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Retail Photo Tour: Walking a Loop in Montreal’s Golden Square Mile

Retail Insider continues its Photo Tour series by building on our extensive Saint-Catherine Street in Montreal During COVID-19 tour which we published on March 16, 2021. This time we’re delving deeper into the upscale Golden Square Mile in the downtown core that includes several luxury stores as well as some very interesting retail history.

The Golden Square Mile’s streetscape includes grand streets, attractive architecture and several large mansions from years past. Between the years 1870 and 1900, about 70% of the wealth in Canada was held by about 50 households living in the area and particularly north of where our tour was photographed.

The photos in this tour were taken along the two block retail zone between Sherbrooke Street West and Saint-Catherine Street on Rue de la Montagne and Crescent Street. Come for a journey where we discuss what’s there, and the interesting retail that once was.

Map of the Montreal Luxury Zone between Rue Sherbrooke Ouest and Sainte-Catherine Street.
Map of the Montreal Luxury Zone between Rue Sherbrooke Ouest and Sainte-Catherine Street. Photo: Google Maps

Holt Renfrew Ogilvy (Saint-Catherine Street and Rue de la Montagne)

Arriving at Rue de la Montagne reveals the beautiful Holt Renfrew Ogilvy that has been reported on extensively in Retail Insider. The original Ogilvy’s department store was founded by the Ogilvy family in the 1800s and changed ownership several times over the years. Two major ownership shifts occurred, including the Ogilvy ownership being purchased by Equidev (a Montreal development group), which performed major updates to the building in the 1980s that included developing a concession model housing 52 designer boutiques. The retailer changed owners a couple more times as decades passed and most recently was purchased in 2011 by Wittington Investments which also owns Holt Renfrew within its subsidiary company, Selfridges Group Limited.

The existing Montreal Holt Renfrew store, which had previously operated nearby at 1300 Sherbrooke Street West since 1937, closed in June 2020 to coincide with the opening of the expanded Holt Renfrew Ogilvy store on Saint-Catherine Street. The 250,000-square-foot Holt Renfrew Ogilvy store is one of the largest multi-brand luxury stores in North America and is the largest showcase of luxury brands in the Montreal market. All six retail levels were renovated and reopened in July 2020.

Holt Renfrew Ogilvy at 1307 Saint-Catherine St W. Photo: Maxime Frechette

Rue de la Montagne

Map of the Montreal Luxury Zone on Rue de la Montagne
Map of the Montreal Luxury Zone on Rue de la Montagne. Photo: Google Maps

The two block stretch of Rue de la Montagne between Sherbrooke Street and Ste-Catherine Street is the closest thing that Montreal has to a retail “luxury run”. Several upscale stores have opened over the years on the street that is anchored by the Ritz Carlton Hotel to the north and Holt Renfrew Ogilvy to the south. At the Ritz is a 2,000 square foot Tiffany & Co. store that opened in February of 2012. The store is less than 250 metres from the 2,500 square foot Tiffany & Co. concession that opened at Holt Renfrew Ogilvy last year.

Chanel on Rue De La Montagne in Montreal
Chanel on Rue De La Montagne in Montreal. Photo: Maxime Frechette

The bilevel 3,300-square-foot Chanel boutique on the street level of Holt Renfrew Ogilvy opened in the fall of 2019. A Louis Vuitton boutique is located further to the left.

1455 Rue de la Montagne with Holt Renfrew Ogilvy and the Four Seasons to the right (as well as Wanda’s strip bar). Image via Google Street View

Toronto-based Carttera Private Equities Inc. acquired 1455 Rue de la Montagne in September of 2020 with plans to create a high-end residential building. At its base will be retail spaces, offering an opportunity for brands to move across from Holt Renfrew Ogilvy. The 31,750-square-foot surface parking lot sold for $48.5 million on the corner of De La Montagne and De Maisonneuve Boulevard West.

Above is a slideshow on Rue de la Montagne. Swiss luxury brand Montblanc opened at 1289 Boulevard de Maisonneuve West in 2014, and Pavillon Christofle’s only Canadian store opened in the winter of 2016 at 2025 Rue de la Montagne. In the first photo is the new Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences which is connected to Holt Renfrew Ogilvy. The Residences at the Four Seasons are among the priciest in Montreal. A 3,105-square-foot condominium apartment on the 14th floor is currently asking $7,190,000 and a 6,910-square-foot penthouse on the 18th floor is asking $15,435,000.

We reported on AllSaints opening at 2138 Rue de la Montagne in 2016, SuitSupply opening in 2017 at 2152 Rue de la Montagne, and Judith & Charles opening in 2018 at 2090 Rue de la Montagne. Other retailers on the street include Montreal-based designer Marie Saint Pierre, Kar MA, Ofélia, Anthropologie, and a Chateau d’Ivoire jewellery store that will be discussed below.

Montreal is a beautiful city with unique grey stone architecture. This row of shops on Rue de la Montagne includes the AllSaints store. Other upscale brands are said to be interested in locating in the area.

Chateau D'Ivoire on Rue De La Montagne in Montreal
Chateau D’Ivoire on Rue De La Montagne in Montreal. Photo: Maxime Frechette

Prestigious jewellery retailer Chateau d’Ivoire is almost finished building a new store on Rue de la Montagne just north of Boulevard Maisonneuve. The current location to the right of the new store will close when the new one opens this year.

Ritz Carleton on Rue De La Montagne in Montreal
Ritz Carleton on Rue De La Montagne in Montreal. Photo: Maxime Frechette

The 2,000-square-foot Tiffany & Co. store at the corner of Rue de la Montagne and Sherbrooke Street West at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Some are questioning the future of the store given its proximity to the Holt Renfrew Ogilvy Tiffany concession down the street. This photo was taken from in front of the former Holt Renfrew store at 1300 Sherbrooke Street West that closed over the summer to coincide with the completion of the nearby Holt Renfrew Ogilvy.

Rue Sherbrooke Ouest

Old Holt Renfrew location from Rue De La Montagne in Montreal
Old Holt Renfrew location from Rue De La Montagne in Montreal. Photo: Maxime Frechette

The photo above is of the former Holt Renfrew store taken from Rue de la Montagne. The shorter windows furthest to the right were for a lower-level restaurant space. The building was constructed in 1937 and for years operated as the company’s flagship store prior to the Toronto store gaining that status in 1979.

Old Holt Renfrew location from Sherbrooke in MontrealTTE
Old Holt Renfrew location from Sherbrooke in Montreal. Photo: Maxime Frechette

The photo above is the corner of the former Holt Renfrew store at 1300 Sherbrooke Street West. The original store spanned about 30,000 square feet when it was built and was expanded to more than 80,000 square feet prior to its closure. In the 1990s Holt Renfrew operated a Giorgio Armani boutique on the main floor facing Sherbrooke Street.

Old Holt Renfrew location from Crescent in Montreal
Old Holt Renfrew location from Crescent in Montreal. Photo: Maxime Frechette

The photo above is of the corner of Sherbrooke Street and Crescent Street. Holt Renfrew’s men’s department occupied the corner until 2016 when it was relocated as part of a reduction of the store’s footprint. The Holt Renfrew store occupied several buildings and in the late 1990s integrated several historic townhouse facades to expand the store as per the photo below.

Former Holt Renfrew at 1300 Sherbrooke St. W., photo by Maxime Frechette

Prior to the townhouses being integrated into the Holt Renfrew store, several retailers operated standalone stores there. In years past, a Polo Ralph Lauren store operated at 1316 Sherbrooke Street (prior to relocating to where Tiffany is now at the Ritz) and in the 1980s a Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche boutique was located at 1330 Sherbrooke Street West. The Saint Laurent boutique was operated by York Hannover which also owned the boutique at Hazelton Lanes in Toronto. French designer Sonia Rykiel had a store at 1320 Sherbrooke Street West that was connected to multi-brand retailer Clubissimo from 1986 until the early 1990s.

In the 1980s, Montreal’s Sherbrooke Street was home to several other significant luxury stores over a six block stretch which have all since closed. This included Emanuel Ungaro at 1430 Sherbrooke Street West, Pratesi at 1448 Sherbrooke Street West, Davidoff at 1452 Sherbrooke Street West, Cartier at 1498 Sherbrooke Street West, and Georg Jensen at 1178 Sherbrooke Street West in the 1980s which was replaced by Versace for several years. A pricey Zilli men’s boutique operated at 1472 Sherbrooke Street West between 2007 and 2011 and was the only store for the Italian brand in Canada.

Tiffany & Co. at the Ritz and an Escada store at 1214 Sherbrooke Street West are the only two remaining luxury brands on the street. Escada is in financial trouble and Tiffany’s future is uncertain on the street — it could be the case that all luxury retail will soon exit beautiful Sherbrooke Street which is home to several museums, heritage apartment buildings, and McGill University.

Crescent Street

Map of the Montreal Luxury Zone on Crescent Street
Map of the Montreal Luxury Zone on Crescent Street. Photo: Google Maps.

Crescent Street is known for many for its restaurants which were frequented by students prior to the pandemic. In years past, several upscale stores and even luxury brand stores operated on Crescent Street.

Crescent Street is quite different now from what it was in decades past in terms of retail tenants. In the 1980s, Crescent Street was considered to be a luxury address which included several important women’s fashion stores in a row of beautiful brown stone buildings. French women’s luxury brand Celine once had a store at 2142 Crescent Street, French fashion brand Courreges had a store at 2160 Crescent Street, Upscale French women’s fashion brand Georges Rech operated at 2070 Crescent Street, Canadian fashion brand The Kettle Creek Canvas Company had a store at 2145 Crescent Street, and UK fashion and home goods brand Laura Ashley had a store at 2110 Crescent. Luxury multi-brand retailer Grege, which focused on Japanese brands, operated at 2130 Crescent Street from 1976 to 1995 when the company was dissolved. Various other upscale boutiques and food and beverage options made for a desirable destination. At one time Crescent Street advertised itself in local papers to draw in shoppers and we have included a clipping of one from 1985 below, noting that all of the upscale boutiques have since shuttered.

Crescent Street advertisement in the Montreal Gazette on 27 June 1985. Image via Newspapers.com
Overall Crescent Street in Montreal. PHOTO: MAXIME FRECHETTE
Overall Crescent Street in Montreal. Photo: Maxime Frechette

The photo above was taken from Sherbrooke Street looking down Crescent Street. Holt Renfrew Men occupied the building to the left for years and a museum is located to the right.

The photo above showcases some of the beautiful architecture on Crescent Street south of Sherbrooke Street. This complex was the heart of the former luxury brand stretch that characterized Crescent Street particularly in the 1980s when Montreal was a fashion mecca. French Luxury brand Celine had a store in the second storefront from the left with the bow window in the 1980s.

Upscale Toronto-based multi-brand retailer CNTRBND opened a store at 2185 Crescent Street last year. The store is located in a historic townhouse and features unique architecture inside and out. CNTRBND also has stores in Toronto and Vancouver and will be announcing a new location soon.

Given the unique situation of the street and CNTRBND’s relationship with brands, the retailer could bring new concepts to Crescent Street in the future.

Kaufman on Crescent Street in Montreal
Kaufmann on Crescent Street in Montreal. Photo: Maxime Frechette

Jewellery retailer Kaufmann de Suisse has operated for years at 2195 Crescent Street. It is one of the few long-term, upscale retail tenants on the street.

The building above was formerly occupied by denim brand Parasucco and is now a CQDC.

The above slideshow includes: Montreal-based restaurant Mandy’s, known for its gourmet salads, which has several stores in Montreal including one on Crescent Street. Mandy’s will be entering the Toronto market as part of an expansion. Nestlé-owned coffee concept Nespresso which operates a café and retail space on Crescent Street, and various other independent retailers and restaurants currently occupy retail spaces on the stretch between Sherbrooke and Sainte-Catherine Streets.

Thank you for joining us on this brief tour of a loop in downtown Montreal’s Golden Square Mile. The area has changed over the years and there’s more to come. Feel free to comment on your thoughts and favourite memories below.

And thank you Maxime Frechette for taking photos for this article.

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I didn’t expect this addition to your cross-Canada tours of major shopping malls and commercial districts, but this is a welcome coda to your extensive coverage of Rue Sainte Catherine. Rue de la Montagne and the parallel stretch of Crescent, which I’ve found similar in ambience to Cumberland Street and Yorkville Avenue in Toronto, are still more potential than realization. Though this area with Sherbrooke Street has historically been the centre of Montreal’s luxury trade, most residents would tell you the Golden Square Mile, or Mille Carré Doré has lost much of its former lustre. It now looks more like an area that is in the process of developing into a major node of retail. If that seems pessimistic, bear in mind that I am making a distinction between an area on the rise and an area in decline. The Square Mile, especially on Rue de la Montagne has improved relative to where it was a decade ago. Even those who wax nostalgic for the rococo lobby of the old Hotel de la Montagne that stood where the sleek Four Seasons now stands would admit that the building itself was an ugly blight on the street. That honour presently goes to Wanda’s and the parking lot across the street that occupies the corner with de Maisonneuve. Carttera’s development can’t come soon enough. Let’s hope it’s something stylish and distinctive. Another bit of good news is the new Château D’Ivoire building: that might be faux greystone but it looks good and fits well into the street, filling in the gap with a superior design. It’s only a matter of time before the Tiffany store at the Ritz closes, and if I were managing that property, I’d already be searching for its replacement, preferably an upmarket brand new to Montreal. Perhaps the Ritz proprietors are waiting to see what happens with the redevelopment of the now vacant former Holt Renfrew location across the street. It’s such a beautiful edifice, and so sad to see it looking so abandoned. If the plan for condominiums and street-level retail there is able to attract affluent buyers and prestigious shops, that would be good not only for de la Montagne but also bring some chic back to Sherbrooke Street. Crescent Street is more intact with beautiful greystones and redstones, but there are still more vacancies than one would expect in such an ostensibly desirable quartier. Should Montreal experience a post coronavirus economic rebound, I see the biggest threat to the improving fortunes of the Golden Square Mile in Carbonleo’s Royalmount development in Ville Mont-Royal. That looks like a clear attempt to recreate a sort of competing suburban luxury node complete with live-work-play amenities much like Toronto’s Yorkdale juggernaut competes with Bloor-Yorkville. Perhaps it won’t matter and the consumer pie will be large enough for both locales to at least coëxist if not flourish. Given the sometimes precarious state of Montreal’s economic health, my bias is obviously with Centreville. Let’s hope the centre holds!

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