A touchingly true tale of one man and his street.
Korry’s has been a fixture on Danforth Avenue for as long as most people can remember. Indeed, president and owner Saul Korman is so associated with the street he helped make famous that several years ago, Toronto’s mayor dubbed him the “Duke of the Danforth.” It was a fluke, as so many things in life happen to be, that brought young Saul and his father, Nathan, from Rouyn-Noranda on the northern Quebec/Ontario border to the then-wilds of the city’s east end in 1952.
The pair set up their first shop at the corner of Danforth and Coxwell where, as Saul recalls: “There was nothing but used car lots and TTC barns as far as the eye could see.” But plenty of men worked in the car lots and on the buses, and those men needed menswear. The store did all right. By 1958, Nathan was ready for semi-retirement and Saul decided to re-start the business at a better location, across and up the street in a vacant Tip Top Tailors store. Around the same time, however, the TTC decide to relocate its yards. The resultant neighbourhood shift from predominantly middle-class Scots-Canadians to poorer Greek and Italian immigrants meant that Korry’s had to struggle to make ends meet.
“Everybody told me to move,” says Saul. “Bay and Queen was the place to be then for better men’s stores. But I believed in the Danforth and wanted to stick it out.”
A chance meeting in the early 1960s with CHUM radio personality John Gilbert led Saul into the heady world of broadcasting. And the more guest appearances he made on the radio, the more intrigued Torontonians became by the man and his store. They began searching out “the lonely Jewish tailor on the Danforth,” as one of Saul’s successful newspaper ads referred to him.
As Korry’s grew in popularity, so too did the Danforth. Yet the business, which by then had ended up in its present-day two-storey location at 569 Danforth Avenue, just west of Pape, had its ups and downs. And still, Saul resisted the call to relocate in more fashionable neighbourhoods such as Yorkville or the Bay-Bloor corridor.
“The Danforth was my street,” he says, “and I never wanted to leave it.”
Well guess what: Saul Korman was proved right. Thanks in large part to his championing the avenue through continual media exposure, the Danforth has long since become one of Toronto’s hottest thoroughfares, filled with interesting shops, hot nightclubs, deliciously multi-ethnic restaurants, and the occasional crowded street festival.
And Korry’s itself has become a destination store – not just for Torontonians, but for people from all across North America, who seek out this city’s best-known men’s specialty shop, located, as always, in this city’s most vibrant and entertaining community.