5.10.2009

rotman's hat shop on spadina

On my way to War Resister Support Campaign meetings every week, I pass Rotman's Hat Shop, a dusty anachronism, and I wonder, who owns this place? Is it really still in business? Who is Rotman, whose Jewish last name stands alone among the Chinese novelty stores and Vietnamese pho shops? And a hat store, like a typewriter repair shop, is itself a piece of the past.

The Kensington Market/Chinatown area bears some similarity to New York's Lower East Side, where a few ancient synagogues and famous Jewish delis hang on as proof of the past. The Jewish community whose teeming poverty once made the Lower East Side the most densely populated blocks on earth has long since moved on, giving way to successive waves of immigrant groups, to artists and revolutionaries and junkies, and now to developers, high-end restaurants and boutique hotels. Although my knowledge of Toronto history is scant, I sensed that Rotman's must be part of the same pattern.

A story in yesterday's Globe and Mail explained the familiar tale to me: David Rotman, the last of Spadina's Jewish merchants has sold the building and retired. It's a nice story, worth reading if you like these urban tales.

Rotman's on Flickr: here, here and here, among many others.

7 comments:

James said...

Another great shop of the same vintage on Spadina is Gwartzman's Art Supplies. Highly recommended.

These days, the most Jewish neighbourhoods are up along Bathurst. Lotsa good delis.

L-girl said...

Oooo, that looks great! Those photos are drool-worthy. I love art supply stores, although I am most definitely not a visual artist.

Where on Bathurst? I could use a good Jewish deli.

James said...

Gwartzman's is worth visiting just to see it. And it's not far from Kensington Market -- it's on the west side of Spadina, just south of College.

One good Jewish area in Toronto is Bathurst and Eglington (that's where our (Jewish) accountant lives) -- primarily along Eglington. Up there, you get the little Vietnamese places tucked between the Jewish shops, instead of the other way around.

L-girl said...

"Gwartzman's is worth visiting just to see it. And it's not far from Kensington Market -- it's on the west side of Spadina, just south of College."

I'm there almost every week. I'll look for it this Weds!

"One good Jewish area in Toronto is Bathurst and Eglington"

Hmmm... pastrami...

mogo said...

The Jewish community is all along Bathurst, from about Lawrence all the way up past Steeles.

L-girl said...

Thanks Mogo.

When I first moved here, several commenters who are Jewish told me about progressive synagogues or Jewish activist communities, not realizing that wasn't for me. I wasn't part of a Jewish community in NYC, and I didn't need or want one here. But now that I'm all at home here, I'll check it out for the stores and the food. :)

Thanks for the info.

James said...

The Jewish community is all along Bathurst, from about Lawrence all the way up past Steeles.Actually, it starts between St. Clair and Eglington -- though you get many more people in explicitly Jewish garb up north of Lawrence.