Mich Café de Chandler, and a summary of Gaspé history

Dany Marquis

In recent months, I have worked on setting up a coffeeshop, which opened its doors on April 21. It's always a pleasure for me to support a promoter who has had the coffee bug, but when the opening is located in Gaspésie, the project becomes for me an act of resistance. Each independent business that establishes itself in an area helps stimulate the local economy, and let me preach for my parish, but I consider coffeeshops to be a vital element of the economic ecosystem. Not because it generates millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs, but because in general, it adds to the happiness of a community. Note that I consider the same thing for artisanal bakeries, neighborhood butchers, fishmongers, etc. All these small businesses exude passion and positively contaminate the community.

And when a community has evolved in a mono-industrial universe for more than a hundred years, experiencing failures, disappointments, and drunken promises, we can feel a certain general fatigue and cynicism in the face of new companies, especially the big ones that come siphon off natural resources. Gaspésie is full of this type of town and village.

And if we listen closely, we can hear a dull anger. Closed factories, unemployment, the exploitation of fishermen, the closure of villages by the BAEQ in 70, expropriations... After two generations, the majority forgets what happened, but deep in their hearts, there is something left. A legacy that we pass on without wanting to.

And, it was with this background in mind that I gave Jean-Michel Audet a hand in setting up his coffeshop in Chandler.

The challenge was to set up a simple coffeeshop, in the spirit of 3rd wave cafes while keeping the Italian approach to the coffee bar. Very good coffee, without the snobbery and the hipster side, which wouldn't last long in Chandler anyway. And it was done. And the start was off to a flying start with an anticipation rarely seen! The coffee is good, the baristas quickly understood the art of coffee, everything is done without bling bling. Even the village hipster is happy to order his ristretto there!

I haven't told anyone about what opening this little café meant to me, but after a few weeks of opening, I can feel that I was right on target. Something is happening in Chandler.

Gaspésia The premises chosen by Jean-Michel are perfect, because its facade faces directly towards the sea, passing over the immense wasteland left by the demolition of Gaspésia. Gaspésia was huge, ugly, by the sea, white-beige-gray with a horrible blue line with square corners. Who could have said in a meeting: ''we're going to paint a big blue stripe on the front, it'll look nice...''?

For me, Mich Café is the flower that breaks through the asphalt of the old cracked street. A bit like I saw when I was 7-8 years old in St-Paulin Dalibaire. A closed, abandoned village, and in the middle of a concrete slab, a flower. I had noticed the flower. I had also noticed the silence, the heaviness of the air, and through the fishing stories, nothing about the history of this village. I understood later while listening to Jean-Claude Labrecque's film Les Smattes and another NFB film on the closure of St-Octave-de-l'Avenir which you can listen to by clicking on this link at the bottom of the text. I understood, and now I can see the scars.

There is also so much to say about the history of Chandler and the large companies that came to settle there. Generations of Gaspé residents have made a living from forestry and pulp and paper mills. I invite you to Google the words ''Usine Gaspésia Chandler'' to find out more, you will see pages of news alternating between a hope of continuing and an announcement of closure.

And I strongly invite you, during your next tour of Gaspésie, to make a stop in Chandler, to go and see the little Mich Café and the businesses on Rue Commerciales which are emerging. Then, you will go down the hill to go to rue de la Plage, where you will find Nova Lumina.

Now that Gaspésia no longer overshadows it, young shoots are emerging! Sometimes it only takes one drop to break the camel's back, well I think it takes just one drop to make a difference. And you will forgive my chauvinism, but in my opinion, this little café is what was missing, what will be the tipping point for an entire community. I hope that Jean-Michel's audacity and courage to offer the city something other than Mouette-Café will infect other people and that we will soon see other local businesses there. An artisanal bakery, a microbrewery, a cheese factory, with a population of 7,500 people, there is a way, by showing solidarity, to sustain a beautiful string of small businesses. Go have a coffee and chat business! Let the ideas abound!

We are far from replacing the high salaries of the 500 jobs lost with Gaspésia, but in my opinion, it is better to base our economy on 50 companies with 10 employees than to put all our eggs in one basket.

And I will end with this, after reading and listening to the reports on Gaspésia, add up all the money invested in Gaspésia by the government, and divide that by the 50 companies with 10 employees. And try to imagine what the portrait of the city would be like today if this approach had been favored! And it looks like we're experiencing the same thing again with a cement company...

Let's stay positive and work in a different way!

Long live Mich Café! And may Gaspésie be a model of prosperity and mutual assistance!

And thank you Jean-Michel for trusting us!



  • Gilbert A Pineau

    De la part d’un Gaspésien errant, permet-moi de te féliciter une fois encore pour ta vision inspirante et porteuse d’espoir. Bon sang ne peut mentir, bravo à toi et à tous ceux et celles que ta détermination inspire et qui te suivent.

  • MEve StLaurent

    Bel éditorial Dany! Merci de porter notre voix… authentique un jour, authentique toujours :) On construit avec le coeur et c’est cette multitude de petits fleurons qui fait de notre coin de pays une force tranquille et épanoui. Je me réjouis de déguster un Mich café!

  • Justine

    C’est un beau message d’espoir et réaliste. J’ai vu changer le visage de la Gaspésie dans les quarante dernières années. J’y crois!

  • Marie-Josée Grenier

    L’essentiel du message est là! S’entraider en Gaspésie, s’encourager et faire pousser de petites nouvelles entreprises nourries par les gens du village et des petites villes environnantes est essentiel pour survivre et redonner à la Gaspésie et à ses gens, la fièreté et l’autonomie .Oser la créativité! Ça fourmille de créativité en Gaspésie; ne manque que les connaissances pour faire éclore de beaux projets comme ceux-là! « Faire pousser la vie et la beauté là où il y a eu abandon et chagrin » Merci! Quel beau geste de votre part!!

  • Marie-Claude Theriault

    Maudit que tu écris bien!!! Longue vie au Mich Café. On fera le détour.

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