The Paquet department store was a fixture in Quebec City’s Saint-Roch neighbourhood for over 100 years. While its history was closely linked with the commercial development of Rue Saint-Joseph, its decline was due to the rise in suburban shopping malls. The company was also known across the country for its mail-order catalogues.
Founded in 1850 by Zéphirin Paquet (1818–1905), the first Paquet store was located on Rue Saint-Vallier in the Saint-Sauveur neighbourhood of Quebec City.
Set up on the ground floor of the Paquet family home, it sold hats, notions and fabric.
In 1866, after a fire destroyed the store, Paquet moved its operations to Rue Saint-Joseph in the Saint-Roch neighbourhood and began offering a wider range of products, including shoes, clothing, linens and furs. As was the custom at the time, items did not display a fixed price and haggling was an essential step in the buying process.
In 1890, the store moved for the last time, to another building on Rue Saint-Joseph across the street from the Saint-Roch church.
Occupying several buildings, including one with six storeys, Paquet became the largest department store in the city.
The new building was considered ultramodern as it had an elevator and electric lighting. There were 38 departments along with workshops that produced hats, suits and dresses.
In 1892, Paquet operated a retail division called Z. Paquet, as well as a wholesale division called J.A. Paquet, which was started by the founder’s son, J. Arthur Paquet. Located in the Pointe-aux-Lièvres sector of Lower Town, the wholesale division primarily made fur clothing and accessories.
In the early 1900s, both divisions began publishing mail order catalogues, which helped Paquet make a name for itself outside Quebec City.
To serve clients from across the country, the store opened its mail-order department for the retail division, along with showrooms in Montreal, Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver for the wholesale division.
In addition to selling clothing and accessories for the whole family, Paquet also sold tobacco, clocks, dishes, sewing patterns, furniture, religious articles and musical instruments.
When its founder died in 1905, the company remained in the hands of the Paquet family. The store on Rue Saint-Joseph was expanded towards Boulevard Charest in 1949, and by 1950, it had 72 different departments, occupying approximately 20,000 square metres of retail space. Paquet also added a telephone order service, which, at its height, filled 7,000 orders a day.
After buying some stores from Syndicat de Québec, another department store, and opening branches in the Place Laurier, Fleur de Lys and Galeries Chagnon shopping centres, Paquet ceased operations in 1981. Its building on Rue Saint-Joseph was then made into an apartment building.
Collectif. Zéphirin Paquet, sa famille, sa vie, son œuvre, Québec, ALCAS Frère Éditeur, 1927, 374 p.
Laurin, Lucien. “Mon arrière-grand-père Zéphirin Paquet, commerçant de St-Roch de Québec” (1re partie), L’Ancêtre, vol. 12, no 6, February 1986, p. 193.
Laurin, Lucien. “Mon arrière grand-père Zéphirin Paquet, commerçant de St-Roch à Québec” (2e partie), L’Ancêtre, vol. 12, no 8, April 1986, p. 275.
Lebel, Alyne. “Une vitrine populaire : les grands magasins Paquet”, Cap-aux-Diamants, vol. 4, no 2 , p. 45-48.
Thivierge, Sylvie. “Commerce et architecture., Continuité, no 42, Winter 1989, p. 27.
Trépanier, Paul et Céline Mérette. “Le grand magasinage. Une tournée des magasins qui ont fait les beaux jours des rues commerçantes”, Continuité, no 42, hiver 1989, p. 37.
Madeleine Goubau, Contributor
© McCord Museum 2019