More than a Market

Danis's Cash Market

A French-Canadian Market at 37 Conger Avenue in the Lakeside Neighborhood of Burlington 1926-1969

Located a stone’s throw from the Lakeside Park, Danis’s Cash Market was the physical and social center of the community. Here neighbors purchased the cuts of meat central to French Canadian cuisine and stocked up on refreshments before heading over to watch baseball games in the park. Over the years, a hall on the second floor served the community as a billiard hall, a school, a church, and a gathering space.

Courtesy of Shelburne Museum Archives.

Physically separated from Burlington by railroad tracks and united by a shared language and culture, Lakeside residents formed a tight-knit community. Developed by the Queen City Cotton Company for its workers, the neighborhood included tenement, apartment, and duplex housing, a general store, a nursery, a barbershop, a cobbler, a handful of grocery stores, and a large central park with swings and slides, a baseball diamond, and a hockey rink in winter.

Noon hour, returning to Queen City Mill from Lakeside, c. 1909. Courtesy of Prints and Photographs Collection, Library of Congress (Lewis Hine Collection).

The Danis family’s arrival in Vermont was typical of many French Canadians seeking better job opportunities in the mills. Louis Danis, his wife Victorine, and their eight children arrived in St. Albans by rail from St. David d’Yamaska, Quebec, around 1910. The family settled in Queen City Cotton Company housing in Lakeside, and many worked at the mill over the next few decades.

Louis and Victorine Danis with their children, c. 1935. At the back are Donat (second from left) and Arthur (third from left).

 

In 1926 son Arthur Danis opened a grocery store advertising billiards and tobacco at 34 Conger Avenue, moving the business across the street to 37 Conger Avenue in 1937. His younger brother Donat was the meat cutter and bookkeeper for the store. Both men were active in religious and civic organizations and in Democratic politics. Donat served as alderman for Ward 5, advocating for the needs of his community in the south end of Burlington.

Donat Danis (left) and Arthur Danis and family (right)

Opening the Store

Donat had a central role in feeding the neighborhood, where meat was a mainstay of traditional French Canadian meals. He cleaned the meat from pig’s heads for head cheese, a jellied cold cut; made boudin, or blood sausage; and ground the meat for tourtieres, a meat pie, and the ever popular hamburger. During hunting season, he dressed the venison for customers. In winter, his wife Beatrice made tourtieres to sell in the store.

Making Tourtieres for the Holidays

Reveillon

Neighbors gathered in each other’s houses regularly to sing, dance, and play fiddles, spoons, guitar and piano. Danis family members often traveled from North Adams, Massachusetts, to join in the festivities.

In the foreground there are five older white men sitting on a bench. In the background in front of a building. The photo is black and white.

Elderly neighborhood friends kept this fence near the market warm socializing at all hours of the day. Pictured far right is Charles Hebert, Donat Danis’s father-in-law.

 

The second-story hall of the store was a regular gathering space for the community. Billiard hall, youth center, special event space—it welcomed all generations. During the week and in summertime, a Danis family member managed an informal youth center, where kids gathered to play the jukebox, dance, and watch movies.  For a time, it was the location of the St. John’s Club, a social and fraternal organization established in Lakeside in 1910. The club was a chapter of the Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste, a benefit society founded in 1899 to protect the welfare of Franco-Americans.

The Gentlemen on the Fence

Baseball was a favorite pastime in Lakeside. On summer nights, porches overflowed with spectators as the Lakeside 9, a team organized by the Queen City Cotton Company, played against local teams sponsored by businesses like the American Woolen Mills in Winooski and the Wells-Richardson Company in Burlington. Danis men featured prominently on the team rosters for decades.  In 1928 the team played, and lost, a highly anticipated game against Chappie Johnson’s All-Stars of Montreal.

(Left) Burlington Free Press, October 6, 1928. (Right) Queen City Cotton Company sponsored a baseball team, Burlington, Vermont: The Advantages It Offers the Workingman’s Family. Courtesy of Champlain College Special Collections.

 

Family photos courtesy of Louis H. Mossey III unless otherwise indicated.

Buying on Credit

Danis’s Market delivered within the community and issued credit to neighbors struggling financially.