Nowadays, nearly everyone can recommend the best brand of shampoo or cleaning product. But while that’s fine and dandy, there’s a marked difference between what this gesture meant 50 years ago in comparison to today. After all, how many people do you know who can name more than three -“ or any -“ ingredients in the products they use, or where they’re manufactured for that matter?
Lindsay Davis began asking herself these kinds of questions a couple of years ago. But rather than writing to companies or decorating protest signs, she took a different approach by opening up an urban general store in the heart of Saint-Henri, called Fait Ici.
“I started watching documentaries, reading different books, and really sort of taking an interest in where our food comes from. And it kind of scared me that as a consumer, if we weren’t more conscious, that these big conglomerates were going to end up taking over,” she said.
Fait Ici aims not only to sell products that have been responsibly made, but also to primarily source products that have been produced in Quebec.
While a lot of the store’s offerings -“ their artisanal jewelry, in particular -“ come right from Montreal, the food baskets travel from between one to two hours away.
Davis, who is a Nova Scotian transplant herself, thought Montreal was the perfect place to open up this kind of store after falling in love with the city and deciding to stay.
“There’s a ton of great stuff going on in Montreal. I had no plans of going back home, and so I guess it was just a natural, organic occurrence that it would be Montreal,” she said. “It’s a great city.”
She said the idea for the store came the same way that many of the store’s products are made -“ naturally, of course.
“I was just kind of brainstorming -“ actually Jackson, my partner, and I were sitting out on the back deck, having a beer, […] and I said, -˜Wouldn’t it be so cool if you went into a store and you could see how far a product traveled, and where it was from, and that you knew they were being sourced locally and sustainably […]” she recalled. “And then, next thing I knew, I just kind of took this idea, ran with it, and started writing a business plan.”
The contrast of having a store fashioned after such a traditional concept in the urban landscape of Montreal does not escape her.
She was inspired by general stores of the past (where you could find yourself cleaning products, soap and the ingredients for tonight’s meal all in one go) when coming up with the concept for Fait Ici.
“The thought of that always inspired me, how you could walk in somewhere and never know what you’re really going to find,” she explained. “And I guess that sort of inspiration tied into this really undying urge I have to support our local farmers and know about the products we’re buying. So it was kind of like the two worlds colliding for me into this concept that has just grown, and is continuing to grow.”
Connected with that idea is the desire to bring back quality customer service, which with the fast motion of a modern-day credit card swipe, Davis believes has been lost nowadays.
“I really felt that that was lost, just genuine interaction when you go into a store, and being able to ask questions, and not feel intimidated. Being able to have a conversation with somebody about interests that you share,” she said.
“That’s kind of what Fait Ici is all about for me. I pretty much eat, sleep, live and breathe Fait Ici, so it is my hope that people feel that, that they feel welcome and they feel comfortable, and they have a pleasant experience. I guess that’s kind of the atmosphere that I’m trying to breed.”
And it seems to be working for the store, which also invites customers to take a load off and stay for lunch. The menu, which varies from day to day, offers salads to sandwiches, sometimes using seasonal products.
Yet past the homeyness and carefully chosen products the store provides, at the very core of its existence is the purpose to educate people about where their food and products come from.
“I think it’s important to know because I think the quality of what we’re buying now in terms of food and in terms of other products is not what it was 30, 40 years ago -“ 20 years ago. I think it’s changed so much, and so, again, it’s up to the consumer to take a stand and make a choice […] A lot of people don’t vote. But they spend money. They go out every day and they buy things. So, in a way, that’s like your vote, that’s saying what you believe in, and what you support,” explained Davis.
“At the end of the day, all this stuff that’s genetically modified and not labelled, it’s all out there and nobody knows, and people are pushing to have things like that labelled now,” she continued. “And that’s just it, I think it takes people standing up and taking an invested interest in these types of things, and that’s what’s going to create change.”
Fait Ici is located at 2519 Notre-Dame W. St.
Opening hours: Mon: closed, Tue-Fri: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sat: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sun: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.