Walerstein's Ice Cream Parlour

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332 SPADINA AVENUE

Abraham Walerstein’s Ice Cream Parlour was a gathering place for Kensington Market’s Jewish community. Jewish immigrants who often first worked as peddlers would invest their first savings by opening storefront business such as dry good stores, delis, restaurants, and, oddly enough, ice cream parlours. 

Abraham Walerstein began his adult life working in a cigar factory in Montreal before moving to Hamilton, and later to Toronto. In Toronto, Abraham combined his knowledge of cigars with the appeal of ice cream and opened Walerstein’s Ice Cream Parlour at 332 Spadina Avenue in 1917—just as the Market’s Jewish population was beginning to swell. 

Today, selling cigars in an ice cream shop may seem odd, but in the 1920s Jewish ice cream parlours often sold both commodities, along with the day’s newspaper, a cup of tea, and even a hearty sandwich. These shops had seats for customers to sit and chat, play a game of dominos, or engage in lively discussions and fiery debates.

Like most of the Jewish businesses in Kensington Market, Walerstein’s Ice Cream Parlour depended on the cooperation of the entire family. Everyone was involved in running it—even, it appears, Abraham’s granddaughter Esther, pictured in the photographs above. Beloved by his community and devoted to his business, Abraham passed away in 1928. His wife Taube took on running the shop until it closed in 1933.