Montreal is a haven for all things used. From unparalleled finds on the side of the road, to intricately curated vintage shops, if you’re looking for something specific, there’s usually a way to find it.
Empire Exchange (51 Bernard St. W.) is the only store in Montreal that will buy your used clothes in exchange for either cash or store credit. For thrift store prices with a curated selection, Local 23 (23 Bernard St. W.) has a wide assortment of items that are usually under $30, while Annex Vintage (56 St. Viateur St. W.) has a smaller, but higher-quality selection of slightly pricier items. Together, these stores are the golden trio of vintage stores. With the same owner, they all offer slightly different collections, but you’re guaranteed to find something great.
If you’re into the more adventurous side of thrifting, Eva B (2015 St. Laurent Blvd.) has a literal pit of clothing that you can climb into and dig around. Just pray that there aren’t any bedbugs at the bottom.
Below Mont-Royal Ave. on St. Laurent Blvd. there are a couple of vintage stores, including Friperie St-Laurent (3976 St. Laurent Blvd.) and Kitsch n’ Swell (3968 St. Laurent Blvd.), that have knick-knacks from every era, and outfits ranging from outrageous to black-tie appropriate.
For cheaper options that will just take a little more determination on the part of the shopper, Goodwill-owned Fripe-Prix Renaissance has locations all around the city, with stock replenished frequently. Definitely go back if there’s nothing that caught your eye in round one.
There’s something special about vinyl. It feels more valuable in your hands with its big, beautiful artwork and it can’t simply be copied by anyone with a laptop. You listen to the same record more closely and more often. With the newfound demand for vinyl, however, it’s often the most expensive option when buying music.
Here is your beginner’s guide to Montreal used vinyl, to add to your collection or just make use of your dad’s old turntable that was collecting dust in his basement. These stores each have their own character and niche, and most also offer concert tickets for local and touring acts. Some of these stores also offer formidable selections of new records, but we’ve listed the must-visits for second-hand quality, selection and bargains.
Beyond these stores, keep an eye out for garage sales and record swaps. You’d be surprised what gems are hiding among the Quebecois pop and Christmas records.
Phonopolis (207 Bernard St. W.) has a used section that’s a treasure trove of records spanning from world music and jazz to the odd new release. In the heart of the Mile End, it’s always worth perusing the “new arrivals” for a few minutes. Your inner music snob will be humbled by how many band names you don’t recognize.
In boxes on the floor are hundreds of old records under $5.00 too, with the vinyl often in great shape despite worn-out sleeves. Used stuff is also mixed among the genre sections.
L’Oblique (4333 Rivard St.) has a solid showing of classics and local releases, and Sound Central (4486 Coloniale Ave.) has you covered on the more punk and underground side of things. Venture further north for classic rock, punk, new wave and more at La Fin du Vinyle (6307 St. Laurent Blvd.).
Channel your inner packrat with a visit to Paul’s Boutique (112 Mont-Royal Ave. E.) for vinyl, books, VHS tapes and more. There’s so much on the shelves that you might want to stretch before flipping through it all.
Le Pick-Up (169 des Pins Ave. E.) will satisfy a real vinyl junkie with their vast selection of original pressings, and if you want to stock up on the classics, visit Beatnik (3773 St. Denis St.). Cheap Thrills (2044 Metcalfe St.) has dollar bins for the thriftiest of vinyl lovers.
Encore (5670 Sherbrooke St. W) is overwhelming. And it’s highly appropriate, since it was created as the result of an overwhelming obsession to collect used books and records. It started as a family thing, when a father and his son began to hunt together for literary and audio treasures before eventually turning their dangerously increasing collection into a store nine years ago. Here you’ll find stacked on gigantic shelves graphic novels, history-related readings, esthetically pleasing old books, children’s stories, a fully stocked literature section and lots of other cool book-related oddities. A comfy-looking couch sits in the middle of the room, begging you to have a seat and listen to whatever record the turntable wants to play.
La Librairie Mona Lisait (2054, St. Denis St.) est le royaume poussiéreux de Véronique Klauber. Mona Lisa, qui trône sur la vitrine depuis maintenant sept ans, vous fait un clin d’oeil entendu lorsque vous entrez. Véronique déboule : «Vous cherchez quelque chose en particulier?» N’hésitez pas à lui demander conseil—c’est une véritable encyclopédie littéraire. Elle choisit ses livres assortis à ses goûts, mais aussi «en fonction de [sa] déprime, en fonction de [son] optimisme, en fonction de l’air du temps, en fonction du soleil», dit-elle, un peu espiègle. Des livres et d’autres objets hétéroclites occupent les deux tiers de l’espace contigu. Parmi eux, une guitare qu’il arrive à Véronique de jouer si l’envie lui en prend. Pour la «malchance» des clients peut-être, dit-elle avec un sourire.
Two things you should know about S.W. Welch Bookseller (225 St. Viateur St. W.) bookshop: it has existed for about 30 years and its owner, Stephen, does amateur photography and collects miniatures of historical monuments. This store has the regular (but cool) stuff: literature, theatre, poetry and fine arts sections, as well as children’s books, sci-fi, mystery and cookbooks. Other important information: an army of chairs, couches and benches are provided for you to examine the contents of these used treasures. Stephen also thought about the “non-book buyer,” also known as the people you’re dragging inside against their will because you saw an interesting cover in the window display. Vintage posters and old newspapers scattered throughout the store will keep them busy and happy.
Once a year—usually in late spring or early summertime—Montreal’s libraries trim their bookshelves and put everything up for sale in a the Aréna Etienne-Desmarteau (3430 Bellechasse St.). There’s not a better time to snatch books at crazy prices (usually not more than $2.00)—in both French and English. At the sale, titled Le solde de livres des Amis de la Bibliothèque de Montréal, you can find everything from old history books with awesome covers to last year’s New York Times bestseller. Also to be found during this one-week sale: arts books, magazines and vinyl. Check out bibliomontreal.com for more information.
The mother of all vintage shopping, the Marché aux Puces St.-Michel (3250 Crémazie Blvd. E) is packed full of every old object you can think of. As you emerge from Saint-Michel metro station at the end of the Blue line (and wonder where the hell we’re sending you), the nondescript exterior betrays the mountain of antique and kitsch within. Seriously, you’ll lose your friends exploring this place. Clothes, dishes, audio equipment (including lots of vinyl), picture frames, trinkets, collector’s items—we don’t have the space to list all the awesome and obscure collections on offer here weekends from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It’s worth harassing someone with a car to pick up some furniture, from the old and cheap to the pricey and ornate. Get a crash course in haggling; thrift masters, try your skills on the second floor.