(above, Ron Green and his wife, Ginette Nadeau)
Much of St. Catherine Street between Atwater and Guy has been undergoing a modest revival in recent years, other parts on the same stretch are literally closing shop. In the latter category, one of the most notable is ‘Garnitures Dressmaker Ltée’, a veritable Montreal institution since shortly before the Second World War.
First opened in 1937 at 1255 Guy Street under the name ‘Mackay Tailors’, the couturier business quickly changed its designation while at the same time moving, in 1949, to its current location at 2186 St. Catherine Street.
The store’s owner, Ron Green, took over the venture from his father Sam in 1980. Since that time, Green has laboured relentlessly, along with his wife Ginette, at consolidating a successful enterprise based on both honesty and quality in all of its day-to-day transactions.
The boutique sells dressmakers’ supplies of all kinds, trims and accessories although it was never a fabric store as such. Years ago, there was a large market for such wholesalers and, as a result, there were some six or seven similar stores in Montreal. At the time, many people had their clothing made by tailors and dressmakers, not only the wealthy as is so often the case now.
Trimmings Dressmaker Ltd. (its present English language designation) is probably the last of its kind in Montreal. In its early decades, it was a very busy endeavour with a large wholesale business supplying dressmakers, tailors, shops, and factories. There was even a vehicle for the as many as 25 – 30 deliveries a day that the operation made. To this time, Green has memories of just receiving his driver’s license and being assigned to a route that covered much of Montreal.
Production at one point represented half of the business, as Dressmaker made covered buttons and installed snaps in the back of the store as well. Additional services, including alterations, smocking, pleating, tucking, embroidery, were sent elsewhere for carrying out.
However, times have changed. In the past, it was common for women, and even some men, to sew. Girls took home economics in school and learned the basics in how to create their own stylish wardrobe at half the price of ready-made clothing. Today, low-cost imports and discount stores offer such inexpensive garments that it is simply cheaper to buy rather than make your own clothes.
Nevertheless, as society transformed, the undertaking also evolved. Specialty importations of high-quality buttons, trims, and needles from Europe lessened as the numbers of dressmakers dropped. In Montreal, and elsewhere, the dressmaking and tailoring industries slowly disappeared and with them, the supporting trades such as button – making.
Trimmings Dressmaker expanded to include supplies for knitting, needlework, and eventually jewelry-making. Popular how-to classes were given on-site. Although the shop has adapted to changing times, Green, 59, wonders reflectively if society’s love affair with immediate gratification might mean that the pleasures of one’s own creation could be lost in the near future.
Running the small activity over the years has proven time consuming and all encompassing for the Greens. On the verge of reaching their sixties, both wish to spend more time with their two children, and their passion for ballroom dancing. Retirement seems in order.
Accordingly, Trimmings Dressmaker Ltd. will be closing sometime in February after completing a period of liquidation that started on January 3. Until that time, those customers who were so thoughtfully attended to down through the years may wish to drop by to say good-bye to a remarkable couple, and yet another city custom rapidly succumbing to the fast – shifting times.
For further information, telephone Trimmings Dressmaker at 514-935-7421 or write to infos.@trimmingsdressmaker.com
Address: 2186 St. Catherine Street West