Je fais mon Steinberg

It’s hard to overstate the importance the Steinberg family played in the postwar development of Montreal. Their grocery store chain single-handedly introduced the modern supermarket concept to Quebec, with stores like the one you see above, which was built on Côte St. Luc Road in 1959.

As property developers operating under the name of Ivanhoe Investments (now Ivanhoe Cambridge), the Steinbergs built many of Montreal’s first shopping malls, too, including Fairview Mall (1965), the Galeries d’Anjou (1968) and the Champlain Mall (1975). Naturally, all of them were anchored by a Steinberg’s when they first opened.

I think this raises a question that is perfectly relevant to the things we discuss at Spacing Montreal: at what point does a privately-owned business, like a shopping mall or a supermarket, become a public space? Their designs, after all, are simply automobile-age updates on centuries-old urban phenomena, like public markets, high streets and shopping arcades. The fact that they are commercial ventures doesn’t necessarily distinguish them from other public spaces, like New York’s Bryant Park and Toronto’s Dundas Square, which are also run for profit.

Steinberg’s stores, while they existed, were a central part of Montreal’s public life. Does the same hold true for today’s private public spaces?

17 comments

  1. Ooh– if you want to follow up on this post, you can go to Beaconsfield, where the Beaconsfield Shopping Centre (St-Charles Blvd. South of highway 20), once anchored by a Steinberg’s (now a Metro) is slated to undergo major renconstruction (ie: tear it down and rebuild it from the ground up) to hopefully raise it from the dead. The mall’s function as a public space, as well as its impact on the surrounding neighborhood are being actively negotiated/debated.

  2. I grew up in the West End and Moved from Snowdon/Decarie/Queen Mary ( when it was still called Snowdon Junction on the Montreal Tramways before Garland Terminus was Constructed in 1949 ) to NDG in 1951.

    We did not own a Car until 1954 and we used to get our Groceries at the Steinburg’s at Walkley and Somerled, which was then quite new.

    Few people now know that there was a TUNNEL Constructed from the Steinburg’s Store, South UNDER Somerled to the Large Steinburg’s Parking Lot then on the East Side of Walkley facing the even-then Sleazo Apartments on the West Side of Walkley between Somerled and Terrebonne.

    These Apartments were heated with Oil Space Heaters and REEKED of Oil and S—ty Cooking Smells.

    Anyway, the Tunnel was used to move Groceries in BOXES on Conveyor Belts from the Steinburg’s beneath Somerled to the Big Parking Lot where there was a Grocery Pick Up Centre and Motorists could Pick Up their Groceries at that location, in the Alley between the Bank on the Corner of Walkley and the Drug Store Cumberland’s Drug??? back in the Good Old Days of the Apostrope a la Eaton’s.

    An Large Apartment was Constructed on the South End of the Steinburg’s Walkley Parking Lot c. 1959.

    The Tunnel and the Conveyor for Groceries was last used in the Early Sixties, Taxis had a Taxi Phone on the Structure and Queued Up There where Cars used to pick up Groceries, facing Somerled.

    Steinburg’s also had a small Parking Lot facing Somerled at Prince of Wales next to the Store.

    Patronage of the Somerled Steinburg’s declined as more Steinburg’s Stores were opened at Cote St Luc Shopping Centre and at Walkley and Cote St Luc Road.

    One of the passtimes at the Somerled and Walkley Steinburg’s was watching the 3A Streetcars Wye to turn back for Downtown, by heading North on Walkley beside Steinburg’s.

    There were Spring Switches in the Track on Walkley, then it would Back Up North across Somerled when the Light turned Green, and Stop along side the Bank to Head East on Somerled/Grand/Monkland to Girouard/Sherbrooke and Downtown.

    A Red Tramways Tower Car, for Repairing the Trolley Wire, was sometimes South of Somerled as the Crew visited the Drug Store for Soft Drinks, and the Tower Car could be Inspected as you waited for a Streetcar to Arrive from Downtown.

    Occasionally a Tramways Truck with a Trolley Pole on Top would be Parked in the Street and it would be used to Weld the Points of the Track Switches, receiving the Welding Current from the Trolley Wire.

    The Welder’s Work Point would be Shielded by Canvas so People on the Street could not see the Arc, which would damage their Eyes.

    A Tramways Shuttle/Navette Bus Operated along Somerled from Fire Station 46 to Elmhurst Tramways Terminus at Montreal West Station via Patricia,

    All Streetcars removed along Sherbrooke in 1956, Replaced by Busses from Terminus Atwater by the Forum with Route Numbers 101 thru 105.

    Around the time Streetcars came off in the West End in 1956, Most Streets became ONE WAY, as Busses too Large to meet Cars on Narrower Side Streets, especially in Winter.

    Streets such as Mariette and Patricia are Significantly Narrower than those Built after 1950 such as Mc Mahon and Doherty.

    West Broadway, Built in 1950 by Alexandre Duranceau, was about 15 Feet Wider in 1950 than it is NOW! In the Seventies WB was Rebuilt, but, not as Wide.

    Grand Boulevard is Wide North of Monkland account it being once a Streetcar Route. Grand and Monkland once was the End of Track for the Streetcars and there was a Wye there, too.

    A Royal Bank was once at Grand and Monkland on the North East Corner.

    The 103 Bus used to Turn just North of Somerled on Grand, where the Church is now on the West Side. The Cobble Stones once in Front of the Chruch were for the Bus Turning Loop.

    In the Fifties, Steinburg’s gave out Pinky Stamps for Purchases, each Stamp about the Size of a Postage Stamp, and these came Glued on the Back, were Moistened, then Pasted in a Pinky Stamp Book about 5 by 7 Inches.

    Pinky Stamps could be Redeemed for Gifts at Certain Steinburg’s Stores, and the Steinburgs at Cavendish and Sherbrooke had a Pinky Stamp Store as I recall.

    The Orange and Black Provincial Transport Busses for the Lakeshore used to Stop there. The Cavendish Underpass under the CPR to Upper Lachine Road and Rose Bowl Lanes was Built in 1956.

    Benny Farm Appartments were New just after WW II and were Steam Heated!! from a Coal-Fired Stationary Boiler House in the Centre of the Appartments East of Cavendish.

    There used to be a Constricting ‘Traffic Circle’ on Cavendish between Sherbrooke and Monkland which was Straightened in 1962.

    Meldrum the Mover at Walkley and Sherbrooke once was a Bell Telephone Exchange before ELwood/DExter/WAlnut then HUnter/48 Exchange was Opened on Monkland next to the WYCA.

    ELwood/HUnter Exchange was Enlarged West in 1952?, to take up the whole Block Facing Monkland.

    Another Steinburg’s was at Cote St Luc Shopping Centre when it opened in 1956. Handy Andy was the name of a Hardware Store there.

    While waiting for a Hair Cut, you could then see Steam Locomotives passing behind the Shopping Centre before that end closed in.

    The Barber Shop had a Wall-Size Photograph of a Lake in California and you could count the Boats whilst getting a Hair Cut for 90 Cents.

    All Boys got a Brush Cut at the end of School in June. T’was the PSBGM then.

    As you travelled North on Walkley from Somerled, Steinburg’s and the MTC Wye, the Surroundings got rougher and tougher even in the Sixties, long before Spray Cans and Graffitti.

    North of Walkley and Cote St Luc Road was very Slummy even then. Ditto Westhaven/Slumhaven Apartments by the Old Elmhust Dairy on Avon/Upper Lachine Road, where you could get GREAT Ice Cream Cones!

    A Bull and a Cow Gazed out from the Billboard West of the Dairy, and Elmhust used Horses on their Home Delivery Wagons into the late Fifties, as did other Dairies.

    Ice for Residential Ice Boxes came by Motor Truck as it was Heavy. POM ( Pride of Montreal ) Bakeries over by CPR Westmount Station, used Trucks in the Forties, painted Red and Green.

    Coal and Coke for Heating usually came by Truck, but smaller Orders could be delivered in some areas by Horse and Wagon.

    As I recall, Steinburg’s would Deliver Groceries in Elegant Red Trucks with Gold Lettering.

    In the Fifties, Police Cars went from Solid Black to Solid Dark Blue.

    Mail Boxes were Emptied by ‘Rod Service Ltee’ with Red Panel Trucks.

    In nice Weather, we would walk home from Steinburg’s along Somerled and watch the Duranceaux Build that part of NDG.

    In the Fifties there was a 52-Stall Roundhouse on the CNR where the Always-Ugly Turcot Interchange is now Situated.

    As Kids we used to sit on the edge of the Road there near Decarie and Upper Lachine, and watch the Engines getting Serviced and Switching Cars.

    From Decarie and Upper Lachine Road you could watch the Ships in the Lachine Canal,and the Clouds of Steam as Coke was Quenched at LaSalle Coke.

    Warm Summer Nights were filled with the Sounds of Whistles of Locomotive and Boats, the latter Whistling Three Long Blasts to remind the Bridge Tender at 6th in Ville St Pierre to Open the Bridge!

    The Diesel Yard Engine Horns sounded like Goats as they Switched the Canal Bank Spurs along St Patrick St.

    Hot Summer Weather also brought Polio.

    Lovely.

    Memories of the West End 50 Years ago!

  3. Comment is for cdnlococo.

    Do your fond recollections include any of what existed in the space presently called the Decarie Expressway?

    I’ve always wondered what used to be there before the modernization of the mid-sixties took place.

    Thank you Sincerely, Colin Mitchell

  4. I also have fond memories of Steinberg.
    I was named Queen of the cashiers in store #77.
    Store #77 was situated on Van Horne in the Van Horne shopping Center. This was in 1964.Queen of the cashiers were picked by the customers and they
    voted by secret ballots. All the Queens (One from each store) had an evening with Sam Steinberg and we
    were all given an inscribed silver bracelet.
    And yes I still have it! :0)

  5. Bravo for your store finding (the building still exists, it was a McDonalds a while back…)

    Ahh Steinberg’s, what can I say ? My family, especially my late dad evolved around the big “S”. The mother of all food stores in Québec…

    My dad grew up in Ville-Emard, told me that two Steinberg’s existed on Monk Street: a smaller one east of Jolicoeur, which closed in 1952 in order to move to the state of the art supermarket corner Monk and Springdale (the Jean Coutu drugstore…).

    His first job ? Corner Sherbrooke and Victoria (the Metro store). The store opened just weeks after moving from where Hogg’s hardware is today. He moved around stores from then. Told me he used to bring groceries to Mr.Sam who lived up the hill.

    My late dad met my mother at the Sherbrooke/Langelier branch (Centre Domaine, now a Metro Plus). He helped his twin brother get his first job at the meat department (worked there all his life, even with the changes of names in 1992…)

    Then as a sales rep, he did all the stores around Quebec, Ottawa and Cornwall.

    My brother and I did work for Steinberg’s. Myself less longer because I was not “fast” enough for them.

    I always like to notice where stores are, how the outside architecture evolved. These days, many of the stores lost their classic storefront (I don’t count those “walled” stores of the 70s malls, which I did not like, I prefered glass storefronts better). And also that recently, few stores were demolished in the name of progress (Millen, Ste-Therese, Sherbrooke, 2 stores in Quebec city…)

    The inside stores ? Those builts for state of the art were the best. A few stores had the classic “Steinberg’S” terrazzo floors. One of them, still intact, is at a former location corner St-Denis and Mont-Royal (known as Librairie Guerin). As for the stores, you can smell the veggies, the hot bread, and sometimes the barbeque chicken roasting on these “Frankenstein” made Old Hickory ovens…

    However, one thing I can blame for Steinberg’s is their lack of leadership after Mr.Sam’s death. My late dad recalled the good old days until his passing in 1984.

    In 1992, the inevitable split: Metro, IGA and Provigo take their share…

    However, many years later, we still remember the heritage of the “Big S”. Radio Canada did remember us when they passed the documentary in 1996…

    Memory lane… Steinberg’s Style !

  6. Who remembers the Steinberg’s in Montreal North, in particular where it was located?

    Elizabeth
    20 November 2008

  7. @Elizabeth

    Sorry for the long answer. I used to live in Montreal-North, there were 2 stores:

    -Forest Shopping Center, Pie IX and Amiens Street, built 1956 (same time as Cote-St-Luc Shopping Center, almost a twin store). They still have the campanile tower. Store is now a Bureau en Gros and a Casa Grecque. Up to 2004, it was a Provigo/Maxi before moving business to a nearby Loblaws on Pie IX. My mother and a friend went sometimes for “coke and fries” at the Woolworth’s store.

    -Place Bourassa, Henri-Bourassa/Lacordaire, build in the beginning of the 60s. One of the first indoor malls which expanded later. Turned out to be a Metro, then a Super C as it is now.

    Hope it helps !

  8. Hello all.

    It is nearly by chance that I landed on the site.
    I was searching on the Web for info concerning STEINBERG’S, and here I am.

    I just finished reading comments posted and I too would like to share my experience with what used to be the greatest food chain in Québec.
    I worked for the grat chain 8 years and very much enjoyed all those years.
    I started in 1955 at store #20 Van Horne at Dollard in Outremont as a wrapper, then in the grocery dept .
    Some time later, when I decided to ”start for good” I was sent on training at store #46 (St-Laurent at Crémazie); it was a training to become assistant grocery manager. When I succesfully passed I was sent to store # 32 (Somerled at Walkley).
    Reading cdnlococo’s comments brought back a lot of souvenirs in that part of the City.
    The tunnel, Cumberland’s Drugs accross the street, the streetcar I used to ride to and from home to the store, the Pinky stamps, etc etc and just about all I read on this thread.
    A note to Her Majesty Micheline Queen of store #77,(Van Horne at Wilderton). I remember those contests .

    For those who can remember store locations, I always worked in the West District. Anyone remember BEN TURGEON district manager ? I woked in stores #29,#30,#17,#4,#50,#1, #90.
    Needless to say that I often met members of the great STEINBERG Family. Great people !
    The times Mr Sam came around , he always had a good word for those who were lucky enough to shake hands with him; I did a few times.

    STEINBERG’S made history in Québec
    Then disaster occured when SOCANAV took over. They had no experience whatsoever in retail and finally it all broke up and Steinberg’s stores disappeared.
    My heart is broken since then.
    Perhaps some of you also feel that pain.

    Thanks for readingme.

    Louis Bélanger.

  9. For Colin Mitchell.

    When the Decarie Expressway was under construction, I was living in NDG on Duquette street.
    I saw nice homes torn down on both sides of the street, up to the one next door to our house.

  10. N’en déplaise aux responsables du site, je me dois de vous faire remarquer que la traduction de l’anglais au français est d’une qualité médiocre.
    Bien dommage !
    Espérons qu’il y aura amélioration très bientôt.

  11. Just went on the French side and frankly I am very disappointed about the quality of translation from English to French !
    Too bad, it is simply mediocre !
    I hope that a correction will be done before long.

  12. Was there another small chain of grocery stores in Montreal and other parts of Quebec in the 1960’s, ’70’s? owned by the Dion or Dionne family? Giselle Dion? I’m looking for info about this family for a friend? Pls contact me at bearparkj@hotmail.com

  13. I worked at Steinberg’s Fairview store back in 1971-72 right after high school. I packed bags and on Saturdays cleaned up at closing time. I remember cashier ladies, Madame Dupeau and Madame Aucoin. Pierrette the head cashier and Service Manager Bob Brown along with a load of others. Whereever you are Jocelynne, Bob and Guy the best to you.
    I remember when we were told that Sam Steinbert was coming for an inspection. We cleaned and cleaned and I thought from the sound of it that a giant 6 foot 6 gentlemen was coming. Sometime in the afternoon a short individual with a small entourage swept quickly by my cash. That was Sam.

  14. Anybody have pics of the Steinberg store in Rockland shopping centre? Or memories? We lived in Park Ex in the 70s, and my parents always shopped there.

    The pinky stamps reference rings a bell, I wonder if they were still being used in my time.
    I remember the Miracle Mart chain too, a discount dry goods store, owned by Steinberg. Recently, while driving in the industrial area of Ville St-Laurent around Thimens and Poirier, I spotted one warehouse type building, that from a certain angle you can see the Steinberg logo and Miracle Mart in full text, where the signs used to be, the brick under the signs presumably spared the fading from the sun. Brought back memories. I remember the advertising slogan ‘Steinberg is on your side’ that some kids turned into a joke ‘why doesn’t mom have to cross the street to shop for groceries? because Steinberg is on your side!’

  15. My father had a small snack bar, at the northeast corner of Queen Mary Rd and Coolbrook (Jonas Cosy Corner) 1939-1948. The Steinbergs staff would come to our store for coffee etc.Jack Steinberg one of the Steinbergs brothers was store managerand lived above the store. His staff would rise in the ranks to become top executives at Steinbergs.
    I have been desperately looking so far without success for any pictures of the area showing my fathers store.
    As a high school student I worked at Steinbergs store #^, (Monkland near Draper) then store # 32 (Walkley and Somerled) when it opened . Our manager was Mr. Choquette who was a tough smart and dynamic guy. I started as a wrapper working my wayto the shipping room then on delivery trucks .Pay was 40 cents/hour

  16. Hi, I’m a jazz singer living in NYC.  I was on the phone with my mom and was telling her about a performance I am doing in March at McGill.  She said that her great uncle started a supermarket chain in Montreal called Steinberg’s.  I looked them up and couldn’t believe what an impact they had on the city of Montreal and the lives of the people there!  It’s been great fun reading about people’s memories of the store on this site!

  17. I worked at Steinbergs at Wilderton Shopping Center 1972 to 1977 as a wrapper. Store # 77 Fond memories Long time ago! Any body else from that time read this and comment

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