Save the Deli

Shopsy’s may be on the outs…

If one deli represents both the bright and dark sides of Toronto’s bittersweet deli story it is Shopsy’s. For years, Shopsy’s was the granddaddy of the Toronto corned beef scene, ruling over the corner of Spadina and Dundas (now home to King’s Noodle) for many decades. It was our equivalent of Canter’s or Katz’s or Ben’s, and people knew and respected it around the country. Great deli men like Yitz Penciner (aka Mr. Yitz), cut their teeth there, and it fed corned beef to millions of Torontonians, both Jews and non.

But Shopsy’s then is no Shopsy’s now. The Shopsowitz family sold out first to a soap conglomerate (Unilever), then to investors and hedge funds. They branded and hawked their products to large meat makers, which now includes Shopsy’s bacon…the foremost sign of selling out a deli can do…kosher or not!

In the 1980′s Shopsy’s departed their original location for a downtown office building, and the empire truly began its decline. The deli feel of the place, which once included giant salamis (I recall my mom winning a 5 ft one), was absorbed into general restaurant fare. They opened other locations, sold again, and really lost that special feeling. These locations opened and closed quick as illegal DVD stands in Chinatown, and any sense of community was gone. As any deli owner in Toronto will tell you “Shopsy’s hasn’t been a deli for years.”

Still, there’s some nostalgia and a special feeling left there, at least for die hards, which is why today’s story in the Globe and Mail was tough. The downtown location…by far the oldest and most accesible to the city, will be closed at the end of the year due to a rent dispute. It may signal the end of Shopsy’s in Toronto, and even though the soul of this deli is long gone, it’s body’s death is still sad.

Shopsy’s ordered to quit Front Street

When Gavin Quinn’s family-owned business bought Shopsy’s Hospitality Inc. a couple of years ago, he had big plans for Shopsy’s flagship delicatessen at the corner of Yonge and Front Streets. But those plans have been quashed because of a dispute with the building’s landlord that ended up in court and left the Quinns facing a deadline to get out within six months.

24 Responses to “Shopsy’s may be on the outs…”

  1. harvey goldberg Says:

    no want deli.?go to montreal.

  2. brian sokoloski....Langley .B.C ..Canada Says:

    hello all…. only true Canadians and Torontoians apprecate SHOPSYS…born and raised in Toronto i remember Shopsys growing , i suggest bring back the huge SHOPSYS corned beef and hot dog stand at the C.N.E and open more stands at more Canadian exhibitions across Canada,,the Shopsy stand at the C.N.E was the biggest corned beef + hot dog stand in Canada, the Shopsy family must have been so proud of this stand,,,very busy and always big lineups everytime the family went to the C.N.E ….Shopsys is a Canadian SUCCESS story……….

  3. Gary K in New Jersey Says:

    One additional memory. Anyone with a memory long enough (and old enough, too!) will remember that beloved institution, “Miss Montreal”. No, not the sad makeover – but the original – when they served you carside too! Anyway – Miss Montreal served the most FANTASTIC Shopsy Hot Dogs. Man, did they have an unbelievable “snap” when you bit through that crunchy casing. It’ll be a sad day when and if this great company disappears. The The extinction of that awful Coorsh boil-in-the-bag smoked meat package was a warranted event, but please don’t take away our Shopsy!!

  4. Ted Says:

    No big loss – was probably the worst food I’ve had in a long while..

  5. Mel Says:

    My family were partners in Miss Montreal (the original owners sold it to them and other “survivors”). The original, on Decarie was expropriated by the City of Montreal to make way for the Expressway, As compensation they provided the land to rebuild. It was never the same. Forget the Shopsys hot dog…teh Chicken in the Basket, served with the Corn Fritter was the big prize! By the way the Orange Julep sits set back from the original location. Of course the other Montreal deli the family owned was Ben Ash, which at one time grew to 6 locations.

  6. Len Says:

    Went to high school with Paul Coorsh. He is as tastlesss as the smoked meat pkg. The Coorsh family lived on Pratt street in Montreal and had a business on de Courtrai. Didn’t know they are now Maple Foods. It explains the flavour!
    No worries ..ten minute walk to Snonden Deli or a ride to the Main or Felix Mich for the real stuff.
    Miss Montreal was a great hangout for the young.. now I have Wendys’s instead….not.

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