When it’s a sunny Saturday morning in NDG, Sherbrooke Street’s ‘Maison Verte’ is always a good place to go where you can find that coffee and a scone that makes all the difference before you get to read the morning’s news. And while you’re waiting for that coffee, the farmer’s market outside NDG’s ‘Maison Verte’ is doing gang-buster business as local residents amble up to buy all the fresh fruit and ‘veg’ they’ll need for the rest of the week. While some of the store’s regulars line up for all of their basic domestic necessities like shampoo and laundry soap, others take the time to meet friends and neighbors for coffee and a chat while the children move on to the store’s convenient play area.
“It might cost a bit more to buy ‘green’,” said NDG resident Maryse Lalonde, “...but being ‘green’ is more about lifestyle than anything else. Besides, I don’t like all the chemicals they put in shampoo these days.”
Originally founded in 1999, La Maison Verte was the first environmental solidarity co-op to open its doors in the country. Its business model was a radical initiative that defined its mission as a working co-operative that would sell ecologically sound food and assorted sustainable products to its own extended community. While the store took on more than its fair share of bad luck and hard times, its business model also provided the support it needed to maintain its mission to provide ecologically sound and sustainable services to its growing market that now includes thousands of paid-up members. While the store was selling fair-trade coffee long before it gained its politically-correct status, local micro-breweries were pleased to find a store that was willing to take a chance on their product while they fought their uphill battle against the multi-national breweries that defined Canada’s beer industry. Twenty years later, the little store is still a major resource as well as a hub for the kind of sustainable lectures, documentaries and assorted workshops that have already begun to transform the politics of its immediate neighborhood.
“It’s strange to see how everybody is getting all excited about how the city is going to get rid of all those plastic bags,” said Lalonde. “The co-op’s been doing that for years, and it’s really no big deal.”