Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue department store shows off history with in-house museum
Cristine Tessier’s official title at the G. D’Aoust & Cie department store in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue may be “marketing manager,” but she has also taken on the unofficial position of resident historian ever since her tenure began two years ago.
G. D’Aoust & Cie, a family-run business that was established in 1900 by Guisolphe D’Aoust, now boasts a museum section dedicated to the store’s rich history.
The project is the brainchild of Tessier who first began rummaging through the store’s basement.
“It was a real treasure hunt,” Tessier said. “I felt like Indiana Jones going in the basement with my flashlight and having to creep down because the ceiling is really low, and you never know what you’re gonna find.”
G. D’Aoust & Cie is a 20,000 sq. foot store that has seen all trends in consumerism, from the roaring twenties through online shopping come and go, so when Tessier found vintage items like a 300 pound cash register, sewing machines, shoes and old photos, she knew it could longer just collect dust.
The museum opened to the public three months ago, and it serves not just as a reminder of how things once were, but also of the ambition of one man to create something significant.
G. D’Aoust & Cie, after all, is older than London’s Selfridges which was established in 1909.
“[D’Aoust] had this vision that he could build this huge store and that it would be a great success,” Tessier said. “I think he was very competitive because he travelled the world and brought back silks from China, and spices from India, and cotton from Egypt.”
Perhaps, the most impressive item on display, is the Lamson cash carrying system which was used to carry customers’ payments from the sales assistant to the cashier and then have the change and receipt carried back to the customer.
Although it isn’t used anymore, you can still see the metal wired tubes hanging from the ceiling throughout the store.
G. D’Aoust & Cie’s Lamson network is the only known working system in North America, according to Tessier.
The department store is now managed by Philippe D’Aoust.
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