Open since 1969, next week will be the last for Marky’s Deli—and it’s not the only kosher restaurant disappearing from Toronto.
In the last nine months, Toronto’s Jewish community has lost four kosher restaurants: 398 West, Delicacies Bar and Grill, King Solomon’s Table, and Miami Grill. On Wednesday, July 18, they’ll lose a fifth, as 43-year-old deli and restaurant Marky’s (280 Wilson Ave.) will also be shutting its doors.
“Businesses close because they’re not doing enough business. When the other places closed—the last one being Miami Grill just around Passover time—I saw virtually no increase in business, so I think there was, systemically, something wrong,” says Marky’s owner Erez Karp, who took over the restaurant from his parents in 1988.
Among the reasons why he thinks that customers aren’t spending as much on restaurants as they used to:
“As part of our Jewish Orthodox lifestyle, there’s a need to be close to the synagogue that we go to, because we don’t drive on the Jewish Sabbath. That means housing costs in those neighbourhoods tend to be at a premium…it’s your classic supply and demand issue. We do not get education funding, so it’s expensive if you’re doing private education for religious kids. On top of that, the ability for other generations to leave legacy money isn’t coming through, because people are living longer and so the income flow is not as high.”
“The bottom line,” he says, “is that the community has to re-prioritize, which isn’t bad from a social perspective. If you have a family spending more time together and going to a barbecue instead of going out to dinner, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But from a business point of view, it’s not so good.”
Karp, 54, has already leased out the space to another tenant for August (he’s also the landlord), and says he’d like to go back to school. For now, though, he’s focused on the restaurant.
“It’s been very busy and people have wonderful things to say. We’re going to put out a memory book at the front of the store where people can write comments,” says Karp. “We’ve had calls from Israel, the United States, and Europe. Plus we’ve sent stuff to L.A., London, New York, and Jerusalem. It’s been a lot of fun.”