Around lunch time on Friday, loyal customers lined up to say their teary-eyed goodbyes and farewells. After 27 years, Place Bagel du Faubourg, located at 1616 St. Catherine Street West, will open its doors one last time tomorrow before ceasing to exist altogether.
Immigrants from São Miguel, the largest island in the Portuguese Azores, Joao and Maria Pires have decided the time is right to close the place down and finally retire.
The couple, who opened Faubourg Bagel Place in 1986, along with another partner Isaac Schneider, want to spend their time doing other things instead of work. “Sunday, I don’t know, we are going to relax the whole day” says Maria, who also intends on devoting more time to her three grandchildren.
Annie Pare, whose family has been frequenting Faubourg Bagel Place for about 25 years, says she is really sad to see this place go. “When you live in southwest, like Verdun, it was the closest place to come.” “My mom used to work around here when I was little, and she brought us bagels and it was always great.”
Colleen, hairstylist at Salon Figaro International, used to work upstairs in the building and would often go grab a bagel sandwich for lunch. “It’s sad, it’s just really really sad that they are closing. It was the only good thing about the place (Le Faubourg).”
Initially, Joao learned the ropes by baking bread for various in bakeries in and around the city. At one stop, he worked for Isaac Schneider, who owned a bagel shop in the Côte-des-Neiges area of the city. Then, just as Le Faubourg was set to open its doors, Joao received a call from his boss asking him if he was interested in going into business together.
“Before he opened, Isaac called me and asked me if I wanted to be with him (in the Faubourg), so I said okay. I was young at the time. I had nothing to lose.”
In the beginning, business was booming. Both say “It was like a gold mine.” Maria remembers the halcyon days fondly. “The Faubourg was a beautiful place to be, always packed with people, always busy.” “We were so busy we had lineups. On Saturday and Sunday, you couldn’t come inside there were so much people.” Things continued going well into the 90’s and early 2000’s, but then, more shops began to close down.
The condition of the Faubourg has been in steady decline, which has affected their business. Joao says he noticed things really start to change around 2003 and 2004. “I lost a lot of customers only because of the condition of the floor” says Joao. “From a gold-mine it went to zero. Business is down 95% compared to 7 years ago”
When asked what has changed about the venerable (although some may say dilapidated) building and locale, Maria simply shakes her head. “I look around, and see nothing”. People call this the ghost town.”
As for why they will not sell it to someone else, the owners believe that you have to learn how to make bagels properly in order to be successful. “It looks easy, but it takes years of experience.”
The secret to their success? “It’s the way you mix the dough” says Joao, whose bagels are 95 percent flour and 5 percent sugar. “It’s the touch, the way your roll the dough.”