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.
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.
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.
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.
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!