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Unique leather shop in Plateau-Mont-Royal to close after rent triples

Click to play video: 'Unique leather shop in Montreal to close over rent hike'
Unique leather shop in Montreal to close over rent hike
WATCH: Montreal’s Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood is known for being a haven for artists. Cheap rents once drew colourful characters to the area. But now, rent increases are pushing away the very thing that made the neighbourhood so attractive: its people. One of those people is a leather artisan who some are calling a staple in the community. Global’s Gloria Henriquez reports – Apr 1, 2024

The Plateau-Mont-Royal neighborhood is known for being a haven for artists.

Cheap rents drew colorful characters to the area.

But rents have gone up, pushing away the very thing that made the neighborhood so attractive: the people.

One of those people is a leather artisan, who some are calling: a staple in the community of Petit-Laurier.

David Rogers is a local celebrity, admired by residents and passerbys alike.

“I’m an artist myself actually, and I love all the local galleries but actually this might be one of my personal favourites,” said Tressa Marré, a resident.

It’s hard not to marvel at what his storefront has to offer: part improptu art gallery, part custom leather atelier.

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Rogers and his store are a staple of the Petit-Laurier neighborhood.

“It’s why people wanna be here in the first place, it’s for this place,” Marré said.

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Rogers takes comments like Marré’s in stride.

“You’re taking me too seriously,” he laughed. “But it’s nice to hear that.”

But that’s all about to change. Rogers is closing his shop soon. He says the building he’s been in for more than 20 years was sold and the new owner is tripling his rent.

At 80 years old, he says, he’s at peace with the change.

“Who knows, maybe on the day I turn the keys over, I’ll have a breakdown or something,” he laughed again. “Anyway, it’s something I’ve done before. I’ve had a life that radically changes and turns.”

Calling himself a vagabond, for many years his shoes longed to stray. Rogers travelled the world before coming to Montreal, living in Spain, Amsterdam and France, where he sold his leather creations in the streets of Paris to sustain his trips.

It was in San Francisco, where he opened his first leather shop. Right across a fruit store, just like on Laurier Street in Montreal.

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He works with exotic leathers such as lizard, deer and bear and is completely self-taught.

“I started doing leather work because this man suggested it. I was telling this guy, ‘I’m broke, I need money, the rent is due, what should I do?’ And he said ‘make sandals, David, nobody in Denver makes sandals, you’d be the only person’.”

His unique work has attracted the attention of some big names.

“I looked up and Julia Roberts was standing right there, in front of my desk,” he said.

But what he says he’s most proud of, is his wildly popular annual Easter egg contest. And he now has a decade’s worth of whimsical creations by neighbourhood residents.

“All of this work reflects my immediate neighbours, especially all the kids’ eggs. They live within two or three blocks from here,” Rogers proudly said.

He hopes to find a home for the collection so it can be displayed and enjoyed for more years to come.

Creating that joy in the neighborhood is what he says he will miss the most.

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