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Open for Business – Introduction

The Saint John Jewish community is remembered for its businesses. A survey of the Saint John City Directories between the 1870s and the 1990s shows that there were over 200 different Jewish-owned and operated stores in the city. Husbands and wives worked together to ensure their success and introduced their children to work from an early age. In this way, some family-run stores in the city served several generations of customers.

Many Jewish stores were established in the 1920s and 1930s along Main Street in the North End. This district flourished until urban renewal redeveloped the area in the late 1960s. More stores were located in the central business district along King, Charlotte, Union, Waterloo and Prince Edward Streets. A smaller number of merchants opened stores on the West Side of the harbour.

Customers could purchase everything they needed – men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, shoes, hats and coats, groceries, toys, hardware, antiques, appliances and home furnishings. Merchants developed a rapport with their customers – life long friendships were formed, store buyers brought in items for especially favoured customers and quietly extended charity to all who needed it.

In the days before large chain department stores, shopping malls and online shopping, the family-run businesses were where several generations of loyal customers made their purchases. Customers walked to their neighbourhood shops or arranged for deliveries when needed.

This exhibit invites you to take a look back into a simpler time, to remember our stores and share your memories.

Start reading the story

Saint John Jewish Historical Society Inc.