As we walked into the small, mall-like space, we were greeted by four women who looked like latter-day bohemians that had somehow “mended their ways”. Very unassuming at 3731 Notre Dame Street West in St. Henri is the Underground Market, known for its self-described retro, mid-century, kitsch, and boho offerings.
The ladies told us to feel free and look around. When you start looking at the makeup of the place, it takes the shape of a big apartment with different rooms adjoining in the narrow hallway more than a bunch of stores. In fact, it looks like a cooperative of vintage-style stores. You get this peaceful feeling of being taken back somewhere around the 1960s. It feels safe, stress-free, and as if you have a limited amount of time to let your shoulders hang.
One of the rooms (stores) was stuffed with old cheap kitsch furniture. What caught my eye here was the table. There was a plethora of mostly rudimentary old stuff that just brought me back in time. I liked that no one asked me what I wanted. The lady in charge of this store was outside the entrance leaving me be.
The pre-hi-fi area reminded me of some of the electronics of my childhood — to be clear, it was old already when I was a child. Take this mini record player, for instance. I love the added touch of CD’s in the drawer right below it. Sort of chaotic, time-fusion kitsch.
Ok. I admit it. I used to have a black phone just like this. I learned the alphabet from it, minus the Q and Z. There were enough items here to practically furnish the bedroom of a new apartment. I imagined some funky retro-coloured paint in hues that no longer existed. I thought of the mauve and then the mustard family.
Then I went into a room related to art. The lady in charge of that store came in and told me this was contemporary art depicting aboriginals. The prices were very affordable. The ones here were under $100. I almost bought one but held back not able to see them fitting in with newer “cleaner-looking” paintings I had recently purchased from.. insert laugh track here… IKEA. But I also like to buy first paintings of new and young female artists who may become famous one day. Let’s dingress from that topic, lest it overtake this article.
I walked I to a tattoo parlour. The tattooed young lady that worked there smiled and said hi.
“Is this a vintage tattoo shop,” I asked.
She smiled “no”.
“We just happened to be renting the space before all the other people moved in here from their previous location,” the tattoo artist said, seemingly half-annoyed at the thought.
He was an Asian man in his thirties or so. He was busy working on a customer who was lying flat on his stomach. It seemed most of the tattoo had yet to be finished.
“I’ve always thought of having a small tattoo,” I told the girl, not wanting the distract the artist.
“A lot of people do,” she said, “but I always tell them to think about what they want. Paint a picture in their mind. It should be something that represents them in a deep way. Something that will serve as a sign of perseverance and also as a refuge”
“But don’t come and tell me to put an exact image on you,” the artist said. “I’ll work with you and make a unique drawing.”
I was impressed. That made it very authentic. I sort of thought of the vintage theme there.
“I work by the hour. See this guy on the table here,” he asked, pointing at the body I was originally alluding to, “I allotted all day to him. I don’t know if you can see it, but he wanted Jesus on the cross.”
The artist was done talking. He sort of just turned himself out. It was surreal. The girl gave me their business card.
I asked the girl if I can take pics. She said it was up to the artist. We called his name and he didn’t answer. I was too intimidated to try again. I think my time there was up.
I should not the artist said “have a nice day, man.”
Above are things from the last room. These must have been a hundred years old.
In all the hoopla, I lost track of time and my companion.
I opened the door to leave and got this:
I decided to make a detour and joined my companion surrounded by smiling ladies. It was a cute little trip back in time.
It’s worth checking out next time you’re in St. Henri.