It's been 18 months since Gilles St-Aubin and Monica Turcotte saw their livelihoods disintegrate before their eyes when a fire at an adjacent restaurant destroyed the Cordonnerie Monkland shoe repair shop.
“It's like the end of the world. I mean, you look at your place burning down and then you realize you were there for over 20 years and you have no idea what you are going to do next,” says St-Aubin.
The popular shop in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce is now up and running again, and the couple say they couldn't be happier about the support they have received from the community.
'It makes you realize that you're maybe more appreciated than you thought.' - Gilles St-Aubin, co-owner of Cordonnerie Monkland
When loyal customers heard about the fire, they raised $30,000 in donations to help St-Aubin and Turcotte get back in business. The cobblers say the money made a big difference.
“You feel appreciated. It makes you realize that you're maybe more appreciated than you thought because when you're alone in a small business you have great contact with people, but you don't realize all those things,” says St-Aubin.
Customers are also delighted to see the shop has reopened and are lining up to drop off their shoes.
"I like the people — which makes a big difference — but what also makes a big difference is they do very good work and I'm very happy to have them open again,” says Madeleine Regenstrein.
Finding the right place
The couple spent months looking for a new location that was the right size for the right price and finally found a new place on Sherbrooke St.
"We're going to keep the name," says St-Aubin. "We didn't want to start from scratch."
St-Aubin says they used the fundraising money to upgrade the new shop, buy new material and fix their machines that had been damaged in the fire.
Even though the couple wasn't able to afford buying a new place on their old street, St-Aubin says they have had more than 200 people drop off their shoes and many more visitors.
"We feel relief, we feel now [the difficulties] are at our backs." says St-Aubin. "A lot of people stop even if they don't have shoes, just to say 'hello.'"