When asked about her relationship with her husband, Ms. Corbeil responds without hesitation that it was easy. Skilled with numbers and the administrative side of the business, Raymond Corbeil saw great creative potential in his wife, which he encouraged her to pursue. It was the teamwork of this passionate couple that turned a small shop in Montreal’s east end into a longstanding company with four successful store concepts. With an eye on the future and the wind in her sails, Colette consistently has plans up her sleeve for the company’s next steps.
A tight-knit family
While Colette and Raymond’s sons, Éric and Stéphane, have since taken the reins, their mother still maintains an active role in the company. “We do everything together — we travel and we do buying. But we each have our strengths. It’s interesting, because my boys are a bit like Raymond and me: Stéphane focuses on the administrative side, while like me, Éric is more creative.” Though the boys both attended university, they ultimately decided to stay in the family business. Still, Colette makes it clear:
“Raymond and I never pushed them to do this job, but we were happy they decided to join the company. It makes me very proud!”
Decor styles and trends have changed a lot over the past four-plus decades. The market has also evolved significantly, undergoing major shifts and rough patches at times. Maison Corbeil has long supported Quebec manufacturing and design, but in the face of increased competition, many homegrown businesses have been forced to close their doors over the years. Although the made-in-Quebec furniture market is currently experiencing a resurgence — a fact that’s reflected in the many local brands on offer at Maison Corbeil — the retailer has looked to other markets to fill the gaps when necessary. Across the pond, Madame Corbeil fell in love with Italian design.
“Everything starts in Milan — nothing compares on the European scene,” she says.
For the love of design
To this day, Colette Corbeil is guided by her heart when it comes to choosing furniture and decor objects for Maison Corbeil’s stores.
“I have to love it. Everything I select for our stores, I would put in my own home. When we buy something, we don’t buy it simply because we know that it will sell; it needs to capture our hearts.”
At times, she’ll need to have spirited discussions with her sons about budget constraints, but even the boys have their own product picks that the family weighs in on as a team.
“We’re a bit of a crazy family, but we’re extremely passionate about what we do!”
Colette’s magic touch can also be seen the visual concepts she develops for each store. She continues to craft the vision for all new stores, and still feels anxious about opening each one, even after all these years.
“It’s nonetheless a true joy once I’m finished and everything is to my taste. I wrap things up and feel 50 years younger!”
Making regular visits to Paris each year, Madame Corbeil developed a soft spot for the famous Colette boutique, which specialized in all things cutting edge, from fashion to decor objects to tech gadgets. She loved that the store had its finger firmly on the pulse and was saddened to learn it would be closing last year. “Because you can never truly say you’ve arrived in our field, we must constantly renew ourselves and take nothing for granted.” No wonder she felt inspired to create a space of her own, a place to house her most favourite objects — the ones that truly reflect her tastes and complement her style. That is how Espace Colette was born, an exclusive space at the Rockland Centre store featuring upscale Italian furniture, rich fabrics, beautiful craftsmanship and on-trend objects, all in impeccable taste and ultimately rooted in the image of Colette Corbeil.
Ask Colette for her secret and she’ll tell you, straightforwardly:
“I think I was very lucky to have worked in a job I’ve always loved. Of course, we’ve faced obstacles along the way, but it seems that the older I get, the more I realize how much I love what I do.”
Come visit our Espace Colette at 1215 Boul Cremazie W, Montreal QC, H4N 2W1.