By Ann Carroll
THE STORE THAT NEVER CHANGES
Some people shop at G. D’Aoust’s department store at 73 Ste. Anne St. just for the pleasure of seeing money change hands.
Tourists and local residents wander in daily to crane their necks at the store’s unique 1924 Lamson cash carrier device.
The elaborate system of cash cylinders, pulleys and metal overhead tracks carries receipts and money from every department in the store to a central office cashier.
The customers ‘change then shuttles silently back along the hundreds of feet of track that run through every nook and cranny in the four storey building.
Believed to be the only one of its kind still in use in Quebec, the electrified cash carrier is “high tech” compared with the spring-loaded device installed when Guisolphe D’Aoust opened the store in 1900, said grandson Philippe D’Aoust.
Philippe now manages the store for his father René, 83, and Uncle Jean-Charles, 87, who both still work daily at the old-fashioned dry goods shop.
René walks the floor in the men’s section. “I’ve been here for 50 years – I’ll keep on working until I drop in my steps.”
Jean-Charles takes care of correspondence on an old-fashioned typewriter in the simple office – no computers here!
The 1924 cash carrier is one of the store’s few concessions to modern technology.
But it is only one of several antique fixtures still on view in the store 92 years after Guisolphe began selling butter (25 cents per pound_, brooms (15 cents) and ladies’ hats ($1)
Stores like D’Aoust’s, which carry everything from 15 cent corks to $1,500 dinning room sets, are themselves one step away from becoming extinct, Philippe D’Aoust admitted.
But the Depression, the rise of shopping malls and recurring recessions have failed to drive the popular store out of business.
People are tired of shopping centres – all the walking, the narrow aisles, the lack of personal service, “he said, “We’ll be here for our 100th anniversary”
Photo: Thérèse D’Aoust makes changes and sends it to the cashiers.