Loyal customers of Quebec City's Marché du Vieux Port turn to courts to stall demolition
Vendors vacate 32-year-old farmers' market, preparing for Friday's grand opening of new market in Limoilou
With a new farmers' market set to open in Quebec City's Limoilou district Friday, the Marché du Vieux Port stands empty — but some customers and vendors are determined to keep it alive.
The closure of the market that's been a fixture at the city's marina for more than 32 years comes as vendors are preparing their new stalls in the Grand Marché — an immense new market next to the Videotron Centre arena.
The two-storey, $20-million project is part of Mayor Régis Labeaume's plan to revitalize the area around the rink. Labeaume has promised shoppers they'll find everything they need at the new venue.
But the mayor's plan to tear down the Old Port market and replace it with a seasonal tent has some merchants and customers up in arms, and many are rallying to save the building.
"We have a city of more than half a million people," said François Marchand, a lawyer and loyal Marché du Vieux Port shopper who is spearheading a legal fight to save the market.
"There is enough room for three markets. There's one in Sainte-Foy, one in Limoilou, and why not this place?"
Marchand used to visit the market several times a week and said its demolition would be a significant loss for the residents in the district.
One of them is Margot Morin, who lives just a short walk from the Old Port and has been shopping there for as long as she can remember.
"I'm used to coming here, but our famous mayor has decided it has to be torn down," she said. Switching to the Grand Marché is not an option for her, she said, because it's too far away.
Morin said she'll have to forego markets altogether in favour of a grocery store in her neighbourhood, where she said the food is more expensive.
Many of the Old Port market's vendors are also lamenting the move.
"It's a huge loss for us," said Marylin Hénault, co-owner and operator of the Chile y Medio food stand.
She said she and her partner expect to lose between $60,000 and $80,000, as the market is closing just as they were gearing up for the busiest time of the year.
Hénault wants Labeaume to leave the Old Port market intact.
"It's our life. It's our business," she said. "That's how we survive."
Some vendors are looking forward to the new setting.
Kathleen Hébert and her family have run a vegetable stand at the market since it first opened. As a third-generation vendor, she said, the Old Port feels like a second home.
"At first, we were against the idea," she said — but after seeing the Grand Marché, she's says she's now ready for the move.
The Coopérative des horticulteurs de Québec, which managed the Old Port market, will manage the new one. It has confirmed that many, though not all of the vendors are making the switch to the new space.
Meanwhile, Marchand is keeping alive the hope the Old Port market building can be saved.
He is expected back in court June 20, when he'll try to persuade a judge to delay its demolition of the Old Port market building. If the market is reopened, Hébert said, her business will return.