Sainte-Flore, in Mauricie
Population : 1600 habitants
Audrey Boisvert and Gabriel Wasilko
The heart of a village is the church.
Right next to it is the presbytery.
The one in Sainte-Flore was no longer in use and, let’s be honest, there was nothing very attractive about it.
Rather plain architecture, details that have disappeared over the decades and the bad decisions of those who let it go.
However, Sainte-Flore has long been the chic local village.
The village was integrated into the city of Shawinigan 21 years ago.
It is near the national park, at the entrance to Lac-des-Piles which has become much gentrified in the last decade; not far from the cities of Shawinigan (of which it is in fact a district), Grand-Mère and even Trois-Rivières. There were fine restaurants here and an inn, Le Florès, which was once a famous establishment.
In short, when we went out to Sainte-Flore, we made ourselves beautiful.
Then, as is often the case in village life, there was a downturn. Restaurants have closed, Le Florès has burned down. We thought the good years were behind us.
But there was a backlash. Restaurants appeared. The presbytery has just been transformed into a hotel. All projects of young people who have more or less business plans, but a common vision: Sainte-Flore deserves the best.
And that’s what they do.
“We wanted to upgrade an ancestral heritage building in the heart of a village, says Audrey Boisvert, in the former presbytery. For us, it still offered interesting architectural potential. The building wasn’t necessarily the prettiest in the neighborhood and it hadn’t been inhabited for 15 years. It was run down. But the location was worth it. »
Another motivating point: there was no accommodation offer in this niche for miles around.
“We wanted to make a good place, specifies Gabriel Wasilko, by his side in life and in the project. Because we think it feels good, beautiful. »
It succeeded. Le Floriel is a beautiful place. An achievement that has not been without problems, but which is flawless, in the end.
Arrival of the first settlers in Sainte-Flore, which is the oldest village in the region. The first mayor was elected in 1862.
Audrey and Gabriel have achieved a tour de force: bringing history and beauty together, by meticulously choosing each of the rooms in the seven rooms of the hotel and the common areas, where you feel good. By combining the quilts made by Audrey’s mother, which remind us that this place comes from a beautiful lineage, a rich history – the presbytery would be the oldest building in the village, dating from the 1860s, even before the construction from the church.
The project aroused a certain curiosity in Sainte-Flore.
“We were attacking a building in the heart of the village,” Audrey said. It is certain that it fueled several conversations at the convenience store. Now that it’s done, people are very happy. »
“Sainte-Flore is changing,” she also says. Families move in. It is a popular area in Mauricie. The school is very reputable. »
The business couple wanted visitors to be able to feel this spirit of the place, even if they only stayed for a day or two.
“We wanted people to live the experience of the village,” explains Audrey. This is what we find interesting about Sainte-Flore. It is a special little village. »
And all around, nature.
“The natural beauty of the area is world class,” says Gabriel. I told myself that if someone visited a place like Saint-Jean-des-Piles or Grandes-Piles in Italy, they would talk about it for the rest of their life. A beautiful river, mountains, the national park. »
Now, the Floriel is in full bloom.
Now is the time to discover it for the first time – because we will definitely come back to it.
We will want to follow Gabriel and Audrey, who is a sommelier and who wants to find a way to include wine in a very unifying and friendly way in her offer so that the guests feel good and stretch the hours in the dining room on the ground floor. -of the road.
And maybe add to the menu the beers of Wild Flora fermenting in an old house, a few steps away…
Stephanie Forcier, Mathieu Fortin and David Côté
Wild Flora Microbrewery
“It’s the call of Sainte-Flore,” says Stéphanie Forcier, as soon as she tells what led her to the heart of the village, to participate in a microbrewery project.
Yes, one more.
Another one, but not just any.
At Flore sauvage, it is the sourdough that will have the last word. So much so that the business will probably not open its doors before August, perhaps even September, thus depriving itself of the bulk of the tourist season.
But, what do you want, the leaven is not ready. The bottles are there, in the boxes, doing their double fermentation like a champagne and it is the drink that will decide when it is ready.
David Côté himself harvested from the wild so that he could then develop the indigenous yeasts that became his mother sourdough, the same for two and a half years. Like a baker who maintains his living material for years.
“It’s all about yeast here,” he said. We have been working on harvesting in the environment for a year and a half. »
“We harvest plants, fruits, flowers,” David explains with patience and passion. We send that in must. It creates fermentation. After that, we will isolate microorganisms, yeasts, bacteria. »
“We are in the process of defining a unique taste, specifies Stéphanie, and it is the yeast that gives this taste. »
Elitist and weird all that?
In theory, yes. In practice, not at all.
Wild flora is accessible in its very nature. By its craftsmen, who welcome you as if you were lifelong friends, generous and without filter. How we love those who create our beers. And by the nature of the beer itself, which will be gourmet and tasted with the taste buds, not the brain.
“I don’t want people to need to take a class to appreciate our products,” Stephanie said.
For this reason. Stephanie hopes that her beers will find a place in the village convenience store – which would allow her to make her deliveries on foot, with a hand truck, which she wants more than anything.
For their beet beer, Stephanie may have to push her devil a little further. Because this cuvée will certainly be an exceptional product that will find its place on the best tables in the region.
As nature does things well, there is a magnificent table in Sainte-Flore, the Zélé, which has been the driving force behind this beautiful new wave.
The trio therefore toured this tightly woven village, integrated into the commercial net to find the missing link.
“We are all young entrepreneurs who have recently arrived,” continues Stephanie. We get on well, we have the same vision of entrepreneurship. »
David has lived in the area for ten years.
“I said to myself: the day I will start my project, it will be in Sainte-Flore. In 2020, there was a poster for sale here. It happened that we were starting to simmer the project. I thought there was something there. »
It was the call. Certainly.
Joelle Beauchesne, Justin Dunlop-Lemieux and Vanessa Julien-Picard
Restaurant Zélé and Jules – cheeses
Justin Dunlop-Lemieux knew the area well, his family having a cottage around one of the lakes near Sainte-Flore. As is often the case for people from the surrounding area who leave their corner, he no longer really saw the magnificence of Mauritian nature. It was his girlfriend, Vanessa Julien-Picard, who reminded him of it when she discovered it in turn.
She got the call too.
From nature, first, but also from Sainte-Flore when the premises of the old grocery store were put up for sale, in the heart of the village. The price was not high.
The couple were already working in the restaurant business.
Without doing either one or two, or a business plan, Vanessa and Justin became restaurateurs-owners. “We went into the void,” Justin said. We figured we were opening something and we’d see what was going to happen! »
So they opened Le Zélé by creating a restaurant that resembled them, more than what the gastronomic tradition of Sainte-Flore had established and which was a bit outdated. Like a beautiful memory that belongs to another era.
Le Zélé wanted to have his own personality.
No fixed menu, only a slate explained by the people who make and serve the dishes.
Initially, it was friends and family who came. Then, the people of the surroundings, on tiptoe.
“There’s a restaurant culture here,” says Justin. People said to themselves if it’s in Sainte-Flore, it must be good. »
“Our clientele, at first, was also people who had cabins in the area,” says Vanessa. Then people came from further afield. Trois-Rivières… And now, we have clients who come from Montreal. »
Joëlle Beauchesne was the first waitress at Le Zélé.
“When I came here, I thought it was very weird,” she says. It’s a street with restaurants. »
It’s still there, 10 years later. She became a partner in Justin and Vanessa’s second project, Le Jules – cheeses
They serve pizza made in a wood-fired oven. The safe has become the storeroom. There are selected wines, from the end of the world or very close. Like those of Annie and Éric from Clos Sainte-Thècle, whose bottles are very rare outside Mauricie. And maybe the cuvées of the neighbors of Flore sauvage if the sourdough ends up being ready…
Joëlle has taken a seat just above the restaurant. She now lives in the village – yes, she also had the call…
“I won’t leave here again,” she swears.
From Sainte-Flore, she loves village life, this closeness to people – who have repeatedly interrupted our interview without knowing it, on this beautiful spring Saturday when we all met. A friend passed by by chance. He was actually the brother of Audrey Boisvert’s best friend, who opened the hotel nearby.
Lise, the owner of the nearby café, also wanted her red plate back. She came to see if Joëlle still had it. The sun was shining, warming the village.
The day before, it was a chilly evening. A beautiful Friday in the village. Both restaurants were full of people. There was atmosphere. In the middle of the evening, Justin went out to bring blankets to the few customers who had still decided to settle on the terrace, despite the chill.
And that, in fact, is what makes Sainte-Flore what it is.
A community that lasts, carried by these young people who (sometimes even without fully measuring it) honor the place and allow it to still be the place we love to visit and which deserves to be chic.
In the heart of the village, this little café makes you want to stretch out lunches as long as possible. Especially on the back patio. Bucolic, certainly, but a bit magical too…
We can never say enough good things about chef Samy Benabed who is doing high flying in this inn he has just acquired with three other owners. This new generation has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help finance its counter, refreshment bar and terrace project on the lake. Moreover, Benabed has just won the Laurel of the revelation of the year. A treasure like that doesn’t stay hidden for long…
We were told the greatest good things about Mélodie’s tacos served in this snack bar in Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc and which make the crowds run. Every Tuesday, in a 5 to 7 formula, Saint-Mathieu becomes Santo Mateo and the main street fills up in time to say it.
We confess our immense and lasting crush on Éric Blouin and Annie Trépanier, who cultivate the vines and the cellar of this improbable vineyard located in a residential area and who make wonderful cuvées, depending on the harvest. For the first year, the vineyard will be open to the public, from Thursday to Sunday, a few hours a day. Wine, cheese and charcuterie menu. Run!
Improbable and very beautiful place which brings together a bakery, a small supply counter and a restaurant with a bar. We stop there for brunch from Sainte-Flore or we take a detour for the chic evening meal.