On County Road 17, between Alfred and L’Orignal, one will find the famed Blue Corner and one of its staples, Meo Bicycle and the Blue Corner Flea Market.
For locals, this landmark has been a beloved “incontournable” for anyone looking to purchase a bicycle… Or any other item ever conceived by humankind for the past 30 years.
For owner Mario Lalande, what started as a passion project at the dawn of the 80s soon became a full-time job.
“Meo Bicycle started with the help of an older gentleman who used to repair bicycles in his basement. I had a garage and space to spare, so I told him we could both use the opportunity and in exchange he offered to teach me how to fix bicycles. I started repairing bicycles and before long, I quit my job and did it almost full-time,” explained Lalande.
The little bicycle shop soon flirted with success. A few years after its inception, the hobby became much more – a full-blown shop that sold used and new bicycles, supported by a team of bicycle repairmen overseen by Lalande himself.
“By 1987-1988, I was the biggest seller of bicycles in Eastern Ontario.”
The success of Meo Bicycle was enough to keep Lalande busy for six months every year, but an opportunity soon allowed him to expand his business.
“I had to work elsewhere the rest of the time to make ends meet. My brother-in-law suggested that we find a way to operate all year by transforming the land I had into a bigger market,” explained Lalande.
Soon, Meo Bicycle had a younger brother – The Blue Corner Flea Market.
“It started with one or two tables outside,” said Lalande.
“Eventually, it grew into what it is today.”
The Blue Corner Flea Market is indeed quite a sight to behold. For those who have never paid it a visit, imagine an expansive, full-size flea market, complete with everything one would usually find there. The twist? The whole inventory is managed by Lalande and his wife, which makes for a very well-organized shopping experience.
“You can literally find anything here, except for food and clothes – with the exception of work or winter garb. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, it’s probably because someone else just bought it,” said Lalande.
The massive inventory has everything: furniture, decorations, electronics, records, machinery, building materials, doors, sporting equipment, nostalgia and, of course, bicycles. Honestly, the list could go on for days.
After a few minutes browsing the flea market’s many storage buildings, you’ll probably all ask yourselves the same question: “Where does all this come from?”
“10 to 15% of my inventory is dropped off here by people. The rest I go and get myself because I need to appraise it. It’s a lot of work, but when you love what you do, the hours don’t matter. I’m lucky to have a great team and a wife that supports me,” said Lalande.
According to him, many of the items are found through collaborations.
“We work with real estate companies, like when a house needs to be emptied. Often, it’s stuff from workers from overseas who are here for a few years, then leave. We basically pick up what they’ve accumulated and bring it here,” explained Lalande.
The Blue Corner Flea Market’s reputation clearly precedes it; a fact that ensures the continuity for the ever-changing massive inventory.
After more than 30 years in business, Lalande has recently decided to try and sell the one thing he has never sold before: his business.
“It would be nice to expand, but we’re not getting any younger, which is why I’m looking to sell the place. I’m perfectly aware it’s not for everyone. What I’d love is to know is that the place will remain true to itself; to know that my regular customers can still come here,” said Lalande.
Lalande said that for his retirement, he would love to keep the bicycle side of the business, revisiting the days when it was more of a hobby, or part-time job.
“The one who’ll buy this place can do whatever he or she wants, but I’d love to see it continue,” added Lalande.
Meo Bicycle and The Blue Corner Flea Market are most definitely worth a visit. Exploring its expanse and browsing its massive inventory can’t help but make one wonder – is the place a manifestation of the past; a type of best-of compilation of humanity’s materialistic tendencies? Or, is it rather a glimpse into our future, built on the hope that there will always be a sanctuary for the lost and discarded — awaiting a second life?
All philosophy aside, visiting the place is sure to put a smile on anyone’s face – not to mention — quite possibly a new and unexpected treasure in your living room.
Anyone interested in visiting Meo Bicycle and The Blue Corner Flea Market should be aware that the business currently operates from Thursday to Sunday – winter hours – until the Holiday Season. Calling in advance is recommended (613 679-4850).