Evening Walk in Chateauguay

One thing that happens around this time of year is that the days get shorter and nights get longer, but the weather is still comfortable to enjoy an evening walk around our town. Here are a few captures around the river just after sunset and a full moon rising in the sky.

St-Francis Project All Lit Up

The project that began in early spring has almost come to a close, with the paving wrapped up for this year, and the new light poles added this past week. Trees have been planted and lines have been painted. The final paving will be complete after the thaw next spring, but for now the project appears to be almost complete.

Early Autumn Walk 2022 – To the River

The days are getting shorter, and the temperatures have been getting cooler. The squirrels are scurrying around trying to collect as many nuts and acorns as they can to store up for the cold winter months. One thing I always try to do each year is plan at least one day where I can take in all the fall colours and enjoy the fresh air. This year we were very fortunate to have several very nice and warm days and the trees have not disappointed. Here’s a photo compilation during one of my walks through our town.

My First Disney Cruise

And all during a most difficult time in the world

Over the years, I’ve watched various cruise videos from vloggers and Travel Channel documentaries, but never knew what to really expect when the time came to embark on my very first cruise. And to top that off, it was a Disney Cruise.

It was not just a normal cruise either, and in more ways that one. The family had been planning this cruise for a while, and I only learned about it at the last minute. It turned out to be a family reunion organized by my sister, her husband and his family.

Now, planning any trip is stressful during normal times; considering the circumstances at the time, with the worldwide pandemic which caused restrictions, lockdowns, masks, vaccinations and staff shortages pretty much everywhere, this made the trip even more hectic.

Testing requirements were some of the most expensive and tense experiences during the entire trip. From testing before plane boarding, which in itself was painless and quick, but waiting for the results which could determine the outcome of the next few weeks. And probably the most taxing on our entire family was the ship preboard testing which would affect the entire cruise for the whole family that was with us.

Not only was a negative test required for us to board, but everyone in our entire party had to test negative before being allowed to board. Now, none of us felt ill, or sick beforehand, we were banking the entire cruise on one single swab of a Q-tip, and a 45 minute processing time, all while staring at the beautiful Disney cruise ship, “The Magic”.

After testing we were told to sit in a waiting room in front of large TV screen with cruise confirmation numbers scrolling on the screen. These numbers were linked to our names, and next to those numbers, a message telling us to wait for results, or clearing us to cruise.

Once we received the all clear, We proceeded to board. Very relieved and hungry. We were invited aboard the ship with our names called over the loudspeaker. Only a handful of parties were called aboard at a time, and we each got to meet Captain Mickey before we were invited to “Fathoms” for a pre-departure briefing. This is where we were instructed on how to download the Disney Cruise app, and set up our schedule, and prepare for the modified safety drill, which was as simple as finding out where our muster station was and read a few instructions on how to safely evacuate during an emergency. Now after checking in, it’s off to find the food!

I’m a huge fan of buffets and large food spreads, and this cruise did not disappoint. Our first meal was at “The Cabanas”, a buffet style dining experience with several counters with all sorts of food. Since this was my first cruise, I never knew how their original buffet style was, except that rather than helping ourselves, there were cast members at each food station serving us.

My first plate included craw claws, shrimps, various charcuteries, Disney signature Mac ‘n Cheese, salmon and steak. Soft drinks, coffees and juices were all included onboard as well. And this was only a “taste” of what was to come. Desserts were very impressive as well, with cakes, pies, pastries, puddings, cookies and ice cream!

Now that lunch is complete, it’s off to find our cabins. Just before the cruise we were advised that we had all been upgraded to full balcony cabins near the mid-aft of the ship. So far the entire ship was so beautiful, that even a smaller cabin would not have lessened the experience, but it certainly made it all that more magical. Our luggage was already waiting, and our keys to our cabin were there as well. Everything was so organized and run so smoothly.

After resting for a few minutes, we went to the main deck for the sail away party as the ship sounded the signature horn “When you wish upon a star”, we were off. Through the narrow cruise port, towards the open ocean. The horn sounding again, this time echoing off the buildings on either side of us, even resonating through us.

It was now time for a coffee break at the “Cove Cafe”, a very quiet and comfortable place with friendly cast and delicious beverages. We were invited to enjoy a few crudities along with our coffee, as we observed outside the skyline of Miami disappearing in the distance.

It was almost time for dinner. Food options and meals were available everywhere aboard. This was certainly my type of cruise. Night one was at the “Animator’s Palate”

Our first stop the next day was Disney’s very own private island “Castaway Cay”.

Today marks 8 years since the final 60 Zellers stores wrapped up operations and closed down. Opened in 1928 by founder Walter P. Zeller, the discount chain spread quickly across the country and became a household name. In the 1970’s Zellers attempted taking over the failing Hudson Bay Company, but in a turn of events, the hbc reversed the tables and took control of Zellers.

The 1980’s and 90’s were a time of major expansion for the company, with take overs of the Bonimart / Towers stores and K-Mart Canadian stores. In the west, Zellers Select and Fields stores were popping up as local shops. I would compare them to Giant Tiger. Stores with a mostly complete offering of services, with a smaller footprint of 25-35,000sq/f compared to the 100-150,000sq/f of a standard Zellers store.

Jerry Zucker took over a once again struggling hbc in the early 2000’s and started to turn around the business. He introduced several new policies, and plans for revamping Zellers into a modern family department store. A prototype store was created and looked very upbeat and chic, but still had the Zellers charm to them. The prototype rollout was scheduled over the following 5 years to other stores. Staff from our store was sent to Winnipeg to be trained on the new procedures and we were on schedule to be renovated in the near future.

However, Zucker passing away at an early age, and as a private owner, the company was handed down to his wife, who didn’t want to take control, then sold it to a real estate investor and equity firm, Richard Baker, who made it very clear that Zellers was an unwanted child. He proceeded to cut staff, customer service, air conditioning, lighting, employee benefits, staff discounts, froze wage increases, and stocked the stores full of bulk pallets of cheap items just to fill the shelves. This all made the Zellers bottom line look amazing, profits were huge. Then he began looking for a naive company to offload the chain on.

Reminders of the Walmart takeover of Woolco in the 1990’s, where they took over all the stores but maintained the business and staff and gradually renovated fully stocked and staffed stores. Instead of doing what Walmart did when Woolco was taken over, Baker managed to sell only the leases from approximately 210 Zellers buildings for close to $2 billion to major US retailer Target. Zellers never went bankrupt, but they were effectively thrown out of their own buildings! Made it interesting to Target since many included interesting 99 year leases at strategic locations throughout the country, and they didn’t have to manage existing staff or merchandise. They could enter the country on a clean slate with a building waiting for them.

For Baker, as a real estate investor, and the Lord & Taylor chain recently under his control, the money from this transaction went straight into acquiring Sak’s 5th Ave. He proceeded to dissect the rest of the hbc company and put various parts of it on the market. Toronto head office building, Lord & Taylor flagship New York store, and more recently, Baker’s firm sold off the entire Lord & Taylor company to “Le Tote”, an online chic clothing seller, who soon after filed for chapter 11, and forced the closure of the remaining 35 L&T stores, ending the saga of the oldest department store chain in the US.

It was all a game of numbers for this guy. And when that money ran out, he dumped more stores or chains under his control, didn’t matter, thousands of staff and customers that relied on these businesses meant nothing to him. Deco Decouverte and Home Outfitters were next. And the final end game for his Canadian takeover will ultimately be The Bay stores. First he’ll probably sell the historic centralized buildings they are located in to condo or office developers, then close down the Canadian icon for good when that well runs dry, and move on to other acquisitions.

My predictions so far regarding his conquer and defeat strategy has already begun in Montreal and other major cities in Canada, it seems. The downtown Montreal flagship Bay store has announced a new 25 story office tower will be constructed on top of the existing 130 year old department store. No plans were mentioned as to the future of the department store, but there were discussions recently about merging the Sak’s 5th Ave banner with The Bay, but those ideas have yet to happen. Zoning changes are required due to the height restrictions in the area, but it appears that nobody has contested these plans, so the zoning changes blocking the view of the river might go through without delay. One city councillor questioned the decision at this time for building a huge office tower at a time when less than 50% of the office space in Montreal is being used due to recent circumstances. Will workers ever return to their downtown jobs, or continue to work at home in the future?

The last 15 years were one huge rollercoaster ride and those that stayed on the ride the entire time still remember vividly. After the closures, some retired, others went on unemployment waiting for the next opportunity. A few tried to get work with Target, but according to several ex-Zellers employees, they were turned away because of their age and their association with Zellers in the past. “They weren’t the image Target was looking for”. Store locations that were taken over by Target were extensively renovated and reopened a year later, at the same time brand new store locations were being built for Target and opened a few weeks before they announced bankruptcy in Canada. Shelves were always empty, no customers were shopping, frequent news stories, including those of cultural gaffs, such as not offering bilingual checkouts in a majority English area of Quebec.

According to those I’ve spoken with, various contractors also remained unpaid as well as wholesalers who dealt with the company which by then was under bankruptcy protection. Once the very last Target store closed and the chain left the country, the hbc equity firm began scooping back up some of these locations and began opening Hudson Bay stores in these newly renovated buildings that were only open for a few months by Target and used to be Zellers stores before that.

After the closure of the Zellers chain. 3 stores were converted to hbc liquidation outlets, and as of last year the final two Zellers liquidation stores were closed. Close to 90 years of business, picked clean and disappeared off the map. Who knows what the future would have held if the Zucker plans had come to fruition? Would it have bought the chain a few more years? Or is Walmart so big that they would have eventually chewed up the Zellers chain in the end? Or would it have ended up with a slow and painful death that Sears experienced? Was there room for two major chains in Canada? Customer loyalty was extremely strong, and I’ve met with many people who still talk fondly of Zellers, including the family restaurant with unique food offerings that haven’t been replaced anywhere else.

Stores such as Giant Tiger are on the rise. A Canadian discount chain is trying to fill the void that was left by Zellers and carries many of the same brands and products that Zellers once had. (Home Styles). It’s a good alternative, but just doesn’t have the same feeling or nostalgia that I remember from Zellers. Other Canadian retailers have also attempted to pick up the slack that was left behind when Zellers closed. Canadian Tire has diversified it’s offerings, away from it’s auto parts focus, and more into household supplies, electronics and small appliances. And Dollarama, once known for everything selling for $1 now has expanded its lineup to include $4 and $5 items.

I spent 15 years at the Zellers department store, working my way up from stocking shelves overnight through high school, to customer service in the day. Working in the electronics department for most of that time, until finally taking the reigns and helping turn the department into one of the top performing sectors of the company. I was really proud of our accomplishments, and would often post up the various acknowledgements and awards our store received. It wasn’t always easy going, and there were tense moments and difficult times. But I knew in my mind that I would always put the customer first, and be patient and treat everyone with respect, and still 8 years later I see customers of mine passing on the street, and often at my current job, and we share stories of the past, and remember the history of this almost century old company.

Last Day – March 30th, 2013. Photo taken a few minutes after the last customer left the store at noon.
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These past few weeks have been very hectic and busy. So on my first day off from work, I decided to take a quiet afternoon walk around our neighbourhood to unwind. The leaves are so colourful this time of year, and I rarely took the time to observe and enjoy nature’s beauty. Here’s a collection of photos from my afternoon. I hope you enjoy them.

Ces dernières semaines ont été très occupées pour moi. Pour mon premier jour de congé, j’ai décidé de faire une promenade dans dans notre quartier pour se détendre. Les feuilles sont si colorées en cette période de l’année j’ai rarement pris le temps d’observer et de profiter de la beauté de la nature. Voici une collection de photos de mon après-midi. J’espère que vous les aimez.

Welcome to my new online project. A photographic journey dedicated to my hobby, my passion for photography and detail for what some might consider the most mundane objects and scenery. I decided to create this site to share with you the various interests that I have and photos that I have taken. I live in a somewhat quiet suburban town near Montreal in Canada. While there is not always a lot of action going on around here, I try to make the most out of what is surrounding me.

Chateauguay in the Autumn

Chateauguay in the Autumn

I still enjoy taking a long walk with my camera in hand and snapping a few photos of our local wildlife or nature, and occasionally I will stumble upon a newsworthy event, such as an accident or fire scene. While not always pleasant, I feel that every photo I take, is documenting a piece of history for future generations to look back on. Perhaps a photo might not seem interesting at the moment, but maybe someday it will be useful to someone.

My interest in photography really began back in college when I was offered to take some photography courses in my program. I knew very little about the intricacies of photography back then, besides the usual point and click functions, and hoped that the photos turned out when I picked them up from the pharmacy.

March 24th, 2016 - Maple Apartment Fire

March 24th, 2016 – Maple Apartment Fire

My first camera was a refurbished Minolta 35mm SLR camera that cost me over $400 from a camera shop nearby my school. This place was amazing. They had two floors packed full of camera equipment, film, accessories and very helpful staff who helped me begin my passion in photography. Our course required us to use slide film for demonstration in class, so most of my photos were projects for school. After I graduated, I continued to take photos, but not as often, due to the high costs for film and development. It wasn’t until 2005 before I bought my very first digital camera, that is when I began to take photos as a hobby and I have been taking photos since.

Some people prefer portrait photography, but I enjoy focusing on scenery, wildlife and objects. More specifically bus and train photos, which later included emergency vehicles and vintage cars. Since 2013 I have been regularly photographing the Montreal Food Truck scene, and have photos of close to 100 different food truck vehicles from in and around the Montreal area.

Montreal Food Trucks - First Fridays 2016

Montreal Food Trucks – First Fridays 2016

My photos have appeared in various publications and news media over the years, and I have several photo galleries online with my photo content. While this continues to be a hobby, I take my photography very seriously, and I spend a lot of time and money trying to keep up with technology, to have the best quality photos as well as to keep this as fun and affordable as possible.

Thank you for taking the time to visit and I hope you enjoy these photos and stories.