The 495 Route de la Mer
This is the story of my gallery studio in Sainte-Flavie. Whew, where to start? I think I’ll start at the very beginning, a few years before the transformation into a store, during my years as a young entrepreneur full of courage and heart.
Episode 1: The Garage
Spring 1996, the small Shell garage at the intersection of the municipality of Sainte-Flavie was for sale. A small sign posted in the corner of the window easily caught the attention of Marcel, my father, as he was filling up with gas. The story happened very quickly and, a few weeks later, I was the happy owner of a gas station at the intersection of Route 132, where the road turns back on itself after its long journey around the Gaspé. But me, in those years, my dream was to have a convenience store. So after a expansion and some renovations, I had a gas station and a convenience store. What I haven’t told you yet is that after only 11 days, after going to the notary, there was a life changing event. The price war on gasoline and the takeover of Shell gas stations by Petro-Canada. The profit margins melted like snow in the sun. So, 5 years later, out of breath and out of resources, I decided to close the garage and my nightmare dream: The convenience store.
Episode 2: Art Station
It was in 2001 that I decided to wipe the slate clean of my childhood dream and set out to conquer the world of boutiques and art galleries. Oh yes! I forgot, I was also dreaming of cafés. After a spring full of emotions and hours of hard work with Marcel, the arch door that represents “Les portes de la Gaspésie” was born . The sculpture still stands proudly in front of my art gallery studio. Art Station was thus ready to open for St-Jean-Baptiste Day. The building was separated into three sections, more or less delimited. In the former convenience store was the art gallery which displayed paintings and sculptures by Marcel Gagnon. If you followed correctly, this Marcel is my father. At the other end, on the garage side, was a small cafe that extended outside on windless sunny days thanks to the garage doors. In the middle of it all was a small store with local crafts. In the store, there were also two walls decorated with paintings. One was reserved for the painter Johanne Doucet from Bic and the other for a naive painter very well known in my family, my brother Guillaume. I think I hold a record for the café having closed after only 4 weeks. I closed it during one night, in the middle of the construction vacations with the help of my brother-in-law Dany. The day before that closure, a couple came in for an afternoon coffee and the next morning they were very surprised to discover a store right where they had been drinking their beverage. Let’s just say that coffee was not my cup of tea. Well, back to art, I was surrounded by paintings and I didn’t paint. I don’t know if you know this, but the first Tuesday in September, the one right after Labor Day, it gets pretty quiet in Gaspésie. Between the customers of my store, I decided to start painting. Still too shy to do it in front of witnesses like now, but in the office-warehouse at the back of the store. It was also that year that La Route des Arts de Sainte-Flavie was born, I will surely tell you more about it in an article devoted solely to La Route des Arts.
Episode 3: Galerie Jean-Pierre Gagnon
After a winter of painting interspersed with the installation of winter and summer tires in a local garage (one must eat too) I began the 2002 season with a few paintings of my own creation. Wow! Not only did I love to paint, I could make a living at it. One tourist season later, I knew in me what I was really passionate about, painting and the arts. So during the off-season, I decided to change the name of Art Station to Galerie Jean-Pierre Gagnon.
Over the years, my painting was evolving at a rapid pace and painting was acting on me like an addictive drug. I felt more and more like an entrepreneurial painter rather than an entrepreneurial painter. Everything now seemed to be in its place. Everything in its place until… During the fall, my brother Guillaume announced that he was building a house and that this would free up a space in the Art Center next to the art gallery, where he lived with his young family. Shortly thereafter, someone made me an offer to buy my business and then, guess what, I decided to sell and go display my paintings on the second floor of the Art Center. Ironically, the space that was reserved for me was part of my old room, the one where I had spent some quality time as a teenager. Still, it was an important decision, as I had just had a great season at my Art Gallery.
Episode 4: Boutique l’Artisan 100% Original
I’m starting to think that it’s going to be hard to make a short story. But hey, I’m trying to condense a lot anyway. You’re lucky I don’t type very fast on the keyboard. Anyway, after several months of stress and “missing a paper here and there”, the deal fell through or failed (in Ste-Flavie, by the sea, we use both expressions). When spring came, I decided to expand my store into an art gallery. I remained faithful to my plan of the moment, that of going to paint with my family at the Art Center. Exhibiting and painting in the same art gallery as your mother, father, brother and sister, that doesn’t happen every day. What happiness! My passion for painting continued to grow along with my sales. I don’t know if you can see me coming, but a store full of crafts and necklaces can’t be called Galerie Jean-Pierre Gagnon. So one night, around 11pm, I tried to change the name of the business on the Canada Business Registry website. I tried to change “Galerie Jean-Pierre Gagnon” to “Boutique l’Artisan”. However, the program would not accept my name, it had written an error message in the style of: “Your business name must contain something original” and quoted an example that I do not remember. I selected the original word without the e with the mouse, did a “copy and paste” and added 100% afterwards, just to make sure it was original enough for the computer program. My new store name was finally found. Boutique l’Artisan 100% Original had become my trademark. My wife who was passing by could not believe her eyes.
Episode 5: Painter Jean-Pierre Gagnon’s Studio
After several years of painting, passion and intensive sales, the Atelier du peintre Jean-Pierre Gagnon arrived. My art and business were doing very well though. Perhaps I needed independence or more space. To be honest, I still don’t know. Maybe it was because it was going too well! So I decided one morning to go back to the corner. I am referring to the descriptions of my business by the locals. Moving back was mentally challenging, because for one of the few times in this adventure, I was living well from my painting. The first year, I operated my building by reserving half for my art gallery and the other half for the store. The next year I cut half again for the store. Now I have a very large studio with an art gallery and a small gift corner made from my work. And guess what? The name Boutique l’artisan 100% original doesn’t go well with a workshop and art gallery anymore…..