What do sourdough, natural wine, and coffee have to do with each other? They all happily co-exist at the bakery-cum-shop of Montreal sur-Mer in the tiny coastal town of Soulac sur-Mer, France. Although I have a knack for stumbling upon these little delights, the connection here is personal. Chanelle, the owner and creator of MSS (with her partner Mel), is the twin sister of a dear friend of mine.
There’s something you need to know about Chanelle; she is a whirlwind of energy, curiosity, and determination. She has travelled and lived in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and France. Through these travels, she has had marvelous experiences, such as picking grapes in France and cooking for the workers at a vineyard. While in Melbourne, she trained as a barista and worked on a farm in New Zealand. While in Paris, she worked at the café and roastery Ten Bells. This café would become an essential part of Chan’s journey. And her first exposure to sourdough baking started at Circus Bakery in Paris. You can see how coffee, bread, and wine come together in perfect synchronization.
So, how did it all start? An opportunity to move from the hustle and bustle of Paris to the cozy and charming town of Soulac created the much-needed space to realize a new way of life. As Chan described it, “there were no coffee shops, nothing I’m used to in the city. The question was: Do I look for a job or create one?” During the pandemic, she had been dabbling with breadmaking and wanted to give it a real go.
Chan’s Motto is “I’m always learning.”Wise words to live by.
During a break in lockdown when it was possible to travel, Chan returned to Vancouver, Canada, to see her sister. Through connections, she was able to observe breadmaking at Fraser Ubuntu Canteen. This ignited her curiosity even more about breadmaking. She reached out to friends asking about fermentation, bread, and flour. Then the opportunity to purchase a small oven from a friend came knocking.
The slice is right
So, the bread concept was working. Chan had converted her little studio into a bakery and made bread for a local restaurant of a friend in Soulac. The idea of creating a shop to sell bread and all her other favourite things (coffee, wine, beer, and handmade quality goods) started to take root.
As a lover of wine, it was integral to the shop concept. Again, reaching through her network, Chan started to inquire about sourcing wine. It’s important to note that it’s rare to go directly to the winemakers, but Chan did. Most people go through agencies to taste, see the soil, see the place and meet the makers. However, Chan started reaching out to winemakers she had previously worked with, and they were super responsive (of course). She created an opportunity to showcase incredible local wines to an audience thirsty for something unique and special.
How do you want to spend your life? Reflecting on this question, Chan explained her a-hah moment, “The past few years have been an awakening. I didn’t know what to do or what my passion was. How can I create my own little life? And that’s when passion and curiosity converged, and she began looking at potential locations for a shop.”
A critical juncture
During a two-week stint at Ten Bells during COVID, she was confronted with a critical moment. Alice, the owner of Ten Bells, asked her what’s your plan. This question stuck with her as she came back to Soulac. They had found a location for their shop but was this the right move? Soulac is seasonal, and the space owner didn’t want to rent for the whole year. It would be more profitable to rent seasonally. That didn’t stop them.
To bring this dream to life, they needed a little help. If it’s still not apparent, Chanelle and Melissa have an extensive network of people worldwide. The power is in numbers, and they reached out to this network to ask for help bringing this idea to life. Using crowdfunding to raise 18,000 Euros, Chan put out the ask with trepidation, but the response was unreal. To challenge herself to meet her goal, she said, “You don’t get the money if you don’t make the goal.”
Dreams do come true
Not only did they meet their goal, they surpassed it quite significantly, and on May 13th, 2021, the La Acesion holiday in France, Montreal-sur-Mer opened. To show their gratitude to the donors of the campaign, Mel wrote the donors names on the show window. (H)
As the business continues to scale, selling out of bread every day. Every time you visit, expect to hear all the incredible stories connected to each product they sell. Chan envisions a collaborative baking future where she can invite bakers to share their knowledge about other ways of baking. And to continue learning, accepting that you’re always learning.
So, if you find yourself in Soulac-sur-Mer, make sure you stop by Montreal-sur-Mer to say hello to Chan and Melissa. And don’t forget to grab a fresh loaf of bread and a bottle of wine (or two).
My two cents
Soulac is a charming seaside town that stole a piece of my heart. A little over two hours on the train from Bordeaux, you escape the hustle and bustle of city life. The town is a short drive from the train station, and the town center is compact, with a lovely mix of busy main streets and calmer side streets. The town is packed in the summer, but to my delight, it was primarily French tourists. It didn’t feel inundated with foreigners, which is part of the charm. The beach stretches on for kilometres. You can choose from lively, quintessential main beach vibes or stroll to the dunes for seclusion and quiet.
For accommodation, there are quite a few options. I stayed in a super cozy bnb about 10min cycling from the city center. My options were limited because most places were already booked, but I got lucky. I recommend renting a bike to get around the city. You can also use it to explore outside the city and the neighbouring towns. The cycling paths are paved, and it’s a beautiful ride through the forest. I truly felt disconnected in the best possible way. The simplicity of everything also was a nice change of pace. If you’re looking for a place to rest and recharge while still imbibing from time to time, you should consider Soulac.
Mojo – If you’re looking for a delightful breakfast spot and excellent coffee, stop here. They also have great lunch options. ☕
Artisan Food Market– A lovely market hall with everything to satiate your foodie desires. You can find the market between the rue de la Plage and the rue Trouche. 🥐
Cabana 8 – A tasty mix of Spanish and Latin American food. They also have a great selection of local beers and delicious cocktails. Grab a seat on the terrace to people watch with your bevy. 🍹
Surfs Up – I cycled about 30 min outside of the town to a surf shop called Ulmo Surf School. The ride to the beach is super nice, pack a lunch and lots of water. You can rent gear or enroll in lessons. The surf spot is fairly protected and the beach is super chill. 🏄♀️
Bike Rental – Explore the surrounding areas around Soulac and don’t forget the forest bike paths and dunes.🚴♀️