Jean-Brillant Market: Feeding the Neighbourhood 24/7
At first glance, you might think they are brothers. Sturdily built, heads shaved and friendly, Richard Trottier, Éric Trottier and Jean-François Laviolette certainly look like family. But not quite. Éric and Richard do share a common ancestor – their grandfathers were cousins – but it’s while working together at the Jean-Talon Market that the trio was formed.
For the past 12 years, the three forty-somethings have taken over the Jean-Brillant Market which was previously in the hands of Éric’s father and uncle. Established in 1982 on Côte-des-Neiges Road and a stone’s throw from Université de Montréal, the market bustles with activity at all hours of the day and night. It’s one of the few businesses of its kind to be open 24 hours a day.
The busiest time is between 4 and 8 p.m. There’s lots of action,” explains Richard, the most talkative of the three. “Then it gets a bit quieter. You can see the difference in the evening, people are less stressed. But there’s always a good turnover.”
Who are these night owls doing their shopping after sunset? “There’s many evening classes that end quite late at Université de Montréal, which has several buildings in the area. Students stop by the market on their way home. And there are hospitals close by: St. Mary, St. Justine and the Jewish General. That’s a lot of employees working evening and night shifts. Then, from 11 p.m. onwards, it’s taxi drivers and other night workers,” says Richard.
The last cashiers shift finishes at midnight. Then the night watchman takes over to secure the place and serve the customers. “It’s impossible to close up because there are no walls,” laughs Éric, pointing to the open-air market.
A Well-Oiled Machine
Night-time is not a time for the owners to take it easy. At around 2 a.m., Éric, who’s in charge of purchases and producers’ relations, is already at wholesalers to choose the fruits and vegetables he’ll put on the shelves for the next day.
“If I arrived at 7 a.m., I wouldn’t have the best produce, but when I’m there at 2, I do,” says Éric who got into the fruit and vegetable business as a 13-year-old child in his family’s business. “What drives me is having the freshest, most beautiful fruits and vegetables that other merchants don’t have,” he proudly says.
Richard and Jean-François start their day around 4 a.m., receiving the goods and arranging them on the stalls. On busy days, their shift can stretch to 6 or 7 p.m. And this schedule goes on for eight months of the year, from mid-March until early November. “In the winter, we have a bit of time to sit back and relax. But for those eight months, it’s quite intense!” says Richard. “During those months, the three of us don’t have time to get together. We have to be in synch without talking much. It’s a very fast-paced operation.”
This well-oiled machine packs an impressive amount of fresh produce into a relatively small space. “We’d like to offer more, but it’s really a question of space. The square footage is used to its maximum capacity,” explains Richard. “We offer proximity and freshness. It’s kind of a close-knit market: we don’t have everything, but we have everything our customers need on a daily basis.”
Customers that have proven to be extremely loyal over the years. “Word-of-mouth and value for the money have given us a loyal clientele,” says Éric. “We have regulars in their thirties telling us they used to come here when they were students and who continue to buy here. We’re really part of the neighbourhood’s fabric, we’re part of its people’s habits.”
Quick Questions to Richard TrottierDescribe the market’s vibe in a few words?
Very lively during the day, quieter during the evening.Name a must-have product to get when visiting your market?
Small fruits and berries: strawberries, raspberries, cherries…A particular anecdote related to the market?
Once or twice a year, a patient from St. Mary’s Hospital will show up at the market rolling his pole with his IV drip plugged in his arm!
Text by Benoit Valois-Nadeau, magazine Caribou Translated by Marie-Andrée Parent Photos by Michael Abril and Philippe Nguyen
Text by Benoit Valois-Nadeau, magazine Caribou
Translated by Marie-Andrée Parent
Photos by Michael Abril and Philippe Nguyen
Read all the FAMILY PORTRAITS
Producers, merchants and artisans together make up the Montréal Public Markets’ extended family. For years, often for generations, they’ve been getting up early, experimenting, sometimes starting over, nurturing, harvesting and flourishing! Day after day, they stand proudly behind their stalls as if by their own dining-room table, inviting us to feast. They’re the heart and soul of the markets – their very essence – and the reason we keep coming back. The Family Portrait series aims to pay tribute to all the pillars of our public markets.This project is funded through the Programme Proximité of the ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation, a program implemented under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership according to an agreement between the governments of Canada and Québec.