Why are Quebec Corner Stores Called Dépanneurs?

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If you are visiting Montreal from other provinces or countries, you’ve probably noticed the presence of little corner stores or convenience stores called dépanneurs. While these are quite popular in Quebec, you won’t often see the term in other parts of Canada. While our main focus is showcasing the best comedy in Montreal, we also love educating people about the best things to do in our province and its history. Let’s take a look at the History of Quebec Dépanneurs and the reason these little shops got their name.

History of Quebec Dépanneurs: What is a Dépanneur? 

In Quebec, the term depanneur refers to a specific type of corner store. These are places where you can get virtually anything that you need. Dépanneurs often sell snacks, groceries, toiletries, alcohol, and various other random items you may need. These stores are often referred to by residents as déps for short.

You’ll also find that dépanneurs are not necessarily alike. You’ll find different types of items at different ones. Some will have greater selections of food while others may specialize in items such as flowers, have small bakeries, or provide wider selections of beer. They’ll also vary in price. However, you can rest assured that all dépanneurs will carry a wide variety of goods. They usually would be open for extended hours, often all night, although beer can only be purchased from 7 am to 11 pm each day.

Do Dépanneurs Exist in France as Well as Quebec?

If you were travelling in France and ask a local to recommend a dépanneur, you are likely going to be surprised by what you find. France certainly does have convenience stores; however, they are not called dépanneurs. In fact, a dépanneur in France has a completely different meaning than it does in Quebec.

In France, dépanneurs are not places but rather people. Specifically, a dépanneur in France refers to a repairman. The term in Europe typically refers to someone who is a bit of a handyman. A person capable of fixing things from automobiles to appliances. You could think of it as similar to a mechanic but more as a generalist.

How Did Montreal’s Dépanneurs Get Their Names?

To understand the origin of the term, and history of Quebec Dépanneurs, we must go back to the very first of these unique little shops. Jean-Paul Beaudry served as a minister in the Quebec government in the 1960s and passed Bill 24. This bill ultimately allowed grocery store owners with at least two employees to keep their stores open in the evenings and on weekends.

Paul-Emile Maheu owned such a grocery store, which was located at the corner of 1st Avenue and Zotique Street. He altered the organization of his store to allow it to be open for longer hours with fewer employees. Some of the changes he made included reducing shelf space to allow for a clear view of the entire store from any place within. He named the reimagined store, Le Dépanneur Saint-Zotique. It is rumoured that Maheu chose the name dépanneur from the French verb of the same name, which means to “help out” or “troubleshoot”. He picked it as the new type of convenience store sought to provide virtually anything one could need.

Paul-Emile Maheu’s Convenience Stores

Maheu’s store quickly became incredibly popular in the area as it was the only store in the neighbourhood able to sell alcohol after 5 pm. In fact, with local police not being fully familiar with the new law, he was arrested several times. However, they were quickly released without charges.

Why are Quebec Corner Stores Called Dépanneurs?

Paul-Émile Maheu tried to launch a chain of convenience stores but it will take another visionary, Alain Bouchard, to realize his dream.
(Credit: Judith Lussier, Sacré dépanneur!)

Based on the success of Maheu’s store, many other grocery stores made similar revisions to their operations to transform into corner stores. In fact, minister Beaudry even opened his own chain in the 1970s, now known as Beau-Soir. In addition to adopting Maheu’s methods, stores also adopted the term dépanneurs. Thus, this term entered into the Quebec lexicon. It was officially recognized in 1983 in French and in English in 2015.

Where Can I Find a Quebec Dépanneur?

If you find yourself in need of beers, snacks, a forgotten toothbrush, or virtually anything else you may need, you can find dépanneurs throughout Montreal and Quebec. In fact, you can even use an online map to find those nearest you.

Of course, if your needs include comedy in Montreal, we are always happy to welcome you to attend one of our English shows in Montreal!


Post by Eddie Case, exclusively for, All rights reserved.
Comedyville is a Comedy Club located in Downtown Montreal. 

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