a shadowy professional revolutionary à la Che Guevara or Subcommandante Marcos. Not exactly sure what led me to this belief – maybe my degree in security studies – but I was somewhat cautious about “Double T’s” potential for fomenting sedition.

Turned out that the guy was actually a cuddly little creature made of organic cotton (maybe Marcos’ famed balaklava is too?). Not exactly the type of soul who’s prone to overthrowing nasty dictators, or leading gangs of disaffected believers against highly trained national armies.

In any event, Tsé- Tsé, who is produced in Montreal by the amazing folks at Raplapla, has – like the aforementioned professional revolutionaries – high minded ideals. While people may debate the tangible effects of a Guevara or Marcos, there is little doubt that Tsé- Tsé is a man of action and impact.

‘How?,’ you ask.

For starters, 10% of the profits from the sale of Monsieur Tsé- Tsé are donated to UNICEF. Get him for a kid and your are helping other kids too.

Additionally, the young ones tend to love the guy. He brings happiness; what better impact is there than that!

A bonus for you: as I learned, Tsé- Tsé is more into “fitting in” to your household than overturning the established order. Your kingdom is safe :)

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Shop ‘N Eat

by lindsay on November 22, 2011

Eating tends to make any situation better.

So, we’re pleased to announce that this Holiday Season when you’re shopping merrily because you love it, or begrudgingly because it’s not your fave activity, we have a new setup that might improve the experience.

Yes, at FAIT ICI you can eat and shop. We have, you see, installed tables inside.

The shop ‘n eat combo can obviously take a number of forms.

You could, for instance, sit and browse with your eyes while enjoying some homemade, ‘ Two Solitude’ Mac N Cheese. Pictured below, we’ve dubbed it in homage to Hugh MacLennan and because one of the cheeses is from Quebec, the other from Ontario. After browsing while sitting/eating, you simply grab what gifts have caught your attention, pay and go. This approach scores high on the efficiency quotient.

You could also sit down, eat a QC-made Rosette de Lyon sandwich, and ask our staff to show you gift ideas tableside. This takes a lot of the work out of shopping and might be the best avenue for the hungry and Holiday-confounded (i.e. Jackson).

Another possible manifestation of the eat and shop dynamic involves stopping in, shopping till you are ready for dropping and then refuelling to make it home. Nothing like being saved by food after a long day in the Holiday shopping trenches.

Whatever your pleasure, whatever your view of Holiday shopping, we’re happy to report that chez nous you can now combine it with a nice sit down meal! Only Santa gets it this good, and he’s gotta descend chimneys which is kinda less than good.

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Some choice words…

by lindsay on October 6, 2011

This is a famous speech. And, yes, by posting it we are probably joining a loud cacophony of voices. But it IS good and full of insights, so give it a check:

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The Liquor License Lesson

by lindsay on September 1, 2011

We got a liquor license for our terrasse a few weeks ago.

This means people can now enjoy some wine, locally made beer or spiked lemonade with their lunch (it’s a restaurant license so patrons have to order a meal to get booze).

The process took over 7 months. Why? Because our store concept didn’t fit easily into the defined categories the Regie uses to decide if an establishment is valid for a liquor license.

It was painstaking and ended in hearing before a Regie panel. At the hearing, we had no lawyer, we don’t speak legalese (let alone french legalese) and thought we’d been slaughtered by the Regie’s legal team. Both Linds and I said ‘That was awful’ as soon as we got out of earshot of the judges and Regie officials.

Basically we wrote the license off as a lost cause and wasted effort.

But sometimes life surprises its participants.

That’s what happened to us. We got the license. Just goes to show, you really never know! Yogi Berra’s pearl of wisdom ‘It ain’t over till it’s over’ looms large.

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