Tevan’s Dry Goods and Robinson’s Grocery Store

Street Address : 406 Barrie Street

There are several spots in Kingston where Jewish families and businesses used to cluster. This is one of them. Tevan’s Dry Goods was at 406 Barrie Street across from Robinson’s Grocery Store at 18 York Street.

Ezekiel Robinson, a Litvak (Lithuanian Jew), came to Kingston in 1900 at age 25. According to the Beth Israel commemorative book, “He was brought over by his cousins, the Bennetts and the Zacks who helped him get his first job as a peddler.” Ezekiel sent for his wife Leah and children in 1904.

He bought a grocery store at 20 York Street from his cousin Tamares; the family lived in an apartment above the store, and it was here that Percy and Louis were born. After Ezekiel’s death in 1916, Leah (again, quoting to Beth Israel’s official history) “continued to operate the store and raise the children. Robinson’s Grocery Store served the local families, to whom Leah would often extend credit during the depression, and the Jewish Queen’s students who lived in the area.”

Nowadays, the Jews of Kingston either go to a big chain store like Loblaws to buy their kosher meat or they order it in from Toronto. From the 1920s to the 1940s, however, local Jews went to Robinson’s Grocery Store; they had in their employ a local shochet (kosher butcher) by the name of Louis Susman. By the 1950s, another shochet—with the perfect butcher’s name: Martin Hamburger—established the Kingston Meat Market at this site.

In 1942, Percy Robinson joined the Canadian armed forces, and spent a year with the Army of Occupation, “distributing food to survivors of the concentration camps.” He returned in 1946, starting a china store, and then with Maurice Smith of Guelph, took over a men’s clothing store on King Street called Berlin’s.

Where the Store Famous now stands was once Tevan’s Dry Goods store, owned and operated by Morris and Sema Tevan in the 1930s. They lived next door, at 408 Barrie Street. By the 1950s, they were in the clothing business on Princess Street; he had also begun playing violin for the Kingston Symphony Orchestra around that time.

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