After 78 years, Saint-Henri store to shutter amid construction, taxes and changing neighbourhood

After 78 years, Saint-Henri store to shutter amid construction, taxes and changing neighbourhood
The white walls of a non-descript clothing store in Montreal’s Saint-Henri neighbourhood are beginning to look bare as owners pack it in after 78 years in the area.

Libéral, a mainstay on busy Notre-Dame Street, is shuttering at the end of December despite best efforts by management to keep it open. Handwritten messages on yellow bristol boards indicate it is the final sale for the store.

“I just can’t do it any more,” said owner Robert Aboud.

His family’s business took a nosedive after construction in the area ripped up the main drag for two summers and eliminated parking spots outside the store.

More spots disappeared after the sidewalk was widened and summer terrasses for local restaurants were added.

Libéral’s clientele mostly travels by car and there has been a gradual decline since construction, according to Aboud. Most of his clients are from the neighbourhood, but as housing prices skyrocketed in recent years, he said they moved away to the outskirts and they would come by car.

“Customers found other places to shop and places they can park,” he said. “So, it’s been rough.”

Barbara Lynch, who has been working at the store for 20 years, used to shop there with her parents when she was a kid. Libéral long stood as an institution as part of working-class Saint-Henri.

“It’s like my second home,” she said. “I’m going to miss it.”

Aside from construction woes, Aboud simply can’t keep up with the increase in taxes and the property value of his building was raised by $100,000. In order to offset the dwindling sales, he dug deep in his own pockets to continue, dishing out nearly $30,000 in two years —  but it wasn’t enough.
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