Laneway Shops

Electrical appliance store, Causeway Bay Antique vendor, Sheung Wan Last year, I wrote a bit about the informal shops and sales that spring up in some of Montreal’s laneways — a junk emporium, a record shop, a bicycle cooperative, just to name a few in Mile End. Here in Hong Kong, where commercial rents are […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Public Space, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Laneway Shops , , ,

How a Supermarket Shapes the City

There’s something particularly iconic about supermarkets, especially in North America, where they first emerged in the 1940s and have a good half-century of history behind them. While supermarkets today are an entrenched part of the urban landscape, there was something particularly fresh and innovative about them in the 1950s, which you can see in those […]

NDG Evening

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 […]

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Walking Mile End’s Laneways

In many ways, Montreal is a remarkably heterogeneous city, and its built form is no exception. Each individual neighbourhood is distinct enough to provide the aimless walker with enough visual cues to figure out where he or she is. Alleys, too, vary from one part of the city to the next. In nineteenth-century neighbourhoods, they’re […]

Student Business, Campus Life

It was a quiet, rainy day at McGill when Devin Alfaro, just out of his last exam of the semester, walked into the Caférama on the first floor of the university’s William Shatner student centre. Two weeks earlier, in early April, the café was at the centre of a battle over campus business. Caférama will […]

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Street Vendor Songs

Montreal did away with a big chunk of its cultural heritage when it started cracking down on street vendors in the 1960s. Food vendors were the first to go and, although City Hall has been easing its restrictions on street vending for a number of years, allowing people to sell art and crafts on Ste. […]

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Dep City: Montreal’s Convenience Stores

If Montreal seems saturated with dépanneurs, that’s because it is: 1,127 crowd the island, about one for every 1,500 people. Since they emerged in their current form in the 1970s, the descendants of tobacconists and once-ubiquitous corner grocery stores, dépanneurs have become an inextricable part of life in Montreal. They also are an important but […]

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A Day in the Life of a Dépanneur

Owning a dépanneur has a big impact on your social life, says Yodh Ubhi, standing behind the counter of Dépanneur PMS at the corner of Park Ave. and Villeneuve St. “You have none,” Ubhi said. He’s not kidding. Ubhi’s hours—14 hours a day, seven days a week—would make most office workers weep. Every morning, he […]

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Don’t Bulldoze the Slums

Street scene in Dharavi. Photo from the Economist “Around 6am, the squealing of copulating rats—signalling a night-long verminous orgy on the rooftops of Dharavi, a slum in Mumbai—gives way to the more cheerful sound of chirruping sparrows. Through a small window in Shashikant (“Shashi”) Kawale’s rickety shack, daylight seeps. It reveals a curly black head […]

Posted in: Politics, Public Space, Society and Culture, South Asia by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Don’t Bulldoze the Slums , , , , , ,

Chinatown is Changing

In September, the owner of Swatow, an import/export business, announced he will replace his St. Laurent Blvd. store with a $20-million shopping centre – the first major real-estate investment in Chinatown since the 1980s – that will include a supermarket, office space, a rooftop banquet hall and small boutiques similar to those found in Toronto […]

Ethnic Depanneurs

Although most depanneurs are owned by immigrants or people from what Quebec politicians like to call “cultural communities,” they typically bear few traces of their proprietor’s ethnic origin. Sometimes there might be a heater on the counter containing churros or samosas but, for the most part, deps focus on the holy trinity of beer, tobacco […]

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Bazaar Living in Montreal’s Laneways

By midweek, the first signs appear, advertising garage sales, yard sales, sidewalk sales, moving sales. They chart the vast outdoor flea market that is Montreal on so many sunny weekends. Most of these sales are infrequent, but, in some cases, they have evolved into regular, quasi-permanent bazaars, run by people who have taken it upon […]

The Industrial City Time-Warp: Shenzhen

The Hua Qiang Bei skyline at dusk from the 20th floor of the Sichuan hotel, looking west. The tall building to the left is the 2nd highest in Shenzhen (for now) and was the site of the first electronics factory to be converted into a market, and subsequently an office tower. Its main tenant, SEG, […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, History, Society and Culture by Desmond Bliek Comments Off on The Industrial City Time-Warp: Shenzhen , , , , ,

Arriverderci Tivoli

Almost every city has a collection of neighbourhood institutions, businesses known and used by such a wide variety of people that they become convenient meeting places as well as local reference points, secure admist the great of spasms of change in the city beyond. Some of these places seem to be fuelled on nostalgia alone, […]