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Alcantara fleuristes

Five generations of passionate florists

There was once a Belgian aristocrat of Spanish decent who came to Montreal to make a new life. His name was Carlos D'Alcantara and he was madly in love with a French ballerina. Carlos' parents didn't want him to have anything to do with the young girl who wasn't from their world. Carlos and his new bride decided to leave everything behind and together they boarded a ship to Canada and settled in Tétreaultville, which is now known as the Mercier area of the city of Montreal.

In 1917 there were no streets or sidewalks outlining the roads in the Eastern part of the island of Montreal. Carlos D'Alcantara had to start his live from scratch, but this ingenious builder had a mind for business. He cultivated melon for some time and then started working with flowers in 1925. Without realizing it, he had planted the seed that would become the most recognized name in the floral industry in the region of Montreal.

When Carlos passed away in 1926, one of his sons named Joseph took over the family business. He then passed on his knowledge to his four brothers who also wanted to grow on their own and start their own greenhouses. Two of them chose to stay in Eastern Montreal.

The first D'Alcantara store was at the corner of Notre-Dame and Pierre-Bernard street. It would be the head office till the beginning of the 1990's. Joseph D'Alcantara then passed his knowledge onto his son Marcel, who in turn, passed it along to his daughter Micheline. From that time to the present, D'Alcantara offers a wide range of floral and gardening services.

When Micheline's daughter Dany was of age to learn the craft, her grandfather Marcel took her under his wing. "At seventeen" she says "I had other plans like joining the Army. But after working with my mother and grandfather during Valentine's Day and other holiday peak seasons, I began to love the floral profession." That's all it took for the fifth generation of the D'Alcantara empire to enter the unlimited universe of flowers.

The D'Alcantara women continue after the D'Alcantara men

Three years later, and only 20 years of age, Dany Gaudet changed the course of things for the family business. During this time things are chaotic and she finds it more and more difficult to work with family, particularly her grandfather, with whom she had major differences. Personalities and generations collide: "It's not always easy to work with family. Working together goes like this: I think of something, my mom thinks of something else and then my grandfather thinks of yet another thing. I had to make a choice between my career and my grandfather. I chose my grandfather."

Dany then decides to leave her grandfather's store and looks for another job as a florist. During that same time, Micheline continues to work with her father on a part time basis. One day out of the blue, tired of being unemployed, Dany goes to see her mom and says: "Mom, why don't we open our own shop?" Micheline can't get over the courage her daughter has, since she is so young and has no business experience or training. Micheline trusts her daughter and allows being convinced into joining this new venture.

On July 18th, 2007, they opened their own store in Longueuil. They remember their struggles like it was yesterday. Dany remembers "We were four people working in a 460 square foot room and the fridge took up 80 of them! During holidays, customers would line up all the way to outside. When we officially opened some people said that our store wasn't up to the D'Alcantara name because it was too small. That hurt, but we were starting from scratch! We had limited means and no customer database. There were days where we'd sell a violet for $6.50 plus taxes! God knows that you have to sell a lot of violets to pay the rent."

Today, the sceptics have definitely been proven wrong. The D.M. D'Alcantara store in Longueuil now has a "respectable" surface of 2,000 square feet and business is good. Another turning point in the business' history is the acquisition of Paul D'Alcantara's store in 2001. Micheline and Dany purchased the 5,000 square foot store situated on Sherbrooke East street, corner of Langelier.

One question remains: why the new "Les Dames D'Alcantara" name? "To differentiate ourselves from all of the men who came before us in the business!", is the response from Micheline.

The tradition evolves

From the start of her business life, Dany Gaudet understood the importance of acquiring good habits to preserve her family's as well as the business' health. She says "the important thing is to avoid talking about it at home because we're always together. At one time, I didn't even feel like going to my mom's!"

"We've progressed" adds Micheline. "We used to talk about it all the time at home but we don't let it interfere with our family anymore."

If the D'Alcantara florists have a wonderful notoriety in the domain, it's because of their knowledge and experience, but also because it's a family business, as says Marcel D'Alcantara. "Customers love to see generations follow each other in business. Such continuity inspires confidence and portrays stability. And in our case, five generations is impressive! This is a very rare thing in business and people find it great!" he concludes.

The grandfather raises his hat to his granddaughter who implemented a new style of floral arrangement. "I would have loved to introduce a new style 30 or 40 years ago, but the public wasn't ready. People wanted wreaths, big bouquets filled with the same flowers and the same colours".

"But today" continues his granddaughter "there are so many more possibilities with a variety of over 4,500 flowers; some that come from Holland, the Equator and even Thailand. What I find hard is breaking old habits. Too many people still associate D'Alcantara to "puffy- big – gladiolas – traditional style" even if we constantly try to create new things. New flowers and new styles play with texture, movement, simplicity and respect the flower's true nature. However, today more and more people are starting to look for what is different."

The so called "American" style, with wreaths and overcharged triangles are now a thing of the past! Dany Gaudet is the one who says it! For the latest tendencies in floral arrangements, just come and visit Dames D'Alcantara florist, on the corner of Sherbrooke East and Langelier.

Because of her son's birth in May of 2006, Dany decided not to renew her lease at the Longueuil store. This was not an easy decision. After 10 years in business, she decided to merge both stores into one on Sherbrooke street, which allows her to give even better service to her customers and have a balanced family life.

A huge emotional thank you to all of our Longueuil customers who were loyal to us and who still accompany us in our beautiful dream called Floral Art.