The first thing you notice about Dépanneur Fleur Bleue (4899 Berri) is the large sign above the entrance, hung between two columns on the second floor of a summery white stucco façade across from the St-Joseph entrance of Laurier metro. The sign, the flowerpots, the green awnings and even the fake shutters on the windows have a cheerful quality that goes beyond the often spartan window-dressing of ordinary corner dépanneurs.
Step over the threshold and you’ll find that the interior has the same feel. The large store space has several aisles of basic groceries, as well as two prêt-à-manger counters: one with kimbap, sushi, spring rolls and other pan-Asian snacks, and the other with baguette and croissant sandwiches as well as wraps. Some of these options are prepared at a surprisingly full-service deli counter, behind which sits a soft-serve machine for the warm weather months. The viennoiserie selection is delivered daily and shockingly fresh, compared to the sad chocolate-chip-muffin approach of most deps. Two round café tables are inviting but perpetually underused — this is a metro transfer dep, after all. By the window, a large selection of cut flowers have their own dedicated fridge. There’s something different going on in every sunlit corner of this place with a perfectly suited Radio Classique soundtrack.
A few years back I had friends who shared a large St-Jo triplex apartment that was owned by the same Lee family that owns Fleur Bleue. They went to Fleur Bleue to pay their rent and for regular dep shopping as well. Madame Lee was delighted to see them every time and offered them more free flowers than they knew what to do with.
Family businesses can be charming just as well as they can be perfectly miserable. Steps from Laurier metro station and its hectic bus detour where Berri bends into Gilford, Dépanneur Fleur Bleue is an oasis for the busy commuter or the partygoer who didn’t make it to the SAQ before closing time, a reliable stalwart for the Plateau-dweller hopping on the metro to go to a friend’s place across town or an enchanting sight for the French expat getting lost in the narrow East End streets for the first time. Few dépanneurs have put so much love and energy into making use of every inch of space. It’s the kind of place you wish you could spend more time in — but if you’re like most of us, you’ve got a train to catch. ■