Smallest cafe in North America: imaginative retail space

January 11, 2013


Smallest cafe, rockin’ it under the stairs

Montreal, Canada is the home of the smallest cafe in North America, located in one of the smallest commercial spaces in the nation. Located next to a subway station, La Distributrice (The Distribution) offers takeout coffee to daily travelers and repurposes what would traditionally be an unused retail space, planting themselves firmly under a stairwell.

While there are no trappings of a traditional coffee shop, no chairs or ceramic cups, no tables or newspaper stands, but a small barista station, rockin’ it Harry Potter style, under the stairs. Customers order at the window, pay, and the barista immediately prepares the drink, working with one customer at a time until the order is completed.

While coffee carts already exist on streets, this design allows the baristas a more comfortable environment, and of course, with an imaginative retail space, customers always know where to go and it never leaves, allowing for longer hours.

According to The Dieline, “The Distributrice reinvents the takeout coffee service by taking over the smallest commercial space in Montréal. Next to one of the most popular subway station, a barista serves you espresso, americano and latté directly on the street.”

Smallest cafe in photos:




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What this means for commercial real estate

Repurposing dead malls and other retail space abandoned has long been a focus here at AG, but creative measures for existing spaces is something we predict will become more common as retailers suffer in a bad economy, but need ways that are unique and cost effective to expand their offering.

Pop up shops make use of vacant spaces temporarily, but we believe that the smallest cafe around serves as an example of how retailers can sublease space with the help of startups like PartnerRent, and landlords and commercial real estate owners can get creative with new spaces that is currently unused.

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Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.


  1. Neat! I wonder how much his rent payments are…

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