Long road to recovery

Once-thriving Lawrence Manor meat store planning a come back four years after a devastating fire

Perl’s Kosher Meats, a community pillar turned community eyesore, may finally be on the road to recovery after four years of silence.

Prior to a devastating four-alarm fire that ceased operations for the family-owned business in 2006, the company had enjoyed a fruitful 30-plus years in Lawrence Manor.

“It was a very busy place. We had close to 60 employees working there,” said Eliott Perl, youngest son of founder Herman Perl. “We were very close with our customers.”

During that time, the company rose from a single retail and production shop to become the biggest kosher meat supplier in the GTA with 44 grocery outlets carrying packaged meats stamped with the trademark phrase “Perl’s on the Label is Quality on the Table.”

As the smallest of the four retail outlets, the 3325 Bathurst St. became known as Mini-Perl’s. But it was where all the company’s production and manufacturing took place.

“We had all of our eggs in one basket,” said Eliott Perl. When Mini-Perl’s went down, so did the rest of the company.

At the time of the fire, the Perl family received a lot of attention as the community supporters rallied around them.

“The Jewish community needs this place,” a devastated Herman Perl told the Town Crier in early 2007. At the time he said he expected the company would be up and running again within six to eight months.

Though the building was virtually gutted by the blaze, the exposure caused by the fire revealed underlying structural problems from years of wear-and-tear from kosher meat production.

“All the coarse salt ate away at the foundation and the back walls. After the fire (we discovered that),” Eliott Perl said. “In a way it was a blessing.”

While they’ve been slowly doing work on the boarded-up Bathurst location, the Perls are entertaining the option of using another location as a production facility.

Other than the physical problems of finding a new space for their production and manufacturing, the Perls are facing another challenge that has contributed to the delay in reopening: a changing market.

While grocery stores around Toronto were happy to stock the company’s products from their municipally inspected factory, the laws now dictate that all meat sold in the province must be produced in factories approved by the provincial government. What’s more, the grocers have gone a step further, demanding products from federally inspected plants as policy.

Ever optimistic, the Perls plan to meet those demands and come out of the gate with a series of new products.

“We’re going to have new types of products. Interesting items (that) are generally not available for the kosher community,” Perl said.

A current announcement posted on the company’s website indicates that they plan to resume business in the fall of 2010, but Eliott Perl says it’s not a firm date.

“We’re hoping that happens but we’re not sure.”

But in a market that has learned to make due for four years without Perl’s might it be an uphill battle for the heavyweight’s successful comeback?

“We’re only going to do it when we confirm that we have the market and we do — we know we do,” Perl said. “We’ve already spoken to the suppliers and the supermarkets and they’re waiting for us to come back.”

About this article:

By: Christopher Reynolds
Posted: Apr 20 2010 5:14 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto