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Introducing Hyperlocal: an interactive story map

HYPERLOCAL is an interactive story map that brings together true personal stories of changing neighbourhoods from Canadians across the country, guest bloggers and well-known writers, all found at cbc.ca/hyperlocal.

Local is where we live.

Last summer the grimy dépanneur at the corner of Jeanne-Mance and St. Viateur closed. 

When renovations began on the storefront, there was panic in Mile End. 

Neighbours, myself included, spread rumours, muttering the words “Subway” and “Starbucks.”  After all, a David’s Tea had moved in two doors down with its aqua façade and banana oolong latte. 

What next? We wondered.

“There are a lot of self-entitled over-zealous people in this neighbourhood,” said the new storeowner Matthieu Savoie when I talked to him this spring. 

I nodded, writing this down. He means me.

“They seemed upset that the dépanneur went out of business,” added Savoie, 35, whose men’s clothing boutique Savoie Fils took over the space. “We had nothing to do with that. They went bankrupt. There are still collection agencies after them.”

Savoie’s ambitious renovations included giant plate-glass windows, a neo-vintage tiled floor and a massive wooden counter repurposed from a general store in the Maritimes. 

The aesthetic is sparse, distinctly high-end. Since the clothes are at the back of the store, from the sidewalk it’s hard to tell exactly what’s on offer. 

Adding to the intrigue, Café Myriade recently set up shop at the sunny front of the store, offering  $4-lattes and a small selection of specially sourced coffee beans that are “hand bagged in Portland,” according to the labels.

“What are they selling in there, pretension?” I heard one passerby wonder, voicing a common perception on the street. 

The store and café clientele is young and stylish and not in the scruffy-bohemian way that dominated the first wave of extreme hipsterdom in Mile End. 

“Two businesses in one. A dual revenue stream,” said Savoie when I asked about sharing the space with the café. “It’s the cost of being here. The overhead, the bricks and mortar of setting up business is expensive.”

Maybe two-businesses-in-one is the future for shops around this now trendy area where space is limited and rents are always going up.  

Savoie points out that he sells items such as a $480 Barbour coat because it’s the price of doing business in the neighbourhood. He has to sell a product that will generate enough money for him to stay open. 

“I’ve got too much work to do to get into arguments with people who want to go all lefty-hatey on me,” shrugged Savoie, a former skateboarder who still shows signs of attitude. “The neighbourhood’s changed a lot. People developed a sense of ownership. A lot of people are not OK with change.”

Not OK with change, I underlined this.

Savoie’s right. I can get nostalgic about the demise of almost anything, the corner store, the grungy laundromat, a broken phonebooth. 

I’ve lived here for over 20 years, since before Mile End was a destination for cool hunters. This neighbourhood is my turf.  I’m up and down the St. Viateur hodge-podge of coffee shop-boutique-grocery store-laundromat-deli-barbershop six times a day. 

So when something changes, I notice. 

A new boutique, huh. A coffee shop inside the new boutique, how strange.

I order a latte. 

featureda_Savoie fils2.JPG
Café Myriade’s Anthony Benda serves it with a feathery design in the foam and I give him five dollars, keep the change. This is the new St. Viateur.

I don’t want everything to go upscale. I want the street to hold onto its hodge-podge.

But wait a minute. This coffee? 

Photo: Matthieu Savoie and Kyle Goforth outside Savoie Fils on St. Viateur

So. What’s changing on your corner? What are people talking/panicking about and why? What’s popping up? What does it mean to you? Tell us your stories. This is Hyperlocal. Let’s create a big picture made of a thousand small pictures.

To launch our Hyperlocal map, click on the link below. There you'll find the first of our stories from our featured writers and our Hyperlocal bloggers. You can also learn more about our exciting collaboration with the NFB and get a sneak peek at some of the interactive stories they're creating. And, don't forget to tune into The Sunday Edition starting April 7 to hear a selection of stories from our featured writers.  

Put your story on the map!


Sarah Gilbert, Commissioning Editor

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