Co-op du Grand Orme

La Co-op du Grand Orme: home, history and community

Co-op du Grand Orme

The Co-op is housed in the old Lamarche residence, dating from the early 1800s

It was my first time stepping foot into the co-op (yes, I am embarrassed it has taken me so long, yeesh!), and right away I recognized a few “friends” on the shelves: Bread Trade’s Cheap Date (a healthy version of Nutella), McCaig beeswax candles, and Ouistitine stuffed animals. James Maynard, the manager of the Co-op du Grand Orme was giving me a tour before we started in on the interview. There were many new products I had yet to discover, if not from Montreal, at least Canadian, such as:

  • Monthly specials

    The co-op features monthly specials for you to try new products

    One degree organics (BC): they make all their products out of sprouted grains, they are certified organic and veganic. You can also download an app which allows you to scan the product to see which farm the grains come from.

  • Sweets from the Earth from Toronto who use some organic ingredients, have a selection of nut-free and gluten-free products and are 100% vegan. “Unbelievably delicious”, according to James. I’d have to simply take his word for now, since he was sold out. A testament in itself.
  • Prana, a Montreal-based company that does organic dried nuts and fruit. I love their Annapurna mix, both for the colors and taste. You can also get those snacks in bulk, allowing you to choose how much or how little you want.

detergents and soaps in vracThe Co-op carries other items in bulk, such as grains, pastas, coffees (Santropol) and even soaps and detergents, avoiding the waste of plastic containers. It’s part of the co-op’s ideology. On their brochure, it’s stated:

“To select the products we offer you we look at simple criteria:
— Is the product made locally, with local ingredients?
— Is it ecological (non toxic, reusable, made from reused materials, easily recyclable or compostable)?
— Is it certified (fair-trade, organic, Eco-Logo, biodegradable, etc)?
— Is it available in bulk or with minimal packaging?”

Which resonates with my own mission with Mon Marché Local. Okay, so what took me so long? Guilty! Guilty!

The co-op opened its doors in late 2008 by seven members of the community, as a “solidarity cooperative”. This form of co-op, where both customers and workers participate was launched in 1997 in Quebec. (FYI, Quebec is home to over a third of Canada’s co-ops. [i] ) Their idea was not only to offer ecological and sustainable products, but to provide a meeting place for the community, where people could share ideas and move toward a self-sufficient, sustainable, and ecological future.

events calendarFour years later and it continues to do just that. A few weeks ago, they had hosted seminars on how to make your home green, and how to eat and buy organic on a budget. In the summers they show films outdoors for free on the side of the building. They have a garden out back – you can even pick a few herbs for your evening’s meal. A few associations also use the space for their meetings: Laleche League once a month, there’s a French language conversation group, a morning playgroup, and even a “stitch-n-bitch” for all levels (of stitching, that is).

James Maynard, managerJames has been manager since July of last year. He had heard of the position through his good friend Ryan Young, one of the founders. He fought for it and got it, then moved himself and his wife out from Toronto. It may seem like quite a distance to come to manage a co-op, but James had been coming to Sainte-Anne’s for years and loved the town. This job is his way of combining his many faceted personality and talents. With a degree in Environmental Studies from York University, having taught English in Korea for four years (where he met his wife), and even completing his own documentary Sink or Swim (I’m hoping he’ll show it one day at the co-op.) “Working here brings together all the various parts of myself: health, spirit and community.”

the chair of F. LamarcheAs I look around the room, I notice a chair in the corner inscribed with the words, “La chaise de F. Lamarche”. James explains, “When the renovators came in, it was almost as if Mr. Lamarche still lived here. He had passed away several months before. His pants were neatly folded on the bed, his shoes carefully placed by the door. His tools were still here, some of those old wooden crates. Some of these items were kept in order to honor the family that had lived here.” I see some of the tools hanging on the wall. And downstairs, you can find some old wooden boxes in various spots around the store with names etched in them. They are the names of people who had helped out and people who they want to remember.

The tables also have an interesting story. When they had pulled up the old linoleum, there were layers of old newspapers, from the 1970s, back to the early 1900s. Some of the papers were kept and used to decorate the tables. It is a beautiful “homey” home, dating back to at least 1835. The last living relative of Mr. Lamarche, Helen Pellerin, apparently has a document that says the house had been ceded in that year, along with a scrawny rooster.

One of the several etched wood boxes found around the store

One of the several etched wood boxes found around the store

In order to ensure a safe future for the house and the co-op, the co-op hopes to buy the house. Both the co-op and Mme. Pellerin want to see the house and the history honored. There are other projects in the works, too. They hope to continue the terrace around to the back this year, attract more people during the nice weather. James also wants to do a live-stream permaculture workshop sometime in 2013.

After draining the last drops of my excellent latté, I head downstairs and do some shopping. I got a new and much-needed water bottle, some safe-bleach (they generously supplied a container, since I hadn’t come so prepared), a few Prana snacks, and my membership!

Come by and check out all their great products. You can be sure of the quality, and hopefully they’ll have some of those sweet treats by Sweets from the Earth in stock. They also carry baked items from Laperle et son Boulanger (my next article!).  Get your membership (for as little as $20, then you get 5% discount on everything in the store except meat). Grab a fair-trade coffee or tea, then head upstairs and sit in Mr. Lamarche’s chair.

Co-op du Grand OrmeThe co-op is located at 99, rue Sainte-Anne, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, H9X 1L9.

Their winter hours are: Sunday, 11am – 6pm, Mon-Wed 11am – 7pm, Thurs – Sat 10am – 7pm.

Visit their website at:


 [i] “Statistiques,” CoopQuebec, accessed March 9, 2013,”

This post is also available in: French

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