Like any city worth living in, Montreal has its fair share of vintage shops. But few haunts, here or elsewhere, are filled with as much history or frankly, as much stuff as The Little Shop. Located on a residential stretch of Parc Ex, the uninformed passerby would assume this three-story brick house was just like any other. However, step through the front door and in the place of a living room, kitchen, bedroom and den, you’ll find walls and walls of impeccably kept antique and vintage collections: fur coats, smoking jackets, hand-hooked rugs, belt buckles, trenches, cameras, hand-made quilts, lamps, wedding gowns, prints, Raggedy Anne dolls, baptism dresses, perfume bottles, magazines, tailcoats, lingerie, dishware, lamps… The list is seemingly endless.
First established nearly 50 years go by Ann Silverstone, who started out as an art dealer in Montreal in the ‘30s, The Little Shop is now run by her daughter Jill and colleague Phyliss, who was there when it all began (and still knows where every item belongs.) “They were the original Thelma and Louise,” Jill explains. One of their most prized collections, and possibly the most impressive corner of this house-turned-vintage-haven is the lace room. Approved by lace guilds and groups alike, this world-class collection of hand-made items, most dating back to the early 1900’s, “could be a shop on its own.” With so many awe-inspiring items to explore – Bakelite umbrellas, vintage class photos, jewellery, brooches, miniatures, hats, alarm clocks – it’s easy to overlook the clothes. Most of the frocks, blouses, blazers and bottoms you’ll find on these racks date from the ’60s and earlier (think cinched-waist day dresses, perfectly pleated skirts and tweeds like they ain’t made anymore) but there’s plenty of ‘80s and ‘90s fierceness to go around, too (power suits by the likes of Marie Saint Pierre and Calvin Klein, all-over-sequin dresses, blazers with shoulders for miles, etc.)
While all this amounts to an experience of epic proportions on its own, and surely enough to make the most seasoned vintage shopper hyperventilate with excitement, it’s the love that makes this shop one of a kind. “My mother sort of promoted it as a social place,” Jill explains, “she’s had a lot of famous people come through here and she always treated people the same.” We won’t name names, but there’s nothing “regular” about The Little Shop’s regulars. Tea and cookies are served in the afternoons, and the conversation is never dull. Years ago, the CBC even went as far as to leave a tape recorder in the shop and broadcast the ongoing chitchat as their radio show. Whether you’re heading here for the shopping or for the conversation (we suggest both), make sure you set aside plenty of time. We guarantee it’ll be well spent.
The Little Shop, 1002 Ogilvy (corner Birnam), Montreal, No telephone (talk about old school!) but they do respond to inquiries via Twitter
Open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 2pm to 5pm