Kosher at Cavendish by Joannie Tansky
In life one can view events two ways – positively or negatively. The Cavendish Mall is a perfect example of this adage. One can lament and say back in the day it used to be ‘the’ mall. Or, one can say how the mall has reinvented themselves to serve the changing demographic of the Jewish community.
In The Beginning
Built in 1973, it was the first mall in the West End of Montreal. People had an option to shop locally for items they would normally have to trek downtown to find. Anchored by Eaton’s, Steinberg’s and Miracle Mart, it served the communities of Cote St. Luc, Hampstead, Notre Dame de Grace and Montreal West.
In 1976 the Parti Quebecois was elected with Rene Levesque at the helm. That was the beginning of many waves of young Jewish families fleeing Quebec down the 401 for staid, calm Toronto. It was also the beginning of many changes for the Cavendish Mall. Over the next thirty-four years, the mall would see multiple modifications coupled with some very lean years. In 2010 it was decided to demolish 40% of the mall to make way for a large, upscale, residential housing development. For residents living in the area, watching the mall being bulldozed was difficult, especially for those who fondly remembered shopping there over the years. In the end, things turned out well. The mall now not only surviving, but thriving.
In this article, our mandate will focus on the kosher establishments that have emerged over the past few years. With a growing Sephardic community as well as more Jews than ever observing the laws of Kashtruth, the need to provide stores, restaurants and butcher shops grew over the years. People in the area needed places to shop for their growing families. Currently, there are five establishments under the MK certification in the mall: IGA, J&R, KOSHER KIMLY, THE KOSHER PIZZA BAR, SUSHI METSUYAN AND SORSKY’S DELI.
The first of those stores to open was J&R Butcher in 1991. Established in Outremont in 1942, J&R expanded, opening a second store in the Cavendish Mall when they realized many of their customers were moving to the West end of the city. In 1996 they closed the Outremont location and focused solely on the store in the mall. J&R has weathered many changes. Their clientele is fiercely loyal, their store immaculately clean and their motto that the customer is always right and comes first could be a lesson for many in the service industry to learn from.
IGA came on board in 1992 when Steinberg’s closed. It started out as a regular IGA, with a small kosher department. Over the years, their excellent management had the foresight to expand that department to suit the needs of an ever-growing, observant Jewish population, not only in Cote St. Luc, but well beyond those borders. Today, their kosher department is the largest of its kind within a supermarket in the city. It is the go-to place for everything kosher, including some very hard to find items that no one else carries.
The Food Court
The food court is a story within a story. It was and has always been a place where people go to meet, schmooze, see and be seen. Four years ago, Doudou Dahan opened the Kosher Pizza Bar (Maestro). He was very successful both in the mall and with take-out and deliveries. Then came Sushi Metsuyan, owned by Ilan Posesorsky. Ilan has another fantastic surprise awaiting shoppers in the mall, he is opening a kosher deli! It is called Sorky’s (part of his last name) and will be serving all the food associated with a deli. Stay tuned for the grand opening!
About a year ago, Doudou Dahan was carefully watching Kimly, the Chinese food restaurant and realized that many students from nearby schools were ordering food that was not kosher. He took it upon himself to change things, bought the restaurant and it is now kosher.
The Story Within A Story
Two years ago, Mikey, an observant, kind and soft-spoken man in his fifties was eating in the food court. It was a Friday, he had finished his shopping and bought a slice of pizza before going home. As he was eating, a large group of Jewish teens rolled in and began ordering from non-kosher establishments. Mikey was extremely uncomfortable watching this happen. Perhaps, he thought to himself, they just don’t know about kosher.
It took a week and Mikey devised a plan. The next Friday he went back to the food court and as the teens arrived he told them the following, “If you eat kosher pizza and fries, I will pay for your lunch.” It was an offer the boys and girls could not refuse. That week he fed about twenty kids. Slowly word got out and twenty turned into fifty he was buying for. One day one of the teens looked at Mikey and said, “I’m paying for my own pizza.”
Since then some of the teens took on the mitzvah of eating only kosher food. Ilan, the owner of the pizza shop realized what was happening and helped out as well. He gave each teen a $5 coupon for a piece of pizza and a drink. Last year a kind benefactor found out about Mikey’s Friday lunches and underwrote his expenses, which by now were becoming large. Kol Hakavod – well done to Mikey and all the kosher establishments who took part in this incredible venture.
Montreal is a very unique, warm and tight Jewish community. What Mikey, Ilan, Doudou, IGA, J&R have done in the Cavendish Mall, now called Quartier Cavendish, is a tribute to each of them and to the community at large. While the physical space may not be as large as it was in 1974, sometimes in life it’s not the size but the quality. Quartier Cavendish has weathered many storms and emerged as it once was, ‘the’ place to go in the west end for many of their resident’s needs.