NDG Evening

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Earlier this month I accompanied my friends on a nostalgic walk through NDG, the sprawling west end neighbourhood in which they used to live. Developed in the early twentieth century on some of Montreal’s most fertile land—the famed Montreal Melon once grew there—NDG was for the first part of its history a fairly humdrum suburb home to middle-class WASPs and British immigrants who had moved up from working-class Verdun.

Things changed in the 1970s when many long-time residents left for the suburbs or moved away from Montreal altogether. Some streets fell on hard times, NDG’s population became more varied and the whole area began to take on a more interesting, eclectic character. Sherbrooke Street West, a long commercial artery that runs along the south side of the neighbourhood, is where NDG is revealed in all its bizarre glory, a meeting ground for well-adjusted families, oddball layabouts and members of various different ethnic communities, especially Jamaicans, Koreans and Persians. The shops along the street are remarkably diverse: D.A.D.’s sells takeaway Indian food alongside Montreal-style bagels; Nearly New Books/Livres Presque ‘9’ unites two languages with one bad pun; a video store with no apparent name, tucked away discreetly on the first floor of an apartment building, rents nothing but VHS copies of Korean television dramas.

When my friends lived in NDG they were fascinated by one of those odd shops on Sherbrooke: an ice cream parlour at the corner of Harvard. Brightly decorated, with an old-style bar inside, it featured a large banner that advertised 24 flavours of soft serve. But it was never open. Once, when my friends spotted some people working inside, they knocked on the door and asked if they could buy some ice cream. “No,” they were told.

Going home, they speculated that the shop was actually a front for organized crime. It certainly wouldn’t be far-fetched; Sherbrooke certainly has its share of shady businesses. The truth, however, is far less interesting. Several years ago, the ice cream shop’s owners began distributing the syrups used to flavour the soft serve. When that turned out to be far more profitable than selling ice cream, they rented an office and used the shop to store boxes of syrup. The decor is still intact, soft serve machines ready on guard, but no ice cream has been served there in years. It’s a ghost ice creamery, in other words. In NDG, that somehow seems appropriate.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Wednesday July 16 2008at 11:07 pm , filed under Canada and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

4 Responses to “NDG Evening”

  • Patrick Donovan says:

    I went Sherbrooke street in NDG a few months ago and was surprised at how interesting the area has become in the last ten years. My memories of NDG in the mid-1990s are of a boring middle-class anglo ghetto, yet this no longer seems to be the case.

    The most bizarre shop on Sherbrooke is the Persian-run German restaurant with a sign in Farsi. It looks like it should be selling kebabs and rice, but instead they serve shnitzel and sausage.

  • BruB says:

    I often, too often go to the “La Louisianne” restaurant and everytime I go in that area I marvel at how much “New-York like” this street looks.

    Where other part, like Verdun and Hochelaga have the Montreal Outside Stairs, this part of town has fire excapte type balcony and spring laoded staircases like i’ve seen so many time in Manhattan.

    As for the ice cream, well I always wondered where all those depanneurs got there pink 24 flavors ice cream sign :)

  • Paul says:

    Me and my wife were convinced that the ice cream place was a front. We too tried asking once if we could get some ice cream and were quickly shooed away.

  • Peter says:

    I lived in NDG betweem 1940 and 1956. I have been looking for an old photo of the Handy Andy store on Sherbrooke Street. From 1940 to 1944 we lived on the corner of Oxford and Sherbrooke above a store; from 1944 to 1951 on Harvard and from 1951 to 1956 on Kensington.