Hymie Sckolnick: A Montreal legend
Hymie Sckolnick was the founder of the famous Beautys Luncheonette. He passed away in November 2017, leaving a legacy of his restaurant that is an irreplaceable classic in the metropolis. Tastet spoke in 2016 with the incomparable businessman and visionary, who worked for nearly 75 years in Montreal’s restaurant industry.
Hymie Sckolnick was born in 1921 in Montreal. At just 11 years of age, young Hymie began working in a snack bar; “I sold little things to people in the factories, I did that for six years.” He then worked in a modest bakery where he learned the trade for five years. At just 21 years old, Hymie already had years of good savings behind him and, above all, plenty of ambition.
How it began
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the bulk of the Jewish-run clothing industry was located near Mont-Royal and Saint-Urbain streets. At that time, the Bancroft paper mill, established in 1891, was located at the intersection of these streets. In 1942, Hymie and his wife Freda had the opportunity to buy the stationery store. “I paid $500 for it. At the time, candy, cigarettes and candles were sold. The young couple operated the business. Why didn’t they open a restaurant right away? “Because no one was eating out at that time!”
Yet, quietly, the Sckolnicks began serving food to employees of nearby factories. A genius idea for the time and place! Freda cooked fast, tasty food and the whole neighbourhood wanted it. In 1968, they turned the candy store into a little lunch spot. “I love Montreal. I was born in the Plateau, I like the diversity of the city.”
From stationery store to Beautys
The Sckolnick’s regular customers loved the newlyweds’ offerings so much that they wanted to come in on their days off. The entrepreneurial couple responded to customer demand and began offering a late lunch at their store. From there, the famous Beautys brunches were born! Freda created the Beautys Special and the Mishmash, and soon the whole city wanted more. Hymie Sckolnick’s favourite was the classic smoked salmon bagel, which he took with a chamomile tea. Note that until the end of his life, he would “try to come in every day; make sure we’re offering good food and welcoming customers.”
During the 1960s, the couple’s only son, Larry, joined them behind the counter. His addition added a lot to the business, and it was he who came up with the name Beautys Luncheonette. “Beautys” actually comes from Hymie’s bowling nickname! Larry also did the logo for the restaurant and most of the design for the business. Now his granddaughter Elena also works in the family business with her father and grandfather.
In 1978, Beautys Luncheonette was discovered by someone in television and went on the air. “From that point on, we really got busy!” Beautys’ reputation began to spread beyond the borders and guests from all over the world came to enjoy a classic Montreal breakfast and the establishment’s unique hospitality.
70 years later
“I’ve been approached many times about doing a chain, a franchise, but I’ve always said no. I wanted a small operation, a restaurant done right. I’m so proud of everything here; we just try to serve the best, all the time.” (laughs) After 70 years, Beautys Luncheonette continues to serve an irreplaceable Montreal classic.
The famous restaurant now also offers online sales of its products for people around the world. “But reception and hospitality is what makes a business work. The key to success is customer service; you have to satisfy your customers, you have to be nice to them. It doesn’t cost anything to be nice. The boss has to be there and take care of his customers. He has to be happy to be there. I’ve been working for 74 years! If I can give you any advice, it is that you get nothing for nothing; you get what you work for.”
Thank you Hymie Sckolnick for all the years of great classic breakfasts!
Written by Élise Tastet