Many locals and business owners in the Mile End neighbourhood feel they have been slighted with the recent opening of David’s Tea on St-Viateur Street.
David’s Tea was founded in Montreal by David Segal, who himself was born and raised in this city. It is a homegrown chain that succeeded and grew, with dozens of stores across the country. While St-Viateur is populated by local family businesses, David’s Tea is the only specialty tea shop on the street and therefore does not take away any business from local owners.
The company offers several loose-leaf teas and blends like Cherry Potion and Forever Nuts, unique products that cater to tea admirers. Iconic coffee shops such as Club Social and Cafe Olimpico will remain unaffected.
It is the only chain store on a street that is peppered with bagel shops, cafÃ©s, and local eateries. Some feel that this could disrupt the area’s “bohemian” vibe by encouraging other chain stores to open up in the Mile End. Some have expressed a fear that it will turn into Mont-Royal or Parc Avenue, littered with chain stores. Rent is beginning to steadily increase, houses and condos are being built on upper St-Laurent, and many feel that Mile End is falling victim to gentrification, and that it’s only a matter of time before all character is lost.
All of these fears are a bit hyperbolic. Their arguments are entirely opinion-based and contain no statistics or economic proof that would indicate that the presence of this tea shop is in any way detrimental to the area.
Residents think that the community will undergo a drastic change because of the chain expanding to a smaller community. Just because one national store opens up, the whole area will not necessarily undergo an industrial revolution of sorts. The dominoes will stay intact. Owner Segal even recently told The Gazette: “We are the only tea shop on the street and are excited to bring quality tea to the neighbourhood.” That doesn’t sound like anything a Starbucks franchise owner would ever say.
Besides, there are plenty of other businesses in the Mile End that don’t just cater to a local clientele. Ubisoft (25 studios in 17 countries) and Discreet Logic (owned by multinational company Autodesk, Inc.), both part of the art world and both operating out of the Mile End, don’t disrupt the artistic and creative flows that permeate the area. For that reason David’s Tea shouldn’t have to limit itself to a local customer base to open a store on St-Viateur either.
In my opinion, if the public opinion isn’t uniform, it shouldn’t count. While the Mile End is part of the Plateau Mont-Royal borough, and the latter has certainly opened itself up to a slew of international chains, it’s up to residents and local merchants of the Mile End to make sure that any new businesses abide by the existing mentality against gentrification.
The Mile End neighbourhood is famous for boasting narrow alleys, industrial architecture and ethnic restaurants. Though cafes have grown to become staples of the community, they don’t define it. David’s Tea is not interfering with anyone by becoming a business there. The aesthetic essence has not been disrupted, the ethnic restaurants remain unchanged, and the character ever-present on St-Viateur Street and in the Mile End still thrives on a somewhat artisan feel. One store, no less a Montreal-based one, cannot disrupt that.