Dépanneur Le Pick Up
By Robert Scalia

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Pick (Me) Up

What was once old has become new and nearly impossible to replicate.

"Dépanneurs weren't always just places where you bought junk food," explains Penny Pattison, co-owner of Dépanneur le Pick Up, the Mile X's worst-kept secret. "They were practical everyday kind of spots that also functioned as hardware stores and community centres, where people put up notices when they needed work or had things to sell. We like how dynamic that business model is."

Today, Dépanneur le Pick Up serves as a modern lunch counter, a last-minute corner store and a vibrant meeting spot for a very diverse clientele. And whether they're serving up new travel-worn menu specials or stocking an eclectic mix of beer, snacks or self-curated zines, business partners Penny Pattison and Bernadette Houde continue to satisfy the hardcore and the finicky alike. "The bulk of our clientele is very loyal and we just really like this location," says Penny. "It's got a lot of character and it's off the beaten path. It's unique."

It's been important for us since the beginning that this place remain open to a wide cross section of people. It's one of the first things we tell staff when we hire them: this is everyone's place, not just a hangout for your friends or people who look like you. Everyone needs to feel welcome. - Penny Pattison , co-owner
Penny Pattison, Bernadette Houde and Micheal Reason spent many hours behind Dépanneur le Pick Up's iconic kitchen counter.
Penny Pattison, Bernadette Houde and Michael Reason spent many hours behind this iconic kitchen counter. Photo by Robert Scalia.

Ready to Serve

This quaint building has seen many businesses around it come and go since the '40s.

When Penny and Bernadette bought the family corner store back in the summer of 2008, its kitchen business was still reeling from the collapse of the local needle trade - the shuttering of those manufacturers meant fewer employees coming by the old lunch spot. Despite whisperings that prominent architects and professionals were moving into the neighbourhood to take their place, Penny wasn't ready to see Dépanneur le Pick Up abandon its working class roots.

And sure enough, the remaining meat-packers, mechanics and residents embraced the gradual shift from traditional casse-crôute fare to veggie burgers, grilled Haloumi cheese and Dépanneur's now famous pulled pork sandwich. Thanks in part to a wildly popular outdoor terrace in the summer and a steady stream of online blog and travel site shout outs, students and tourists soon caught wind. And, with that, came claims that the joint had gone hipster. "We really didn't want to alienate anyone who felt like this place was theirs," explains Penny. "We like having a wide array of people coming. I think just by virtue of having a lot of vegetarian and inexpensive food, it keeps it very democratic."

Dépanneur le Pick Up aims to provide food that is both healthy and tasty.
This store is dedicated to bridging the gap between healthy and tasty. Photo by Robert Scalia.

Pushing the Limits of Cozy

Nowadays, with business brisk and the Mile X becoming more residential, Penny worries less about inclusion and more about physical space. "We've literally hit the ceiling with how much food we can make and how many people we can serve."

The space constraints are  especially apparent during Sunday brunch on a cold winter day, with locals forced to squeeze in to enjoy the daily Japanese breakfast special or sip on a simple fair-trade latte or a London Fog, the seemingly random decor a testament to the passage of time. And while Penny might admit she doesn't have the energy she used to, both business partners still feel very connected to the quirky little establishment they fell in love with. "We've hosted art exhibitions, shows and pop-up dinners," says Penny. "Remaining open to being community-based and vibrant is key - being in touch with our clientele and hearing what they want and what they need."

Dépanneur le Pick Up offers an unassuming exterior.
Photo by Robert Scalia
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