While traveling and living in Europe, one of the things I loved most was finding a spot, a center to my world, where I would meet with friends, catch up on local goings-on and simply feel connected and part of my community. Whether it was traveling to a new town, living in a big city or small village, I always found a landing point from where my connections to my new environment would begin.
Montreal has much of this same appeal. It is one of the best walking cities I know, with many potential “Cheers”-type bar hangouts, “where everybody knows your name.” It’s a nice feeling, to be welcomed into a room by smiling, friendly faces.
In the suburbs it’s a bit harder to find. Most people zoom around in their cars from home to destination. And with social media, much of the “hanging out” has been replaced with time on Facebook or Twitter. This is not a bad thing, per se, but it cannot replace the face-to-face connection with your neighbors. That heart-felt connection only happens in person, and I believe, is what is missing in a lot of our lives, and what we are still searching for.
Nathalie Laplante, her sister Sophie and sister-in-law Anne-Marie Angers-Trottier, felt the same way and decided to do something about it. Growing up together in Pointe-Claire they have always loved the village, but found that most services were geared towards tourists, with no place for residents to come and meet up. After toying with the idea for a few years, they finally settled on the idea of a co-op, liking the concept of members becoming part of something bigger and having it take on a life of its own. After camping out all summer in order to garner enough memberships to convince potential investors that there was a real need within the community, they opened in October 2010.
Each founder has focused on their specialty: Nathalie handles sustainable agriculture and food; Anne-Marie, a social worker by training, handles the community outreach and events. Sophie has gone back to school, but was handling the arts and culture aspect.
Now that they are here, you kind of wonder what Pointe-Claire village did without them. It
has become the place for the community to come together, whether it is for getting informed about political candidates (they hosted a discussion night between candidates and a “results” party the night of the returns), challenging governmental decisions (like when the CLSC was going to sell some land for a telecommunications tower to be built – the opposition won) or simply supporting local musical guests (Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm).
On a more personal scale, it’s become a haven for many local residents. Carl is one regular who comes in nearly every day. He meets with friends or comes to read his book. “Best coffee in town” he admits was what drew him here initially. But it is the warmth and kindness of the owners that made him keep coming back. I can attest. They captured me in their spell too. Heck, I don’t even live in Pointe-Claire, I’m not even a member (not yet anyway), and they make me feel as if I’ve been coming here all my life.
There are retired members of the community, mothers with small children, and even young kids coming in to do homework over steaming cups of hot chocolate. This was an important aspect to the owners. It was vital that the co-op be open to all ages and groups; a concept hard to sell to investors who are keen to know a specific target market, but today they can show that the “whole village” concept works.
Anne-Marie and her daughter Jessica have also become regulars. They like the fact that they serve only local (300km) and organic, and agree it’s the best coffee in town. They used to go all the way to Montreal and are delighted to have a place much closer to home. Other groups such as La Leche League, a job search group, and a mother’s playgroup all use the space on a regular basis. If your group is looking for a meet-up point, then come by or send them an e-mail, they want community groups to feel it’s their space too. As Nathalie says, “it’s why we exist!”
Come by and check them out. Their food is absolutely scrumptious (I had the roasted vegetable sandwich with Ménestrel cheese, yum!) They also have daily soups made from local organic vegetables, local organic cheeses and even local organic beer and wine for a thirst-quenching compliment. You can find on their website all the information for becoming a member, their calendar of events, or directions on how to get there. Open Tuesday through Saturday at 11am, closed Sundays and Mondays.
Co-op des Bons Voisins, 247A Bord-du-Lac, Pointe-Claire
email: [email protected]
See you soon!