Five generations of grocers present in Rawdon for the past 100 years
This article goes over the 100 years of existence of a family of grocers serving the Rawdon population, from the ancestor, Arcade Marchand, to the Gareau family and then to the Guilbault family. It provides an overview of the evolution of Rawdon’s grocery stores, these businesses that are essential to our healthy eating.
Born in Saint-Alphonse on February 26, 1896, Arcade Marchand was 26 years old when he moved to Rawdon in 1922. His wife, Régina Forget (who was born in 1901 and died in 1938), whom he had married on July 14, 1920, and their children (they had two at the time and would eventually get seven) went with him. Arcade came from a family of shopkeepers, and it was common practice at the time to build one’s store as an annex to the family residence, as shown in the following photo (to the right).
Arcade thus built his residence and store on Metcalfe Street, across from 2nd Avenue. The site is now a vacant lot at 3487 Metcalfe Street. The building stood on site #11 on the map drawn by Helen Copping (see the map to the left).
Over the years, outbuildings such as warehouses and stables for the horses were added behind the main building, with the horses used to deliver orders.
This shop was a general store, providing food items, such as fruits, vegetables, molasses and cereals, as well as cleaning products and kerosene for the oil lamps still being used between 1920 and 1940. It should be recalled that, at the time, the range of products offered in grocery stores was relatively limited. These products were often sold in bulk. Basic items like milk, bread, butter and meat were purchased directly from the producers. In Rawdon, as in many other villages across Quebec, there was a dairy, a baker, a creamery and a butcher. From a young age, Arcade and Régina’s children would help their parents and learn about business practices. Richard Corcoran, “jack of all trades and delivery man,” would join the children and remain in the employment of Arcade and Régina for many years. Not long after having been elected school commissioner in July 1942, Arcade Marchand died suddenly at the age of 46, on February 4, 1943. Thanks to their work and tenacity, Arcade Marchand and his wife succeeded in growing their business despite the recession of the early 1930s and the 1939-1945 war. The experience acquired by the children would turn out to be particularly helpful as, upon Arcade’s death, their eldest daughter, Nicole Marchand, would take over, at the age of 19 while accepting responsibility for her younger siblings..
Marché J.P. Gareau
Nicole married Jean-Paul Gareau on June 17, 1944, and the store then took the name of Marché J. P. Gareau.
While grocery chains as we know them today started being developed at the beginning of the 20th century in North America, it wasn’t until the middle of the century that such chains established themselves in Quebec. A pioneer in the field, Steinberg opened its first store in 1917, but its expansion only occurred after the Second World War. For independent grocers to have the same purchasing power as these chains, they started forming associations. The range of products offered then broadened. With improved transportation, the products offered became less and less dependent on local producers. Marché J. P. Gareau first joined the “Marché Idéal” regional banner, started up by Provisions St-Félix ltée in 1960, and subsequently joined Métro in 1964. By going in with these associations, independent grocers could then stock up at costs comparable to those of the major chains dominating the Canadian market (Dominion, Loblaw, A&P and Steinberg). In Rawdon, the competitors at the time included one grocery store under the Richelieu banner, located at the corner of Metcalfe Street and 3rd Avenue, and another bearing the Provigo banner, owned by M. St-Amour, situated on Queen Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue..
With the population growing and tourism increasing, the number of employees went from a few people to about fifteen employees. Pierrette Marin, Murt Tinkler, Jean-Guy Lebeau and Doris Marchand were among the highly dedicated staff.
Alimentation Gareau Inc.
In 1970, after more than 25 years devoted to the business, Nicole Marchand and Jean-Paul Gareau took a well-deserved retirement and passed on the business to their eldest daughter, Jocelyne, and her husband, Denis Guilbault. Given the ever-growing population and the flourishing economy, Denis and Jocelyne saw the need to expand their premises in the late 1970s and doubled the size of their store, to 3,800 square feet. Some twenty people then worked there.
In the mid-1980s, with an ever-larger clientele, Jocelyne and Denis decided to build a brand new, 12,500-square-foot store at the corner of 1st Avenue and Queen Street and join the IGA banner. This turned out to be a wise decision as, in May 1987, a fire destroyed the shop on Metcalfe Street. In July 1987, thanks to the hard work of many contributors, the store moved into its new premises.
IGA Famille Guilbault
The new location, at 3450 Queen Street, enabled the store to offer even more products to its clientele and add bakery and deli services. Much larger, the store on Queen Street employs over forty people. Denis Généreux, in the meat department, Jean-Guy Lebeau, in fruits and vegetables, and James (Jimmy) Tinkler, in general groceries, are among the many people who have worked there and marked the history of this store.
Denis and Jocelyne’s sons, Sylvain and Martin, joined the business in 1990 and took over in 2010. Sylvain’s children (Audrey and Virginie) and Martin’s children (William, Alexandrine, Timothé and Elliot) soon joined the business, bringing a fifth generation to the store. In July 2023, the business will celebrate its 100th anniversary. Over these years, five generations of one and the same family have had the pleasure of serving Rawdon’s residents and visitors.
Information obtained from Jocelyne Gareau Guilbault in May and June 2023