When on your own, nothing beats spending an hour in the morning in Saint-Armand. First stop is le Magasin Général for a newspaper and whatever else is on my list. Owner André Lapointe proudly declares that if his store does not have it – you probably don’t need it. How about, a fanbelt for the tractor, a child’s doll, rubber boots. On every visit you notice a treasure you missed previously. Some items are truly from another era, perhaps from before Jacques Benoit bought the store in 1964. The basement, it is said, holds even greater treasures. By the cash is a tray of pastries to die for, delivered personally by Louis Beaudry from his Boulangerie Saint-Armand on Dutch Street. On the way you exchange pleasantries with an acquaintance.
You can buy a book at Costco. I would rather pass twenty minutes immersed in a used book store to discover a gem from another era, all the while having an informative chat with the owner. That is how it is visiting the magasin général.
Then on to Café du Village for a mid-morning breakfast or maybe lunch. After a warm greeting from the energetic Nathalie, you never get a chance to open your newspaper for all the cheerful chatter and laughter between tables. Join in. Being St-Armand, it’s casually back and forth between two languages. Nathalie evidently loves to cook. All jams and jellies are all from her kitchen – how about her bacon jam to slather on a burger. She sells jars of preserves by the thousands. Her mom Martha might be there to help out. The music is great ; the playlist is all Martha. You cannot leave without buying a bag of beignes à l’ancienne.
Above the windows, Raôul Duguay’s script reminds us : « Touttt est dans touttt, touttt est au bouttt. » There is something here to satisfy every sense. No rush to get home.
It is lamentable that our communities have lost the incidental gatherings, such as on the church steps after mass. That is why the village store and café matter beyond supplying immediate needs, particularly if they are places where you are expected to linger if you so choose.
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