“Little Jerusalem”

Street Address : 53 Princess Street
Period : 1900-1950

If you look down the street from the corner of King Street and Princess Street towards Ontario Street, you will see a part of lower Princess that was once commonly referred to as “Little Jerusalem” or “second-hand row.” Most Jewish immigrants started out as pedlars before opening their own stores. Often, the women would stay home to run the store while their husbands would go out on the road selling goods house to house. This would continue until the Kingston-based business was profitable enough for the male head of the household to remain in town and manage the business.

Self-employment was vital to Jewish immigrants because it required relatively low capital investment to get started. Because of language barriers and cultural prejudices, it was often difficult for Jewish immigrants to compete with Christian immigrants for jobs in non-Jewish businesses. Self-employment was also a means by which to safeguard one’s religious heritage. Ideally, Orthodox Jews are to attend synagogue every morning as well as the Sabbath. By running their own businesses, Jews were free to work around religiously mandated time-constraints.

We do not know exactly when this area became known as “Little Jerusalem,” but the Kingston City Directory indicates that as early as 1895, Louis Langbort set up shop at 43 Princess with a second-hand goods store. By the 1930s, the directory informs us that four Jewish second-hand stores, ranging from 41 to 51 Princess, were located here. The proprietors were Louis Zacharoff, Ben Palmer, Louis Sugel, and Harry Dubenofsky.

Louis Zacharoff brought his wife and children to Kingston from Vitebsk, Belarus, in 1923. He later entered the scrap business.

Ben Palmer, Louis Sugel’s brother-in-law, was originally named Benjamin Pomeranz. He and his wife Hinda Blecher came to Kingston from what is now Belarus in 1901. They started off living in rented quarters on York Street with Hinda taking in boarders and Ben working as a junk peddler. In 1919, they moved to Montreal to run a kosher restaurant; it failed, so they returned to Kingston in 1923 to start over again here on “Second-Hand Row.” They sold dry goods and lived at 43 Princess by the late 1920s.

By 1935, Ben had started up a new company, Modern Furniture, and located further up at 262 Princess Street across from what was then Abramsky’s Department Store.

Before coming to Kingston in 1913, Harry Dubenofsky had been a soldier in the Czar’s army. At first he worked at the Davis Tannery on Cataraqui Street. His wife joined him in 1914, and he began peddling with a horse and wagon, eventually purchasing a house and scrap yard at 216 York Street. In the 1940s he started Larry’s Men’s Wear at 354 King Street.

The 1927 city directory indicates that brothers Joseph and Samuel Stuchen operated as grocers and dealers in dry goods at 53-55 Princess. The names Esther and Sarah, possibly their wives, also appear in the directory of that year. The “Stuchen Bros.” also had a furniture store in Gananoque, where Joseph lived. While the Stuchens do not appear to have been members of Beth Israel congregation, it is possible that they were Jewish, given their names and occupations. As well, Mrs. Lena Abramsky sold second-hand goods at 47 Princess in 1927.

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