At the same time, buy local became a rallying call, with the Quebec government promoting the movement through its Le Panier Bleu program. The effort jived with Martel’s enthusiasm and support for eco-friendly, sustainable production methods and that was the impetus for her unique c-store idea.
“The concept wouldn’t have worked before 2020,” she says. “But the pandemic changed everything.”
Buoyed by federal emergency funding she received for her restaurant, which she shuttered for good in October 2020, Martel developed a business plan.
True to her theatrical nature, she named the store Toutes les choses parfaites—the French title for Every Brilliant Thing, a life-affirming play about hope that inspired Martel.
Bringing life to the vision
Her business plan won the regional final in the business start-up category from OSEntreprendre 2021, an awards program designed to foster entrepreneurship in Quebec. “It was extremely encouraging because the store wasn’t even open yet,” recalls Martel. “It gave me a real boost.”
Working with the Société de developpment Angus, which saw the unique c-store as a perfect fit for its revitalization efforts, Martel rented a ground-floor space (next to a small pharmacy and below a medical clinic) in a new four-storey commercial building.
With help from the same designer who did her bistro, Martel worked with a designer to build wood counters, furnishing and other store elements designed to give it what she calls “a feeling of added warmth.”
Though she doesn’t advertise or do promotions (apart from a December 15% discount on Quebec wines to better compete with a nearby SAQ outlet), Martel says word of mouth, together with several articles about her new store in local newspapers, helped to make her new store a going concern from the get-go. She also engages her nearly 3,000 followers on Instagram and Facebook by profiling her local wares. Customers include residents, workers and passers-by of all ages.
“We get a lot of traffic every day throughout the day—though some periods are busier than others,” says Martel, who works in the store (mostly doing orders but helping on cash when needed), alongside her loyal employees—two full time and one part time, who worked with her at her former business.
“It’s a lot of work but it’s also a lot of fun,” says Martel, who is already thinking about opening a second store in Montreal. “I’m getting contacted more and more by new Quebec suppliers. My fridge is full of samples—almost too many to be honest. But it’s a nice problem that I’m more than happy to have.”