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Sometimes, landmarks do not survive.
This is the unfortunate case with Ben's Deli, one of Montreal's best-known and beloved smoked meat deli restaurants.
Founded in 1908, Ben's was a Montreal institution that generated so much devotion from their clientele, that many previous attempts to buy the building and tear it down, in order to develop the extremely valuable downtown real estate it sits on, were met with protests and outrage. For years, Ben's held the real estate developers at bay, a little island of the old Montreal surrounded by office towers.
In the end, it was the unions that did Ben's in. Unable to resolve a dispute with its staff, Ben's closed for the last time in July 2006. It has since been sold to Sidev Development, who plan to tear the building down and put up a 12-story hotel in its place.
I will miss it. The food was great when I used to drop in there in the late 1980's, and it was always packed.
If anyone wishes to put one of these photos in the Wikipedia article, that's fine. My Wikipedia contributor name is Arcticmohawk.
This article has been viewed 34591 times in the last 6 years
kingearl: 14th Apr 2008 - 17:40 GMT
I understand the dirt under Ben's is worth more than the business but it is still sad R.I.P.I was there on Apr. 10 and took some pictures I am from Kingston.
Peter: 14th Apr 2008 - 18:17 GMT
great post! i added all these images to the Bens De Luxe Delicatessen & Restaurant wiki page, and listed you as author. though it didnt seem to be able to find you as an author for a proper link, per se (no userpage under your name), i did put your registered username on them as author. anyway, i did the grunt work. feel free to edit the permissions/authorships as necessary :)
EvilGentleman: 14th Apr 2008 - 19:10 GMT
Thanks, Peter. I have never uploaded to wiki before, just edited some text. I'm still a noob in some areas.
Mitch: 14th Apr 2008 - 22:45 GMT
That demolition notice is certainly new (been keeping a close eye on the fate of Ben's for months now). Maybe I'm translating it wrong, but it sounds like if no person(s) contest the permit 10 days after it was posted, SIDev is legally free to go ahead and demolish the building anytime on or after April 15th--that's tomorrow actually!
Are they actually going to demolish it this week? Tomorrow even?
EvilGentleman: 14th Apr 2008 - 22:50 GMT
No clue, but I want to be there with my camera if they do, sad though it will be.
Mitch: 15th Apr 2008 - 01:25 GMT
Knowing companies like SIDev, they won't waste any time getting a wrecking ball out there. They'll want to tear it down before anyone changes their mind! (legally that notice says they can start tomorrow...assuming no one challenged the permit).
I'd definitely watch closely all this week and stand by with the camera. Funny, tomorrow (April 15th) is the anniversary of the Titanic sinking...that'd be a bit of irony there, especially since Ben's is almost the same age!
Mitch: 23rd Apr 2008 - 01:50 GMT
Passed by Bens today, as of April 22nd it's still standing as it's always been...no sign of any demolition yet. In fact someone removed the brown papers covering the inside windows and ripped off one of the demolition notices (probably just some kids).
Inside it's a mess. There's puddles of water on the floors, many ceiling tiles have fallen off and the paint is peeling in big strips. No surprise, they didn't heat or maintain it all winter, I remember seeing the bay windows completely frosted up back in January. I'd be worried about the memorabilia (framed photos, vintage signs, wall menus) still sitting on the floor with water everywhere.
I'd still watch it over the next few weeks...
Mitch: 7th May 2008 - 00:31 GMT
Just an FYI: Ben's is safe for at least another 2 weeks, there was a newspaper article saying the public has until May 21st to fight the demolition decision. If no one challenges it (or does but fails to make a good case) I'd expect the building leveled sometime before the end of the month...
Incidentally, just noticed in the above photos: The floors are not normally reflective and shiny as you see them, that is WATER pooled on the floors! Looks like a small flood happened from water leaking from the above floors/ceilings. If it is saved, the place is going to need some renovations and repairs, that's for sure.
EvilGentleman: 7th May 2008 - 14:49 GMT
Thanks, Mitch. You just saved me about 50 bucks worth of gas. I have been going downtown more often lately, specifically to check on the current status of Ben's.
EvilGentleman: 13th May 2008 - 07:03 GMT
As of yesterday, Ben's was still unchanged. All the chairs are still stacked up by the window, and the signs are still there.
Mitch: 13th May 2008 - 09:37 GMT
I pass directly by Ben's everyday (I work in the Sunlife building just a block up). If I see any changes, I'll definitely post a message here or on the Wikipedia article I started...actually passing by Ben's almost everyday inspired me to write about it. :) (originally it was just a blurb about the labour dispute).
I peaked in the window tonight, more ceiling tiles fell inside the front entrance, and more peeling strips of paint and wallpaper. The floor looks pretty grimy now, and all the lights are kept off (they used to keep it lit up at night). It almost looks like an abandoned building...
Tim: 26th May 2008 - 23:47 GMT
We used to eat there after school, the late shift at McGill we would love there smoked meat and man O man was it Good.
Mitch: 31st May 2008 - 05:30 GMT
Well, the May 21st deadline passed and Still nothing at all has changed at Bens--still standing and untouched. Haven't heard anything on the news either about its fate.
I think Hydro Quebec disconnected its power a few weeks back, the place has been completely dark every night. It's pretty much abandoned at this point, save for the bordering up windows. I'm surprised no urban explorations have sneaked in to take a few photos.
I'm still watching, will post an update if anything happens...
CE: 5th Jun 2008 - 12:59 GMT
The city has approved the demolition as of last night.
Goldentone1: June 2008 -11:06 GMT: 7th Jun 2008 - 03:06 GMT
A real landmark will be gone forever. In the fifties and sixties it was a magnet for entertainers - local and international - I remember the late night sandwiches and fries so clearly. I hope the city can find a place to preserve the memories of those days.
Mitch: 7th Jun 2008 - 03:24 GMT
Pretty sad, it's quite literally a piece of Montreal being erased forever (I can't even visualize that part of downtown without that tiny 3 story building with the red "Bens" sign). I last passed by yesterday afternoon (June 5th), didn't see any signs of demolition yet.
What date it set to be torn down? Some last pictures should be taken, as well as it being torn ...
Mitch: 12th Jun 2008 - 19:58 GMT
Been very quiet since the June 3rd ruling to knock it down. Ben's is still unchanged, no one has even collected the memorabilia stacked up inside.
Any news on what's happening, or when the demolition is going to start?
EvilGentleman: 13th Jun 2008 - 02:09 GMT
No news here either, Mitch. Actually, at this point, you are my main source of news about Ben's.
Amanda: 22nd Jun 2008 - 03:33 GMT
Unbelievable! Someone needs to break in and rescue all the memorabilia and old treasures (if they're not already ruined by mold...)
Mitch: 3rd Jul 2008 - 02:35 GMT
We're now a month past the demolition ruling, still absolutely *nothing* happening at the site. The only new thing to report are large billboards that went up in the parking lot besides Ben's, with an artist's conception of the new 28 story building that will eventually take the place of Ben's.
Found it online, including ideas of what the corner of De Maisonneuve and Metcalfe will look like (pretty ugly looking building if you ask me!).
Mitch: 26th Sep 2008 - 00:50 GMT
Well, sorry to say the dreaded day has finally come! This afternoon (September 25th) demolition was started. The bay windows have been covered from with orange plastic sheeting from the inside, and there's a barrier erected around one side of the building for the work crew. The SIDev banner has been replaced by the demolition/decontamination company's signs.
Interestingly, in front of the sidewalk on Metcalfe street, there is a tiny hole made in the wall, just large enough to peer through if you bend down. Had a peak inside: sadly most of the interior has been completely gutted down to the bare concrete...there's even heavy machinery in there to help rip it apart. There was a musty oder coming from the hole (probably from all the water damage in the past year or two) so I didn't look too long. I can say all that's left now is the exterior shell of the building--the restaurant's interior is now long gone and past saving. I'd imagine they'll level the whole building within within the next few weeks (sometime in October?). If you want a last glance at the building or would like to take photos, better do so NOW while it's still standing...
Mitch: 1st Oct 2008 - 13:55 GMT
Went by this morning (October 1st) and saw the workcrew extending the construction barrier to encircle the entire building. Basically at this point all that's left is the building's outter shell and the Bens wrap-around/vertical sign. I wouldn't be surprised if the building is leveled to the ground before the end of the week....
Hope the memorabilia inside was rescued, it was sitting inside right up until the day before the demolition started! I wonder if they'll save the iconic Bens sign, it'd be sad if that is destroyed along with the rest of the building.
EvilGentleman: 1st Oct 2008 - 16:46 GMT
Yeah, I have went by a few times to have a look, and there is a hole in the east face of the building now. I did not take pictures since it was dark each time I passed by, but aside from the hole and the papered-up windows, the building still looks the same. I think the only day that changes will be clearly evident will be the actual demolition day.
Mitch, if you own a camera, can you take pictures, if you happen to see them tearing Ben's down? Then you can post pictures of the actual demolition in your own thread, or if you are hesitant to post, ask me for my email addy, and I can help you somehow.
Mitch: 2nd Oct 2008 - 00:58 GMT
Hmm, only hours after writing that, I passed by and saw the workers were taking down the Bens wrap-around sign. At the rate they're going, the sign will probably be gone by tomorrow (at least they were taking it off in sections, not destroying it. Perhaps it's going to the McCord museum?). As I headed home I turned around and took one last glance at the Bens sign, thinking it's probably the last time I'll ever see it again. Rather depressing.
I have an older digital camera, I can snap snaps and post them here. Not sure what will be left by Sunday, which is the next time I'll be in the area.
EvilGentleman: 2nd Oct 2008 - 13:50 GMT
Yeah, I passed by again around midnight last night, and the word "Bens" was all that was left of the sign as seen in the first picture here. I also saw the plywood barriers about 10 to 20 feet from the building on all sides. I am rarely in the city during the day lately, so it is hard for me to get pictures.
To tell you the truth, I am not even sure I want to take pictures of the actual demolition. Pretty sad...
Frank Sulman: 6th Oct 2008 - 07:51 GMT
Did you guys know someone made a video of Bens on YouTube.
Mitch Spector: 6th Oct 2008 - 23:33 GMT
These photos were taken during the early morning of October 5th. Despite the former restaurant site still, for the moment, standing, it is an interesting contrast when comparing the photos (above) from 6 months earlier.
Mitch Spector: 6th Oct 2008 - 23:54 GMT
About the disappearing pictures...I forgot to add comments/descriptions and inadvertently sandwiched them together edge-to-edge, making them look as one. Asked the editors to remove my post so I could repost it properly, which got done apparently, but for some reason he also took out my other post(s) AND yours as well! Oh well, if you remember what you said, feel free to rewrite it. :)
To the editors : 7th Oct 2008 - 01:57 GMT
Just want to say I write something, the next day its gone, so who ever is erasing is such a loser.
Editor: 7th Oct 2008 - 03:16 GMT
Mitch's comment was deleted at his request, and I removed EG's comment as it was to Mitch's deleted comment, and when I've left spurious comments like that in the past, EG has complained that such non-sequiturs made it look like he was talking to himself crazily, lol. So... tha'ts that. As far as I can tell, nothing else was removed.
Additionally, Frank Sulman's nasty and incorrect observations about the editors (and this site in general) have also been removed; I know you thought you were posting anonymously, Frank, but was such a wholesale mean-spirit necessary?
Come on, guys. we've talked about this before. Shit happens with the huge volume of nefarious comments. Sometimes things go missing accidentally. Between us not having spam-stopping logins and our server acting up lately, try to empathize.
Consider this, too... an editor spent a couple of hours properly wiki'ing this entry and adding photos, so give us a break, ok? ;) We also spend hours a day moderating this entire site so situations like this pop up as rarely as possible. We're scrambling to get our server-move to happen, finally, so until then, feel free to donate some money or time to the editors, otherwise, play nice til everything is sorted ;)
To the editors : 7th Oct 2008 - 04:24 GMT
Ok i read what you wrote and understand where u guys are coming from, so what i write next should have no problem, it goes with what is being talked about here
Frank Sulman's: 7th Oct 2008 - 04:34 GMT
Dear fellow people of Montreal City, it is sad to see that we are losing a great piece of history and landmark Bens Restaurant.
EvilGentleman: 8th Oct 2008 - 09:02 GMT
Thanks for reposting, Mitch.
And thanks for the explanations, editor.
From the way you wrote "Come on guys", I suspect you felt I was complaining. Just to let you know, that is definitely not the case at all. I was just puzzled, and wondering what happened. I was afraid a glitch may have wiped out part of your data. Never occurred to me that it was deliberately deleted, and at Mitch's request at that. And yeah, I recall commenting about seeming insane when my responses remain with their references deleted. Guess you've been looking through my old posts, LOL. All makes sense now...
I can't recall what I said earlier, except that I know that I complimented Mitch for having a better photographic eye than me, and I made some remark about being glad that Mitch took a picture of the "en greve" sign related to the strike that killed Ben's.
As for the work Peter did adding photos to wiki, I remain eternally grateful and honoured, although I was unable to figure out the legal crap associated with posting pictures on wiki, which resulted in the first pic being deleted from wiki when I tried to upload my full-size originals to replace the smaller versions I posted here. The problem was mostly due to my not properly documenting ownership of my own photos. Imagine that...
Good luck with the server change, I hope it all goes well. Any news regarding Jamie's long-awaited upgrades? I still think treating the comments here as if they are discussion threads, with multiple pages of comments per post for the longer ones, would go a long ways towards saving bandwidth. Some of my earlier posts had way too many pictures in them, and breaking them down into page 1, page 2 etc, would be great. And imagine classics such as Motorist vs Courier or Raccoons: Cute or Dangerous? if you did not have to download a novel's worth of comments every time you viewed the pics.
Mitch Spector: 14th Oct 2008 - 02:30 GMT
I took updated photos exactly one week later, on Sunday, October 12th. As they continue to strip away pieces of the building, it's interesting to see what sat hidden underneath the wrap-around sign all those years.
CFCF-12's news aired a brief clip about Ben's over the weekend (funny, looks like their camera angles and shots mimicked the ones I posted here. For a second I thought they used my photos heh. Maybe their reporters read CityNoise?). :) They mentioned the demolition of course, but most note worthy is that they announced it will be torn down completely in the next two weeks! Yep, it'll be gone before the end of the month. Not sure if I'll be able to get pictures, but keep in mind it only has a few days left...
EvilGentleman: 20th Oct 2008 - 13:20 GMT
An article from the Montreal Gazette last Saturday, October 11:
A passage from the article answers many questions posed in here:
"In about two weeks we'll send in mechanical shovels with shears to tear down the building." Last fall, the McCord Museum spent a week photographing the interior, and salvaged much of Ben's interior.
"We weeded out what we wanted and kept what was interesting," McCord curator François Cartier said.
"We have the celebrity photos that were on the walls, menus, some formica tables, cutlery, plates and the machine for cutting smoked meat. All in all, it's a pretty large selection.
"Eventually, it will all be showcased in an exhibition at the McCord." The distinctive, big red-lettered wraparound Ben's sign has gone to Concordia University.
Mitch Spector: 22nd Oct 2008 - 22:27 GMT
Here's another weekly photo update, taken on the very cold morning of October 22th. The building is starting to look less recognizable as they continue to de-construct it. My guess is the next photos I'll be posting here (it all depends when I'm passing by) may be of a pile of rubble at the rate they're going.
EvilGentleman: 28th Oct 2008 - 20:12 GMT
Went by the site today, took some pictures of a crew removing some of the upper bricks. I may post them when I get around to it.
While doing this, I wound up speaking with a worker who had the job of redirecting pedestrians away from the extendable lift the other workers were using. He says the final demolition will be at 6 AM on Saturday morning, November 1st, 2008.
Mitch Spector: 29th Oct 2008 - 04:37 GMT
I saw them removing the bricks from the roof-level last week (didn't have my camera with me though). I wonder if they plan on removing ALL the bricks or just some, and what the purpose of doing that is. Recycling? Less debris to hit the ground when they use the shovels on it?
I'm also curious what they plan on doing with the vertical Ben's sign, that's the last recognizable piece of the restaurant. So far its been more of a piece by piece deconstruction than a demolition.
I'll be at work Saturday morning--the day of the demolition; if I have a chance maybe I'll take a few pictures. No guarantee, so if anyone else can film it or snap some shots certainly do so. Still can't believe it's going to be gone forever in just 4 days...
Mitch Spector: 29th Oct 2008 - 22:52 GMT
Passing by on my way home this afternoon, saw the vertical red "Bens" sign was finally taken down. They also removed the the last piece of the wrap-around sign below it, that white section with the faded lettering you could just barely make out. They've also gutted more of the upper level, no more windows left (in fact you can't even tell windows were there--they cut away the brick divisions) and more bricks were taken off the upper levels.
On the back side, the "En Grave" banner is gone, although the red letters "E-N" (minus the "B" and "S") are still hanging on for the moment. I'll try and snap a picture or two tomorrow morning but at this point it looks like a generic old building shell...hardly recognizable now.
Mitch Spector: 31st Oct 2008 - 04:29 GMT
And here's the final weekly update, taken the morning of October 30th. This will likely be the last picture of the building standing (incidentally, ignore what I said about the windows yesterday, I was mistaken; hard to see what's what in the dark).
Mitch Spector: 2nd Nov 2008 - 03:30 GMT
Today was demolition day--Saturday, November 1st. I went by 8:30am this morning yet apart from more bricks removed, it was still standing. When I visited the site again, by late afternoon, they had torn down half the building starting from the back side. The front was still there, but with the back gone, you could see right through the building!
I didn't see anyone filming the demolition or taking pictures, in fact the demolition crew thought it was odd I was snapping pictures (one of them even came up and asked me why I was photographing it). I expect the rest of the building was torn down later in the day...I'll go back next week and have a look but I doubt there will be anything left to see. Here's the last of the photos...
EvilGentleman: 2nd Nov 2008 - 03:55 GMT
I took some pictures this afternoon, as well. From the looks of the back, I was within half an hour or less of you. I was only able to snap pics from inside my van as I passed, since I had my wife with me, and was unable to find parking close at hand.
EvilGentleman: 5th Nov 2008 - 21:56 GMT
Sigh, all gone. Just a pile of broken concrete now. Sorry I have not been posting pictures, I have not posted anything in ages. Still slowly taking pictures, but I keep finding other ways to occupy my time.
Mitch Spector: 6th Nov 2008 - 05:21 GMT
Yep, it's indeed very much GONE. Made one final pass by this morning (November 5th) to check things out and it's not what I saw, but what I didn't see that caught my attention! It's a pretty strange sight, that block of downtown now just an empty lot. There's still work going on at the site, but it's merely to rip out the cement foundation, underground pipes and remove all the rubble. I'd imagine that'll be done in another week or two.
Here's some post-demolition shots I took once out there:
EvilGentleman: 6th Nov 2008 - 21:04 GMT
Mitch, I am as saddened as you are at the loss of Ben's, and I thank you profusely for your contributions. Without you, this article would just be a few pictures of a closed Ben's, and not much more.
I invite you to start your own articles and post other pictures of the pieces of Montreal you love. There are enough projects online to document the entire contents of the internet, that I am fairly certain that any pictures you post here will be invaluable to helping permanently document the history of Montreal, as seen through your lens.
We would be honoured to have a contributor at Citynoise with your level of dedication and good eye for photography.
Frank Sulman's: 12th Nov 2008 - 20:39 GMT
If you go on YOU-TUBE and type in Bens-Deli u can watch the whole demolishing of Bens.
Barry: 25th Jan 2009 - 00:31 GMT
I was browsing the net for something and came across Citynoise. This was one of the first links that I came across and what a compelling but incredibly sad story it was. I am hooked and will check out the wonderful stories and pictures that are posted on this interesting site. Thanks ahead of time.
Mitch Spector: 30th Jan 2009 - 22:19 GMT
EvilGentleman: Thanks for the compliments! I may try some shots of other Montreal landmarks and events and post them here in future. Like Barry, I didn't even know about the existence of Citynoise until your pictures popped up on the Wikipedia article where I wrote up on Ben's.
It is sad Ben's is now completely gone. It did hold nostalgia to me, back in late 70's/early 80's my father would sometimes take me to Ben's when I was just a kid (I still remember my first visit and him ordering me a cherry coke--this was well *before* Coke/Pepsi cherry flavored coke existed--along with a smoke-meat sandwich and fries. It was a pretty generous sized sandwich back then). He mentioned how he liked Ben's cherry coke when he was growing up. All these years later, I still haven't tasted a cherry coke like I had at Ben's. I'd see a lot of Ben's growing up, since my father worked in the office high rise just across the street on Mansfield, right up until about 2001! Even beyond that, that I've always associated Ben's with downtown Montreal.
Incidentally, now that the demolition is long since over, what exactly is going on at the site? For months there's been machinery drilling into ground...I can't imagine it's part of construction of the hotel.
EvilGentleman: 2nd Feb 2009 - 06:18 GMT
Thank you as well, Mitch.
To me, Ben's was a place that I dropped into on occasion when I was downtown, starting from my teen years in the 80's. Always loved the food, and since I always found that old-style places gave the best food and service, I kept returning.
I think I last set foot in Ben's sometime in the mid-1990's, and then I moved to the Arctic for a number of years. Upon my return in 2005, I was so busy with my studies at Concordia that I never passed Ben's again while it was open.
I wish I had known they had made their own Cherry Coke. I never knew. But if you crave Cherry Coke, the nearest place I know where it can be found is in Kahnawake. I have to be greedy and keep the exact location a secret, or else the place I get it from will sell out, and I will be forced to go stateside for it again. (Peter, if you feel like it, feel free to give Mitch my email addy if he asks)
You have no clue how difficult US Customs can be when you tell them you are crossing the border for Cherry Coke. They never believe me, and I don't think they realize it's not sold in Quebec.
No clue what they are doing at the site now. I have not been by for a while. The empty lot is too sad to look at.
And by the way, if you feel like tossing the first picture back into the wiki, I am fine with that. I tried, but I can't be patient enough to figure out the documentation that Wikipedia demands for photos.
anon (188.8.131.52): 6th Feb 2009 - 17:42 GMT
Does anyone know what might have happened to all the photos in the front windows? My step-dad was in a band in the late 50s/early 60s and their photo was there.
nomadonthemove: 9th Feb 2009 - 07:53 GMT
Just want to thank you all for the postings about Montreal - looking to move there this summer and desperately trying to get a feel for the area. After endless hours of research tripped over this site, enjoying the pictures and gotten a ton of info from your postings. Thanks again, nice work!
EvilGentleman: 10th Feb 2009 - 06:42 GMT
anon, I have no idea where the photos may have gone, but if I were you, I would try asking around at the McCord Museum, or perhaps Concordia University. Most everything salvaged from Ben's wound up with them.
Mitch Spector: 12th Feb 2009 - 04:16 GMT
EvilGentleman: Ben's was fairly well known for its made-in-house cherry coke, so much so it was pretty much de facto to order one with your smoked meat sandwich and fries. :) I never really thought much of Coca Cola's brand of cherry coke, it doesn't have the same zing as Ben's (probably easy enough to replicate Ben's though, just take regular coke and add a generous helping of cherry syrup, no? Hmm, maybe there was more to it that than. We'd have to ask a former Ben's employee to know for sure).
My favorite soft drink is Dr. Pepper, they didn't have that in Quebec for some time. Ditto for lots of other food products I've seen in the States and Ontario...I'm quite sure it has to do with Quebec's ridiculous language laws. Oh well...
As for Ben's, it looks like construction on the hotel finally began. They built what appears to be a foundation. Not a very large one mind you, I think they'll be using the same footprint of land Ben's occupied (the parking lot next to it is for another hi-rise project). It'll be interesting to see how they "commemorate" Ben's in the hotel's design. Whatever goes up there though, it's going to look strange...
anon: The photos on Ben's Wall of Fame? They took those down and had them stacked up inside the restaurant right up until the demolition. The McCord museum would have them now, they're eventually going to put up an exhibit for Ben's.
EvilGentleman: 12th Feb 2009 - 19:06 GMT
Mitch, thank you.
We must try to track down that recipe for Cherry Coke before it wind up lost forever.
As far as Dr Pepper goes, same here. I always found it interesting how the flavour changed from state to state, depending on whether it was bottled in a 7up, Coke, or Pepsi bottling plant. I believe it is a 7up product in America, but the actual bottling was contracted out to Coke or Pepsi in some states. In Canada, Dr Pepper is a Pepsi product, as is 7up.
I will now be able to have a better view of the construction of the new hotel. I just got accepted this morning for a job in the Sun Life Building a couple blocks down on Metcalfe.
Peter: 12th Feb 2009 - 19:54 GMT
ha! i thought i was the only one who noticed that about dr. pepper :) whe ni moved to nyc, they didnt even have dr. pepper here, and i had to settle for mr. pibb for a few years until they saw the folly of their ways ;)
EvilGentleman: 13th Feb 2009 - 14:16 GMT
Mr. Pibb is a competing product marketed by Coke in the states where Dr Pepper is not bottled by Coke.
I dunno if you guys ever noticed, but there is no . after the Dr in Dr Pepper. It was removed decades ago.
EvilGentleman: 13th Feb 2009 - 15:51 GMT
That one was never marketed here in Montreal, but we had Vanilla Dr Pepper and Diet Vanilla Dr Pepper. It was even worse than Coke with Lime.
EvilGentleman: 13th Feb 2009 - 15:53 GMT
Funny how Mitch's recollection of Ben's Cherry Coke has spawned such a tangential turn in this thread...
Peter: 13th Feb 2009 - 16:09 GMT
haha. yeah, the lemon dr p preceded all the other vanilla/lime/whatever spin-offs... i remember drinking it in the early 80s, while growing up down south.
rip bens, though, to focus on the original point. ive really enjoyed following this story of ben's unfortunate demise here... just another case of "something cool id never know about otherwise without CN"...
Mitch Spector: 16th Feb 2009 - 23:26 GMT
EvilGentleman: Funny, guess where I've worked for the past 2 and half years! Yep, I work in the Sun Life Building too (job in the IT field), that's how I was able to follow the demise of Ben's so closely, passed by almost everyday.
Speaking of more landmarks disappearing in Montreal, did you know the famous Seville theater (a block up from the old Forum, at Awater) is being torn down? Just heard on CFCF-12 News demolition was approved. Not much left but an empty decaying shell, but still, it'll be sad to see yet ANOTHER landmark go. Might be worth snapping a few pictures before it disappears like Ben's...
Jim: 11th Apr 2009 - 03:03 GMT
They have announced a hotel for this location I heard on the radio this week.
EvilGentleman: 11th Apr 2009 - 23:33 GMT
Mitch, I took a few shots of the Seville already. Not much to shoot, unless I feel like doing an urbex in the back.
EvilGentleman: 11th Apr 2009 - 23:42 GMT
I work telemarketing on the 18th floor of the Sun Life Building, but I'm hoping to eventually get a chance to apply for one of the ISP tech support positions with Telus on the 17th floor. I aced my Help Desk Computer Support training program at Champlain College, but my lack of French has made things difficult for me. I toured the Telus support centre during my training, and was greatly impressed. One of these days...
Len: 25th Jun 2009 - 19:23 GMT
Ate at Ben's two or three times. Was never impressed with the smoked meat. It was pumped up but tasted good. I was impressed with the photos on the wall and with Ben Kravitz sitting in the back having his swandwich. Sad to know it has gone...yet so has Miss Montreal, Brown Derby, Curly Joes, Pam Pam, and I believe The Montreal Pool and many more.
Swissman: 10th Dec 2009 - 10:26 GMT
Oh look what i found in some letters.
Mitch Spector: 22nd Dec 2009 - 03:32 GMT
EvilGentleman: Small world! I was working for Telus on the 17th floor, up until recently that is (couldn't take the stress, among other things). I remember during the time I was going through the interview process, testing and exams to get in, Ben's workers started striking and picketing in front of the restaurant.
Speaking of Ben's, when I passed by in October the hotel construction was well underway. It looked really weird seeing a tall building on that corner, as if I were standing somewhere else. I wonder how they expect to commemorate Ben's, or if they even will.
EvilGentleman: 31st Dec 2009 - 19:30 GMT
Yeah, one thing I love about the internet is the occasional random long-shot connections such as what we are having.
I too, have been watching the construction, and I agree, it does seem odd. I seriously doubt they will commemorate Ben's in any way, as the developers had been after that site for decades, and were stymied for years by the grassroots support from the customers at Ben's.
Although, if they had any brains, they should talk to the Kravitz family and see about reopening a "new" Ben's Deli inside the hotel. Perhaps they could repatriate a few of the items that the McCord museum does not incorporate into its display.
Every hotel needs a restaurant, and this site is forever associated with Ben's, so why not take advantage of that and create a win/win? I would be willing to bet the hotel would get more business, both in the hotel AND in the restaurant as a result.
As for myself, my marriage has collapsed and I have since moved back to my hometown of Kahnawake with my son. I currently hold a customer service position at a local business on the reserve. The net pay is better than Telus, so I am happy.
Happy New Year, everyone!
Life-long Montrealer: 7th Apr 2010 - 14:37 GMT
How sad it is that you would heap the blame for Ben's demise on the union that represented its underpaid workers. The fact is that since the early '90s the quality of the food took a dive while prices continued on through the roof. It was apparent that the founder's grandson, Elliot (and his wife), were merely using the restaurant as a cash-cow that traded on its name and reputation while the kitchen dished-out fatty inedible crap. The last time I ate there, in 2004, the food was quite literally disgusting.
Apparently the high prices charged never made it into the pockets of the workers who barely made more than minimum wage. Greed and stupidity on the part of the owners caused Ben's demise, not the people who expected to earn a living wage for an honest day's work.
EvilGentleman: 15th Apr 2010 - 11:19 GMT
Life-long Montrealer, I am rather confused by your comment.
"How sad it is that you would heap the blame for Ben's demise on the union that represented its underpaid workers."
Well, let's see. The place was in decline, so I would imagine that sales were dropping. So with less money, the owner was going to raise the salaries of those dishing out "fatty inedible crap", as you so elegantly put it? Meanwhile, the developers were knocking on the door, offering millions. I can't possibly imagine a worse time to decide to strike for higher wages.
"Apparently the high prices charged never made it into the pockets of the workers who barely made more than minimum wage."
Um, how many restaurants in decline pay well?
"Greed and stupidity on the part of the owners caused Ben's demise, not the people who expected to earn a living wage for an honest day's work."
Well, the raising of the prices was definitely a bad idea that probably drove away many of the faithful. But still, the union should have realized that this was another bad idea, going on strike when they did. The strike was the straw that broke the Camel's back.
Dazed97213: 15th Apr 2010 - 12:26 GMT
Hey there Evil; just wondering if you know the name of the hotel that occupies the spot where Ben's used to be? Cheers.
EvilGentleman: 15th Apr 2010 - 17:17 GMT
You know, I never thought to look for the actual name. I think it might be on the billboard in front of the site.
Mitch Spector: 16th Apr 2010 - 06:03 GMT
So when is construction on the hotel going to be completed? I haven't passed by the site in since last fall. I'm still rather curious how (or rather if) they've commemorated the Ben's Deli into the hotel's design. Not that it will make a lick of difference, Ben's is forever gone and no one is going to notice some obscure reference to it.
I'm not looking at Ben's owners or the union, just the fact historical landmarks are rapidly disappearing at an alarming rate all over Montreal. Being replaced by what, condos? offices? condo-hotels? Look at the Seville block, or the Main. Or landmarks being neglected, like The Empress theater on Sherbrooke St. There's been a decades long exodus of people and businesses leaving Montreal, I suppose it only makes sense the landmarks were next to go...
Life-long Montrealer: 3rd May 2010 - 20:35 GMT
Evilgentleman, why so confused?
Let's see... There was terrible mismanagement on the part of the owners year after year and you're looking for the straw that broke the camel's back? Are you serious? The owners ran it into the ground and you take issue with the timing of the strike? The worker's were doing their work but the owners were not, yet you take issue with a worker who expects his salary to at least keep-up with inflation? The owners destroyed the place and you blame the workers? For bad timing of all things? Do you actually take yourself seriously? A more upsurd argument I have never heard.
The answer to an an impending strike would have been for the owners to clean up their act. They should have invested some capital to bring the quality of the food up to past standards, increase the salary of the workers, clean up the place and repair anything that was falling apart and launch a marketing campaign pronouncing a reborn Ben's Deli. Generations of customers would have come streaming back. However, as became apparent, the complete lack of work ethic and greed of the owners prevented any such action. It would have required committment and effort. That kind of thing just didn't jive with Elliot's management style - scratching his ass while the place went to hell in a handbasket. He went for the easy money. Work was not in his vocabulary.
EvilGentleman: 11th May 2010 - 12:15 GMT
Well, all grievances aside, I guess you must have been part of the striking staff, possibly the organizer? You sure are taking this personally, and like a typical union puke, you seem unable to comprehend that not all union demands can be met.
Anyways, let me be a little more egalitarian. Fuck you, and fuck the management. You assholes not cooperating destroyed a good thing. I hope you're all happy now.
EvilGentleman: 11th May 2010 - 12:21 GMT
Greedy union bastards and greedy property owners. Fuck you all. Anyone remember to think of US, the customers? We were what made Ben's what it was, not you assholes.
EvilGentleman: 11th May 2010 - 12:26 GMT
Sorry for the tone of my remarks, but I'm not about to stand around and be bullied and insulted by some union goon. You guys are dinosaurs. There are labour laws now. Rather than strike, you can just report them to the government. You are no longer needed. All you do now is cost the rest of us money, as the costs for your never-ending demands get passed on to the consumer. Keep it up, and all that will be left are condos and big box stores.
Life-long Montrealer: 17th May 2010 - 04:24 GMT
First of all, I belong to no union and I don't work for any union. I'm actually a lawyer - since you seem desperately to want to know. My only connection to Ben's was that I ate there off-and-on for many years and noticed that it was getting progressively worse.
In my experience, businesses by and large go under because of mismanagement and shortsightedness on the part of owners and operators. That is especially true in the restaurant business. Workers are the same everywhere and unions are the same everywhere - the ones at Ben's did no better or worse a job than at any other restaurant and had every right to expect a salary that at least kept up with the rate of inflation. However, since the place was making less and less money, management's solution was to squeeze the emplyees more. Freeze their wages, work them harder etc. It's the time honoured way of the incompetent manager. But actually, the owners had a another idea in mind to which I will get to shortly.
The fact that there are labour laws has nothing to do with the question of whether unions are a necessary component of the modern work place. Laws do not protect you against low wages beyond the setting of a minimum wage (which is ridiculously low anyway) and laws do very little to protect workers from poor work conditions beyond the requirements of sanitation and safety. Trust me, I know what I am talking about.
Unions are the only means that workers have to redress a power imbalance vis-a-vis an owner/operator. It never ceases to amaze me how so many people actually fight against their own interests - workers who actually believe that a union is counterproductive and a waste of money. Show me a worker who is anti-union and I will show you a fool. The fact is that unionized work places have fair wages, better working conditions and safe pension plans. The busninesses that go under and then blame the union are only trying to compensate for their own incompetence. As a bankruptcy lawyer I have seen it first-hand over and over again. A well-run business does not become unprofitable because of union activity. That is the big lie and myth of a corporatist culture fed in large part by a compliant media. Unfortunately, it's a trend that has become very common since union bashing and union-busting became the fashion in the U.S in the 80s with a retarded Ronald Reagan leading the charge.
At the end of the day, unions have absolutely no interest in driving their employers out of business. They depend on that business functioning well in order to maintain their livelyhood. In this particular case, it is the owner that had a huge interest in sucking every last bit of profitabilty out of the place and then turn around and sell the land to real estate developers.
And so now to what I had alluded to earlier: It was all part of a well orchestrated plan. When the city tried to expropriate that land in the late 80s - early 90s, Ben's fought tooth-and-nail to keep their location. Why? Because at the time the land was going to go for relatively cheap given that the whole area surrounding it comprised a huge swath of land. The owner knew very well, clever guy that he is, that a few years down the line, when the whole neighborhood was going to be shiny and snazzy, that that little parcel of land was going to be worth a gold mine. Ben's management had made the decision long ago that it was not worth keeping-up the place. The plan was to trade on its good name while lowering the quality of the product thereby ensuring bigger profits. Sucking the life out of the place was perfectly in line with making the highest profits at the lowest cost in the shortest time period possible (shortsightedness). That is what put Ben's out of business.
Too many people don't understand that businesses pursue one goal and one goal alone - maximize profits. That is the be-all and end-all of their existence. It is actually the workers and the unions that do their darndest to keep the place going while trying to distribute the profits. If more more people understood and appreciated that difference we would live in a much fairer society. As for your blaming unions for passing on costs to the consumer and somehow taking actions that lead to condos and big box stores - that is an argument that makes no economic sense whatsoever. Frankly, you really don't know what you're talking about. You have nothing more than an opinion based on false assumptions, deep lying prejudices and a complete ignorance of the facts to which you added farcical economic arguments and boundless stupidity. So by all means have an opinion but don't confuse fantasy with reality.
Mitch Spector: 9th Jun 2010 - 04:54 GMT
Well, it's been several months but I finally dropped by the corner of Maisonneuve and Metcalfe this afternoon. Honestly, I didn't recognize where I was and passed right by the site at first! (I'm so used to seeing a tiny 3 story building).
So construction on the hotel is completed and it's opened and full operating (saw bell hops coming in and out, with a crowd at ground floor restaurant and bar). Looks like their in the process of installing decorative signage at the entrance, but apart from that, it's all done.
I honestly don't see how or where they commemorated Ben's Deli, unless you count the hotel occupying almost the exact footprint that the Ben's building did (and I'm sure that's more in terms of actual land space purchased). Anything else is so subtle, I'm not even sure it was intentional--such as the front corner of the building and location of the main doorway entrance. On the side the hotel name is in bright red lettering, much like the old Ben's sign, I wonder if that is the only commemoration of the former Ben's Deli.
I think I'll go back in a week or two (once the finishing touches on the entrance way are complete), snap a few photographs and post them here. At least it should give a before/after introspective.
Nostalgic Man: 21st Jun 2010 - 05:03 GMT
First of all, thanks to sites like this here to get the possibility of viewing pictures
Ed G: 21st Jun 2010 - 12:56 GMT
I first visited Ben's Deli about 1959 when I drove to Montreal from Troy, NY (before the northway), where I was attending RPI, but used the McGill University library for my thesis. Stopped by while attending the Fair in 1967. Visited it many times during the early '70's when I did business with REP (Radio Engineering Products) in Sherbrooke. Loved the smoked beef.
Nostalgic Man: 23rd Jun 2010 - 03:33 GMT
Well hi there again. Look like it didn't get my pictures I've uploaded as there is any on my previous message. I will try one more time, I hope this is the good one. :(
Mitch Spector: 29th Jun 2010 - 23:06 GMT
For those curious, as promised, here is the site of the former Ben's Deli restaurant (now long gone) as of June 28, 2010. In its place is the newly built St. Martin Hotel which finally opened this month.
Here are the photographs I snapped while passing through yesterday:
So that's it. Ben's is gone and something new has finally filled its spot. Just another modern looking high-rise that blends in with all the others if you ask me. Sure Ben's was a an ugly little brick structure, but it stood out with charm. It was a link to the past, an era that has long gone, yet still...there it was in the middle of all those downtown high rises. Sad, another piece of Montreal's past has been snubbed out and white washed over if you ask me. Oh well, cette la vie au Montreal.
EvilGentleman: 25th Jul 2010 - 06:54 GMT
First and foremost, thanks once again, Mitch. Your contributions have really made a difference.I hope to see more of your photos and commentary in the future. Perhaps we should get a Seville thread going?
Now I gotta go play with my new pet shark, hehe. (You'll understand in a second)
EvilGentleman: 25th Jul 2010 - 07:51 GMT
Oh here, sharky sharky. Where are yoooou?
Life Long Montrealer, thanks for the laughs. To hear the "honest" opinions of a lawyer - priceless! Losing your cool, getting all hyped up like that... professionalism at its finest!
Perhaps I should apply to law school. Looks like any idiot can pass the Quebec bar exam these days.
One thing I have learned in life is that in any dispute, what really makes trouble is when the stupidity starts flowing from both sides. For example, the union/management dispute at Ben's, or perhaps the dispute between you and I.
Very rarely is one side completely innocent, which I do admit at several points in the above arguments between us. But to listen to you, you would swear the union was as benevolent as Mother Teresa, and Ben's was run by Ebeneezer Scrooge. Mind you, as a lawyer, I suppose that is what you get paid to do. You will agree 100% with whoever it is most advantageous for you to agree with. A vote of assurance from you is like having a call girl vouch for your bedroom skills.
The fact is, the union is also a business, and in the big picture, representing a bigger share of the service industry is more important to them than whether or not the staff at Ben's make better pay or not.
From the employee perspective, unionization is a gamble, with payoffs and pitfalls possible with every move. Play your cards right, and you have better pay, more holidays, medical and a pension. Play them wrong and you get a pink slip.
Fact is, Mrs. Kravitz made her money, and the employees have now moved on, hopefully to bigger and better things.
You are free to have your opinions, but I will always see you as one of the least open-minded individuals I have ever encountered.
Although you cannot see any economic sense in what I say, and I am a mere layman in economics, the logic seems simple. Union negotiates higher wages, more benefits, pensions and so on. Money comes from where? The business. How do businesses make more? Higher prices.
So if the unionized business succeeds, the union gets their dues, and the customers pay more. If the unionized business fails, the employees lose their jobs, the union still got their dues, and the customers have to shop somewhere else, possibly run by the same union.
The only guaranteed winner in a union situation is the union itself.
We both have our prejudices. The main difference is, my opinion is not for sale. I may know less about these matters than you do, but can we trust you to tell us the truth? You are a lawyer, after all.
Mitch Spector: 4th Oct 2010 - 22:23 GMT
On a bit of a tangent, the famous Seville Theatre (a block up from the old Forum) was finally demolished today: October 4, 2010. So yet another Montreal landmark joins Ben's fate and is no more. I took some pictures a few weeks ago, before it was demolished if anyone is interested in starting a new article.
Back onto Ben's, looks like a few final touches were added to the St. Martin hotel since I took those pictures above. I've still yet to see or hear about how it commemorates Ben's Deli (what I pointed out is pretty obscure and grasping at straws).
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