• James Parry

Parrywinkle March 24, 2016

And so, another Hudson St. Patrick's Day has come and gone! And what a glorious day it was.

Following the marchers, floats, and stirring pipe bands along Main Road and up Cameron while snapping pics for Your Local Journal, I couldn't help but think, however, of how the commercial face of our little town has changed so dramatically over the years.

Believe it or not, Hudson once had six gas stations. Also a car dealership, a cinema that would later become a bowling alley with a Sears catalogue outlet, an automobile parts and hardware outlet, shoe shop, bookstore, two video outlets, Christmas shop, a record shop, a top of the line men's and women's clothing emporium, auction house, and more than one big general store selling virtually everything under the sun.

Even a five-and-dime-type shop not too long before the age of dollar chains. Plus, of course, several restaurants that mushroomed only to disappear. Same facilities, perhaps, but with new owners, menus, and different vision. Why, on Main, we once even had a dance studio that was doing fine until it introduced pole dancing. And a community newspaper dating back to … Ah, but that's another story!

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NEVER THE SAME AGAIN - It's no secret, however, that the business face of Hudson - like that of so many small towns in Quebec, and indeed Canada - has been transformed dramatically over the decades. Never to be the same again. And the reasons that are not hard to find.

Burgeoning big box stores just a short drive away. An ageing population that, by its very nature and demographics. is more given to downsizing rather than investing in major purchases. Just check out the garage sales in a few weeks from now. And on-line shopping - although we have never tried it ourselves and have no plans to do so - always preferring to shop locally and seeing a familiar face and real live person at the other end of the transaction.

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FROM MONTREAL TO HUDSON - One thing that hasn't changed, however, is Hudson's continuing commitment to all facets of culture and the arts. Whether it be music, theatre, film, libraries, literature and story-telling, sculpting, handicrafting, or painting. And I'm sure I've missed something out.

But which is why I am so pleased to report that we have a new art studio and gallery in town. What's more, its owners - hubby and wife team and both artists in their own right Allana Benham and Eric Mannella - will continue to operate their superbly successful studio, Atelier de Brésoles, in an old loft building with wooden beams very close to the Notre Dame Basilica in Old Montreal where they have been teaching and living just above since 2003.

Says Allana, who together with Eric and their 4-year-old daughter, Eva Claire, is looking forward to taking up residence in Hudson this spring, “We are very pleased to open a second location in Hudson just behind Lee's Pizza where our space there will be both an art gallery and a teaching studio.”

Adds Allana, who recently published an English translation of what she describes as a fantastic French text on the artistic anatomy of the female form, “We have developed a program of realistic drawing and painting that blends the traditional approach of European art academies with contemporary ideas of form and structure. Students learn to draw accurately from observation first, and then may continue with oil painting, landscape painting, artistic anatomy, or historical techniques of drawing or painting, according to their own interests.”

Intrigued to learn that one segment of their classes in Montreal are professionals in graphic design, 3-D modeling and character design for video games, or tattoo artists. Says Eric, who I understand is a great guitar player, “Many others are professionals in other areas such as dentists, doctors, restaurant owners, and attorneys, who have always had an interest in the arts but could not pursue it professionally.”

So why now Hudson? Say Allana. “Eric and I both come from small towns. He is from Port Dover, Ontario, and I grew up in a nice town in New York State. Hudson reminded us both of the places we come from, and we feel like it is the right place to put down roots and raise our daughter.”

As for the gallery itself, Eric adds, “We mainly show works related to our atelier teaching, by people who are associated with our school and we will be showing portraiture, landscape painting, and still-life. Over the years, however, we have come in contact with a wide range of artists who have inspired us, and we plan to show their work in group exhibitions whenever possible.”

Welcome to the neighbourhood guys and thanks for your vote of confidence in our little town!

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BRILLIANT BARNSTORMING - Still on the arts scene, members of the Hudson Players Club - now in its 68th season - are certainly 'barnstorming' right now in full rehearsal for their upcoming production of the hilarious British comedy, Whose Wives Are They Anyway? directed by Don Anderson.

And when I say barnstorming, I mean that quite literally. As for the second time in a row, cast and crew are rehearsing in an actual big barn in St. Lazare courtesy of owners, Sabrina and Osin Campaverdo, and on a superb set built by Marc Roy, Phil Gausden, Andrew Richardson, and Kyle Gregor-Pearse. All ready to be dismantled - the set that is, not the barn - and reinstalled at Hudson Village Theatre in good time for the opening Thursday, April 7, and running through April 16.

“We are so lucky to have such great community spirit and support,” says producer, Steve Walters. “We reached out and Sabrina and Osin reached back, which is the absolute essence of community helping community.”

Ain't that the truth Steve!

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CAROUSEL GOES ROUND AND ROUND - And now back to the changing business face of downtown Hudson. And an integral part of the community, the legendary Carousel diner-restaurant, first opened 50 years ago on May 1. Over the decades, it has had five different owners including Joe Poitras and his son, Eric, who bought it 10 years ago next month and have since put their heart and soul into making it a true family operation welcoming regulars of all ages. From seniors, to children with their parents, some of whom first discovered the Carousel as kids themselves.

Well, the dynamic duo has decided to call it a day. To spend more time with their own family, pursue other challenges, and “follow the paths wherever life takes them.” And their business is now listed for sale with Exit Performa.

Earlier this week, caught up with Eric and Joe for a bottomless cup of coffee at - where else? - but the Carousel. “It is time,” Eric told me. “I really want to spend more time with Patrycja and our two young children, Tomasz and Amelia. Last year really opened my eyes to the importance of me being there for him in a morning when he sets off for school and on weekends to enjoy together. Instead of being here at our restaurant that we are very proud of but which demands very long hours seven days a week.”

Eric adds, however, that he and his Dad are in no rush to sell. “It could be next week, next month, or next year. For the listed price is firm. We have invested a lot of our time and energy into transforming the Carousel, while respecting its past. We have drastically changed and improved the layout. The walls that were virtually bare when we took it over are now covered with an incredible collection of vintage framed posters, photographs, and memorabilia creating a real diner look and ambience.”

Laughed Joe, “You know what we are really looking forward to, apart from taking a vacation? Coming in, sitting down, and enjoying breakfast or lunch like everyone else.” Look forward to it guys. And, the first time, we'll even pick up the tab!

And that's a wrap!

E-mail: creation@videotron.ca

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