May 1, 1932. May 1 was the traditional moving day for a long time in Quebec. That’s how we know that it was the day that Wilensky’s Cigar Store opened at the corner of Fairmount Avenue and St. Urbain Street.

Of course, the story started a little before that date when Harry Wilensky emigrated from Russia in the late 1800’s, married Ida and moved to Montreal. He opened a barber shop/variety store which moved a couple of times and then settled in for a while on St. Lawrence Blvd. Once the depression hit in 1929, it was time to move again because he couldn’t afford such a big place. He moved onto Fairmount in about 1931 in a small place near the lane just west of St. Urbain.

By then, Harry and Ida had three children; Moe, Archie and Sylvia. Times were hard and work was difficult to find, so in 1932 when the corner store became available, Harry rented it. There was an area in the back of the store where he and his assistant cut hair. In front, Moe and Archie managed the rest of the store. The custom-made oak cabinets held cigar boxes, cigarettes, and a whole selection of dry goods. At the counter, they sold soda-fountain drinks and hot dogs. More cabinets held books and comics.

Because of the competition from many other stores and restaurants in the area, Moe Wilensky convinced his father to buy a grill. The grill cost $68 and they paid 25 cents a week for it until it was paid up. In the meantime, customers were asking, “Moe, could you make me something special.” He played with combinations of salami and boloney until he came up with a hit: The Wilensky's Special®!

In 1952, the store moved to its present location at 34 Fairmount Avenue, corner Clark Street. Since it was another corner store, we took everything with us and moved it to the new site. Not long after that, Harry retired and Archie opened up Snowdon Pocket Novels on Decarie Blvd. Moe continued to run what became and continues to be Wilensky's Light Lunch.