Located at 651 Rue Villeray on the corner of Rue Foucher, Dumoulin Bicyclettes was a popular neighbourhood landmark from 1952 until its relocation to Rue Jean-Talon in 2011. The original building has since been demolished and replaced with condominiums.
The shop was named after its original owner, Gérard Dumoulin, an avid cycling enthusiast who built his own line of bicycles and even penned two short books on the art of two-wheel living, Mon Ami Ma Bicyclette and Santé et Joi de Vivre par la Bicyclette.
According to city records, the sign from Dumoulin Bicyclettes that is now with the Montreal Signs Project (MSP) was installed in October 1977 by Trans-Canada Signs. This date might suggest that the sign was installed by Dumoulin’s second owner, Jean-Pierre Desnoyers, who purchased the shop from Mr. Dumoulin around this time and ran it until the late 1980s. There is also reason to believe that the installation date refers to the fitting of new, neon-accented acrylic fascias into an existing superstructure dating from the 1950s or ‘60s.
Bill Kovacevic, the MSP’s go-to sign expert, told us that the structure is typical of mid-century construction methods, notably its sheet metal box with inverted frames to keep the fascias in place – “window pane-style,” as Kovacevic puts it. The sign’s neon, animated electro-mechanically to resemble a spinning bicycle wheel, is exemplary for its skillful execution, not to mention what Kovacevic says is its disregard for existing safety standards that forbade neon tubing against combustible plastic! Furthering the theory that the box predates 1977 are the green, 11-watt lightbulbs running around the sign’s perimeter, which Kovacevic says are also evidence of 1950s / 1960s construction.
The fascias now in the MSP collection were acquired by the project when Dumoulin’s current owners, Étienne Roy-Corbeil et Jean Lecompte, decided to relocate in 2011. Special thanks to David Lank for tipping us off about the sign. Together, we rescued both sides of the sign (one each!), but had to leave behind the metal casing with the rows of lightbulb trim.The 60s-influenced lettering of “Bicycles” and the sign’s artwork, which features a 19th Century high-wheel bicycle and a (poorly drafted) classic Montréal dépanneur delivery bike, were spray-painted on an acrylic base, with each colour separately masked in stages, according to Kovacevic. The neon tubing that animated the wheels of the Victorian high-wheel was knocked out of action by the infamous Ice Storm of 1998 but remained largely intact and in place. All in all, Dumoulin is a wonderful example of the locally-made, mid-century commercial signage that kept Montreal’s neighbourhood streets buzzing at night. [Reporting by Steve Smith]