A – Atwater: Classified as one of the most beautiful buildings in Montreal, The Atwater Market is located on the edge of Atwater Street, so named in memory of Edwin Atwater, a businessman and municipal councillor from 1850 to 1857. The impressive Art Deco style building was built over a period of two years from 1931 to 1932. It is 378 feet long (426 including the original awnings at the end of the market) and 60 feet across (115 if you include the tents and boutiques on the east side). The market's tower is 30 x 22 feet and reaches its highest point at 152 feet from the ground. This year, we are proudly displaying a banner celebrating "75 years of buying locally and thinking globally at the public markets!"
B – Baby of the Public Markets: The Lachine market became part of the Corporation de Gestion des Marchés Publics de Montréal (CGMPM) in 2005. Even though it is the oldest public market on the island of Montreal, it is considered the "baby" of the Corporation. After having been located where the current City Hall is, the market was moved to Notre-Dame Street (at 18th Avenue) in 1909. The Lachine Market will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2009!
C – Correct Time Not Always Possible With Atwater Market Bell Tower: It's still there and you can hear it ring every half hour on the hour. The beautiful Art Deco style clock, (which doesn't always keep the correct time!), was designed by the architects Ludger and Paul Lemieux.
D – Depression Hits in the 30's: The economic crisis of 1929 led to high unemployment in Canada. In 1933, at the peak of the Depression, unemployment reached an alarming 33 per cent! Unemployment insurance didn't exist during that period, so in order to create jobs; federal, provincial and municipal programs were initiated. The work which was started on the Saint-Jacques, Jean-Talon and Atwater Market grounds, under the administration of Camillien Houde, was one such program that helped create employment during those tough economic times.
E – Executive Committee: "It is vital that we keep all of Montreal's public markets, without exception, because of the remarkable service that they provide to the population and also because they represent a fundamental meeting place for vendors and consumers alike. In addition, it is important to point out that the markets protect the public from elevated prices and monopolies." (translated excerpt from the 1956 MMC's Public Market Study)
F – Fabulous Quebec Cheeses: Each market holds a special place for Quebec's many varieties of high quality cheeses, which is certainly appreciated by the cosmopolitan Montrealer.
G – Grocery Stores: In the 60's, the appearance of supermarkets radically changed the shopping habits of Montrealers and made the public markets seem outdated or too folksy, very different to the popularity that they enjoy today.
H – History of the Markets: Recounting the history of the public markets is like telling a story of the traditions and the evolution of gastronomy in Montreal. But, first and foremost, it's about the flavours of the world, daily recipes and everyday cooking, family grocery budgets and the special relationships that exist between the market vendors and their clients.
I – Industries that are Essential: "Agriculture, whether we like it or not, was and will always be, the most essential industry as it is the substance of human life; also, it has never ceased – and should never cease – to hold the attention of, and be the preoccupation of those who govern as much as those who are governed". (Judge Georges-Henri Héon, President of the Agricultural Markets Office of Quebec, 1957)
J – Jean-Talon Market: It is the most important open air market in North America! People come from all over the world just to visit it!
K – Kilometers are Reduced: Celebrating "75 years of local produce in the public markets" is to favor "localization" versus "globalization". In the modern environmental context, it's important to give priority to agriculture originating from within a 50 km radius of Montreal to help reduce the production of greenhouse gases…
L – Luscious Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables: Thanks to Mother Nature, each year we celebrate a minimum of six seasonal cycles in the public markets: maple products and eggs at Easter, flowers in mid-May, strawberries at the end of June, the harvest at the end of August, squash and pumpkins in October and Christmas trees in December.
M – Much is Made about Quebec's Corn --- it's delicious!: Did you know that in 1910, you could buy a dozen corn in the public markets for only a nickel!
N – North – the Market of the North: Up until 1982, Jean-Talon Market was coined the Market of the North. It was built in 1932 on the Shamrock Stadium grounds (dating from 1914) which were dedicated to the game of lacrosse.
O – Old You Say? How Old is the Captain?: The Captain of the Eggs: His name is Jeno Finkelstein, also known as « The Captain », a Hungarian who arrived in Montreal in 1956. During 1957, he sold live chickens for 25 cents a pound every Friday and Saturday at the Jean-Talon Market. Considering that he's been doing business at Jean-Talon Market for 50 years and that in 1977 he sold cartons of 36 eggs for $1.50, he must have sold hundreds of thousands of eggs! How old is "The Captain"? Give us your opinion.
P – Payette, Lise: In her childhood, Lise Payette would often go to Atwater Market with her grandmother to buy meat. "We always went to Adélard Bélanger (…). I have always remained a faithful customer of Bélanger. We boast four generations on either side, my side as clients and his side as owners (1)." Even today, Adélard Bélanger still offers his meats to Atwater Market's clientele. (1) Lise Payette (1997). Women of Honour. A Private Life 1931-1968. Montréal : Éditions Libre Expression, pp 56-57
Q – Quite the Job – Preparing for Winter: Despite the harsh winters, Montreal's public markets are open year-round, Jean-Talon Market since 1983 and Atwater Market since the end of the 1990's. Preparing for winter quarters is a huge logistics matter. At the end of October, no less than 160 panels with 30 double entrances (60 doors) are put up in 5 days. At Atwater Market, where the logistics are a little less complicated, it takes only 2 days. The structures stay up until the end of April, so Montrealers can visit the markets in the winter, in the comfort of heated premises.
R – Relax and Celebrate the Harvest: The celebration of the harvest is the most noteworthy, festive and popular time of year. It's when those who love the variety and freshness of the harvest can most appreciate the farmers' efforts and the season's abundance. In the public markets, the celebration of the harvest occurs the last weekend in August.
S – Saint-Jacques Market: On June 30, 1871 the City of Montreal bought the land at the intersection of Amherst and Ontario Streets with the intention of building the Saint-Jacques Market. The building, as we know it, was constructed in 1931 at a cost of $275,000 under the federal unemployment assistance law, and was inaugurated with pomp and ceremony on November 13th of that same year.
T – Television and More: The public markets have been a choice filming location for cinema and television. Bustling with tourists and Montrealers alike, the market really provides a crossroads where country produce meets the Urban gastronomic table. For several years, the popular and animated daily Radio Canada show "Des Kiwis et des hommes" was broadcast from the Jean-Talon market.
U – Union of agricultural producers in Quebec (UPA): In 1993, the (UPA) was the link between the City of Montreal, who wanted to give up the administration of its markets, and the newly created Corporation de Gestion des Marchés Publics de Montréal (CGMPM). The agreement covered the Atwater, Jean-Talon, Maisonneuve and Saint-Jacques Markets as well as the Neighbourhood Markets and Flower Kiosks. The initial lease was for 10 years, renewed in 1998 and then in 2003 and now prolonged until 2017. At that time, Jean-Guy Brais, was the founding President of the CGMPM and Denis Brassard was the General Director. Once the CGMPM was created and the lease was signed, the UPA withdrew itself from the markets.
V – Villages, Towns and Cities: The slogan: "Every day of the year, country and city meet" is the longest lasting advertising slogan that the Corporation has had. It highlights the fact that Montreal is one of the few places where some of the farmers markets are open every day of the year. This definitely adds to the quality and style of life in Montreal.
W – Web Site: The Montreal public markets' web site helps you find all the products available at the kiosks and boutiques, as well as information on the vendors and merchants at the four big public markets, the neighbourhood markets and the flower kiosks. Our web site is newly updated - so go check it out!
X – Xenophobia: There's no room for the "fear of anything that is strange or foreign" in the public markets where cultural diversity and global gourmet reign supreme! A recent 2007 customer survey found that people from more than 30 countries shop at the public markets!
Y – Yes, There are lots of Members! How many members are there? The CGMPM has around 250 members, vendors, merchants, and boutique owners in the four markets as well as in the neighbourhood markets and the flower kiosks.
Z – Zzz's: Getting your ZZZ's at the public markets with all the hustle and bustle, wonderful scents and delicious aromas really isn't possible. (our apologies!)
By: Jean Gagnon Doré