Storefront Stories


Dates: January 7-February 3 , 2020
Venue: Miles Nadal JCC, 750 Spadina Ave., Toronto

Kensington Market is one of Toronto’s most distinct and historically significant neighbourhoods, known for its bustling streets, eclectic character, diverse ethnic food shops, and close-knit community. It can trace its roots back to the early twentieth century when it was better known as “the Jewish Market.” This exhibition, Storefront Stories, tells the history of the Jewish businesses that once thrived in this part of our city.

The Market, once the epicenter of Jewish cultural life in Toronto, nourished the culinary, intellectual, social, and entertainment needs of the community and offered a refuge to Yiddish-speakers arriving in Canada during the first half of the twentieth century. The concentration of Jews was partly due to the antisemitism that prevented Jews from moving into non-Jewish neighbourhoods and partly due to personal choice. People wanted to live in an area where they knew others like themselves and where there were businesses that supported their way of life. By 1920, Kensington Market was a bustling Jewish neighbourhood, serving all the needs of this largely immigrant community. Businesses ranged from food purveyors like kosher butchers, dairy stores, and bakeries to social gathering spaces such as restaurants, ice cream parlours, and billiard halls, all of which functioned as social hubs for the residents.

This exhibition is adapted from a site-specific project from May 2019 when current-day stores hosted posters with historical photos and content about the former Jewish businesses that once prospered in those locations. We hope you will join us to discover stories of family, food, entrepreneurship, and a commitment to community that lives on in Kensington today. The project was organized by the Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre and curated by Erica Chi, Casarina Hocevar, Amy Intrator, and Evelyn Feldman.

The storefronts featured in this exhibition are drawn exclusively from the OJA’s collection. If your family had a store in the Market, we hope you will consider donating materials (photos, business records, film, etc.) to the OJA so your story can be preserved for future generations. Please contact:

Visit the online exhibition