After 3 years of construction, Pie-IX merchants ready for customers to return
Salon owner says he needed second job to keep business afloat
For the past three years, access to Pie-IX Boulevard in Montréal-Nord has been no easy feat. A major renovation of the commercial artery left many businesses difficult to get to, as streets closed and public transportation options were diverted.
The owner of the Coup Ça hair salon in Pie-IX figures he lost 45 to 50 per cent of his customer base.
"I have been fighting two wars: the construction and COVID," said Aldo Louis.
The street closures and the traffic drove away a large part of the clientele, especially those from Laval who are just on the other side of the bridge.
He recalls that at, one point during the construction, his business was completely inaccessible to both pedestrians and drivers on Pie-IX. The determined few who made it entered the salon through a backdoor in an alley.
"I went through hell to survive through those times and then came COVID," Louis told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.
"Closing on and off for a total of about nine months, having to pay rent, having to pay electricity and everything else. It was really horrible."
Since the construction began, Louis has had to get a second job to be able to support his business.
"If things don't get better in like three months, then I'm going to have to close down."
The construction on Pie-IX began in November 2018 to make way for the Société de Transport de Montréal's (STM) rapid-bus service.
Referred to as the integrated Pie-IX BRT, the project "will offer a frequency comparable to that of the Metro," according to the STM.
Major renovations of the artery are now complete and the new bus service is scheduled to start running in the fall.
The Long & McQuade music store and school moved to the edge of Pie-IX Boulevard just a few months before the work started.
"We didn't know at all that there was going to be construction," said manager René Lavoie.
Lavoie says many customers switched to other competitors around Montreal, Laval and Longueuil.
"It was a nightmare to come here," Lavoie said. "Some customers that come often say that it's a nightmare because today they have to pass by one street and the day after it's another street."
However, with construction now finished, merchants are hoping to breathe new life into their commercial artery.
Jean-François Gosselin, the general manager of the Corporation de Développement Économique de Montréal-Nord pointed out that the construction and the pandemic was a perfect storm that could have caused many businesses to close their doors in Pie-IX.
"What we have seen is their resilience, their determination to survive and above all that consumers have continued to support them despite everything," said Gosselin in a statement.
"We are convinced that after what they have just experienced, it can only get better."
The borough of Montréal-Nord has been making efforts to offset the effects of the construction on merchants.
Borough Coun. Jean-Marc Poirier told CBC Daybreak that they have been placing advertisements in the surrounding areas to encourage customers to come to Pie-IX. They have also set up financial support programs for merchants.
"We're trying to put all the help that we can to some people who have a hard time filling in all those forms," said Poirier.
Merchants are looking at the light at the end of the tunnel now that the construction is finished and the new rapid public transportation system is to start running in the fall.
Coup Ça's owner acknowledges that now that the construction is over, some customers will probably come back to his salon. However, Louis is not confident that everyone will come back.
"Some of them have found other routines," he said.
Lavoie, the manager of Long & McQuade, is more optimistic. He is hopeful that the new public transit service will encourage more people to come to Montréal-Nord and shop on Pie-IX.
"It's only going to be better."