The Mont-Royal Neighbourhood Market has been part of the Montréal landscape for 40 years. That’s four decades of offering, year-round, seasonal fruit and vegetables or maple products to locals and tourists alike. Four decades of bringing flowers to a part of the city that was long dominated by car traffic and feeding night owls with homemade sandwiches and muffins. At the helm of this unpretentious institution is John Fogarty.
Text by Virginie Landry, magazine Caribou
The man in charge of the Mont-Royal metro station kiosk, a tall, smiling fellow with kind eyes, has been there since it opened in 1983. That’s enough to give away his age, but working outdoors all his life has kept the sixty-something fit and not looking his age one bit.
The neighbourhood markets were launched in 1982 as a pilot project in different parts of Montréal. When John agreed to take charge of the brand-new market in Plateau-Mont-Royal, he was working in the fruit and vegetable sector and completing a marketing DCS. “The diploma gave me a good basis for managing my business,” says John, who attempted to continue his studies at university but without much interest. “The rest you learn on the job.”
Local Produce, Exotic Plants
During all these years running the market, John witnessed the commercial evolution of Avenue du Mont-Royal and contributed to the revitalization of the thoroughfare. His kiosk has always featured fruit and vegetables, “Québec produce as much as possible, it’s mandatory,” says John. By early June, you’ll find Québec radishes, lettuces, shallots and the very first field strawberries of the season. In autumn, there’ll be several varieties of apples, squash and pumpkins, followed by fir trees for the holidays. Finally, in winter, the kiosk turns into a kind of sugar shack offering a range of maple products such as pies, taffy and syrup. John also started to offer flowers and plants in the early 2000s to meet the needs of Plateau residents looking for potted flowers, organic herbs and exotic plants.
John can count on the excellent support of his team of 26 employees who take turns working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week during the summer. “I have quality employees and I have no trouble recruiting,” he says proudly. “The pace is good here and we spend all day outside. It’s a real pleasure.” His employees include his wife who prepares the sandwiches and salads sold at the kiosk. John, a rational man, has always considered the loved ones who work with him as colleagues. The result? “No bickering, ever. And when we go home, we don’t talk about the market anymore.” His father and his four children have all worked for him. “When they were young, they used to sweep up to earn a bit of pocket money,” he recalls fondly. Two of his daughters stayed on until recently but are now testing their wings elsewhere.
A Man of Action
Besides running his kiosk, John was involved in the founding of the Société des marchés publics de Montréal in the 1990s. In fact, he was a director for more than a decade.
“I had a lot of fun doing it. I was working at the market and on the board of directors of the public markets, but also on the board of the Caisse Desjardin [located right in front of his kiosk], president of the Société de développement de l’avenue du Mont-Royal and president of the neighbourhood community centre [located behind his kiosk]. I’ve always enjoyed working in operations and getting involved in the community. It was all volunteer work, but I loved it.”
After all this time working 16-hour days at the market in addition to his other duties, John has finally slowed down the pace. He still gets up at the crack of dawn to fill the stalls at his lovely market, but he now goes home in the morning, does a bit of bookkeeping, and finishes work by noon.
What about the fabled retirement? “Maybe next year, I’d like that. We’ll see.”
Three words to describe your market.
Passion, beauty, pleasure.
What motivates you to get up in the morning?
I wake up before the clock strikes. There’s something peaceful about morning solitude, being alone in your truck, meeting producers. Some of them I’ve known for 30, 40 years! I’m thinking of Alain Guinois and his lettuces, the Trottier family and their tomatoes and apples, the Paquette family and their corn… Sometimes I work with the second generation, but I’ve also known their father!
An anecdote about your market.
It’s changed spot a lot! It was once to the left of the metro exit. It was also in a nearby alley for a while. Then, we moved to a new location to the right of the metro exit. We should be there until 2025, but who knows?
SEE ALL 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.
Ce projet a été financé par le ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation dans le cadre du Programme d’appui au développement de l’agriculture et de l’agroalimentaire en région.