Since then, the bar and restaurant offerings on the street have multiplied and rents have gone up accordingly — so high, in fact, that Leduc is being forced out of the very area his café was named for.
Leduc found out a week ago that his landlord will be raising the rent from the $23,000 a year he currently pays, to $63,000 a year.
"The evaluation he made was based on the rent that Tim Hortons is paying next corner to me. They're paying similar rent, they're on a similar corner," Leduc said on CBC Daybreak on Monday morning.
He said he was able to negotiate the rent down a bit, but not enough to make a big difference considering the price of his main product — coffee — can only be raised so much.
The result? He'll be moving out of St-Henri next May when his lease ends.
Victim of its own success
It's businesses like his that have transformed Notre-Dame Street West from a row of boarded-up businesses to a booming commercial area. In a way, Leduc said, Café St-Henri has been a victim of its own success.
Craig Sauvé, the Projet Montreal city councillor for the area, said he's concerned by the idea of small businesses being forced out by high rents, only to be replaced by large chains.
"It's a big concern, absolutely. It's an economic problem and it's an urban problem. These are some of the negative effects of rapid gentrification that we're seeing in neighbourhoods like St-Henri and Hochelaga, is that the commercial diversity is in jeopardy," Sauvé said.
Sauvé has lived in St-Henri since 1998 and has seen the neighbourhood change dramatically in that time.
He said high rents will endanger the diversity of commercial offerings on the street and drive prices higher than the local population can afford.
The result could be more boarded-up storefronts in the future. He said the idea of commercial rent control should be seriously considered as an option to help better protect small businesses.
"It has to be a variety and that's what's going to keep our commercial streets going strong. and so when we have these crazy rent hikes, we're cutting out a whole bunch of possible businesses that might be able to make our streets interesting," Sauvé said.