The Matte family

Rosario Matte. ©Courtoisie

As businesses are being developed throughout the Laurentians, we note that small villages are losing their vitality and cachet because the grocery stores and service stations that have been family-managed for generations are closing their doors.

Travellers no longer have a reason to visit and slowly, the villages lose their charm. Happily for us, the Village district (on lac Mercier) is still vibrant because of the services available: Hôtel Mont-Tremblant, Bonichoix grocery store and, for 76 years, the Matte garage.

Rosario Matte
& Fernande Clément. ©Courtoisie

In fact, the Matte garage is the only remaining family business in the village, now managed by the third generation. But let’s go back to the beginning. In 1946 Rosario Matte, born in Mont-Tremblant in 1914, acquired a service station operated by Shell.

At the time, few Mont-Tremblant people owned an automobile, but an increasing number of tourists were arriving by car. Rosario had a basic knowledge of mechanics and, of course, cars then were not as complicated then as they are today. Besides, speaking of which, Rosario’s grandchildren admit that he “learned on-the-job.”

In 1947, he married Fernande Clément — daughter of Albert and Euphémie Clément – and together they had three children: Carmen, Carol and Richard. Rosario was devoted to his customers, and his clientele grew thanks to the attraction of Tremblant Ski Resort, Gray Rocks and Villa Bellevue.

But all was not rosy. In 1960, the garage was destroyed by a fire caused by an electrical issue. Rosario didn’t give up, however. I never saw Rosario Matte do nothing. He was stout-hearted and strong and never left a customer in the lurch, even when he was totally overworked. He would say: “Don’t worry, Peter, just leave it with me and I’ll take care of it.”

Carol Matte. ©Courtoisie

The Matte garage was reliable and efficient, just like Rosario. His son Carol had a three-vehicle taxi company which he sold to his father after operating it for six years. Then he left Mont-Tremblant to work for 13 years as a mechanic on City of Montreal buses.

In 1990, he returned – with solid experience – to take over the family garage The decision to return to Mont-Tremblant was not an easy one for the family head, however. Carol was a driver for Bombardier in the early ‘70s, racing snowmobiles. He came in fourth in the World Championships in Wisconsin in 1971. He was part of the crowd that included brothers Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve, as well as the famous Yvon Du Hamel. His being part of that group says a lot about his talent.

But Carol opted for stability. That same year, he married Danièle Dufresne, and they were to have two children, Mélanie and Nicolas. Carol was a hero to all the tourists whose cars were unwilling to start in the deep cold of Mont Tremblant.

On a typical day, Carol and a few employees could rescue 50 cars a day. There were even times when he towed the cars to the garage to get them started in its warmth. The space wasn’t big enough indoors, however, so he would get up in the night and, helped by Rosario, start the engines. While Carol had the same work ethic as his father, he could be…well… a bit annoying at times.

Nicolas, Léa, Mélanie, Loïc,
Danièle et Raphaël. ©Courtoisie

When he had the towing contract at the base of the Mont Tremblant slopes, he recognized my car parked there and decided to tow it away and hide it. Imagine what went through my mind when, at the end of my ski day, I couldn’t find my car where I’d left it. I searched for it, and I told myself that I was really out to lunch, and was going in circles when Carol slowly approached me in his truck. With a big grin, he said, “Get in, ‘cause you’ll never find it.” He really got me!

Carol passed away on July 1, 2020.

The Matte garage is still there, like a beacon in the night. Now it’s Danièle and her children who are in charge. They’re at the heart of the village and for 76 years, they’ve also been the heart of the village. When I watch that third generation of the Matte family at work, I tell myself that passion, reliability and pride in work well done is unquestionably in the genes.

 

More from this author by clicking on his photo below.

Peter Duncan

 

Peter Duncan80 Posts

Membre de l’équipe canadienne de ski alpin de 1960 à 1971, skieur professionnel de 1971 à 1979 et champion américain en 1965, Peter Duncan a participé aux Jeux olympiques de 1964 à Innsbruck ainsi qu’à ceux de 1968 à Grenoble. Intronisé au Temple de la renommée du ski au Canada, au Panthéon des sports du Québec et récipiendaire de la médaille du gouverneur général, Peter a longtemps été commentateur de ski à la télévision./ Peter Duncan is a Canadian former alpine skier who competed in the 1964 and the 1968 Winter Olympics. He was named to the Canadian National Alpine Team in 1960 at the age of 16 and competed at the national level for the next 10-years until 1970 before retiring.

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