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Liberté! Egalité! La Carie!

Five students turn a flea market kiosk into a cooperative wonderstore

Amidst the hustle and bustle of a Saturday afternoon, we found ourselves standing in unfamiliar territory. We had ventured out to the Easterly neighbourhood of Centre-Sud Montreal to take part in the grand opening festivities of La Carie, a new student-run co-op that graces the Marche aux Puces Ontario flea market.

The boutique, whose name translates to “The Cavity,” is the culmination of the efforts of five industrious students with entrepreneurial ambitions – Madeline Coleman, Ming Lin, Sasha Plotnikova, Joe Winer, and Arden Wray following in the footsteps of crafty collectives such as Atelier Woodenapples by providing Montrealers with an affordable one-stop shop for all things artistic.

For the uninformed (read: us, one scant week ago), Centre-Sud is nestled between Sherbrooke to the north, the river to the south, Jacques Cartier bridge to the east and Saint-Hubert to the west. As Plotnikova aptly describes, the borough boasts “a treasure chest of antique shops and very affordable but endearing cafés.” Soon enough, we had the pleasure of observing this firsthand. En route to our destination we encountered a church bazaar, a costume shop, and a rainforest-themed diner, to name a few of the neighborhood’s delights.

The community seems to thrive, despite lacking the well-manicured appearance of the Plateau or the commercial appeal of the Mile End. That being said, the young entrepreneurs are quick to note that gentrification is not their intention. Coleman playfully jokes that gentrification is “like sugar: delicious in moderation, but don’t go overboard or you’ll end up with a cavity.” She goes on to explain, “we try to keep our prices really low. We are students, after all.” If anything, the proprietors of La Carie have plans to embrace the charm of their newfound home by devoting future endeavours, such as neighbourhood maps and zines, celebrating an under-appreciated place that may seem out-of-the-way to many students.

Walking to the back of the market, passing an array of booths that appeared more like haphazard junk piles (promising one-of-a-kind finds for those willing to dig) we finally spotted the true treasure of the bazaar: La Carie. The boutique’s wide variety of items includes sumptuous snacks, custom stationary, handcrafted adornments, quirky collectables, and imported foods. The owners collaborated on the store’s inventory, each focusing on certain niche products to contribute.

The vinyl collection, for example, was Winer’s project, turning out a superb mix of oldies, goldies, and Quebecois roller disco pop. The vintage clothing selection derives from Wray’s Toronto-based project, Caravan Traveling Vintage, that promises superbly stylish pieces at unbeatable prices. Plotnikova’s watercolours highlight the walls of the quaint kiosk and her rare book collection covers “everything from Norwegian cookbooks to Karate guides.” Although the shoebox-like store seems to be bursting at the seams with unique finds, the creative quintet assures us that this is only the beginning. La Carie promises to deliver an ever-changing array of artfully selected items – and baked goods on Saturdays to boot! (This week’s selection included a delicious vegan fruitcake and savoury broccoli muffins.)

For a place that evokes such hominess, it’s hard to believe that La Carie was born only a few short weeks ago during a chance trip to the neighbourhood. “We didn’t have any sort of business prospect in mind, only junk-shopping,” tells Wray. “We saw that our kiosque had a ‘For Rent’ sign, and when we found out that the rent was something we could actually afford, we decided pretty much right then and there to take the space and do something with it.” Sure enough, with a little time and a lot of hard work, the business partners managed to pull together both creative and practical efforts in time for the big opening day.

We laughed, we ate, and we shopped, but as the day continued we realized that our stay in the flea market paradise would soon be drawing to a close. Unfortunately, the realities of study-filled student life were creeping up on us and we could no longer keep our procrastination-induced guilt at bay. We departed content, our stomachs, hearts, and shopping bags full. With our day at La Carie over, we looked back once more and waved goodbye – and we swore we could hear the wind whispering, “Vive La Carie!”

La Carie is located at 1822 Ontario E. Check out for more information.