Commemorating Albert Edelstein in Toronto’s Riverside BIA

COMMEMORATING OUR ORIGINAL BIA FOUNDER AND LONG-TIME COMMUNITY-BUILDER

We are commemorating long-time community-builder Albert Edelstein. His passing on May 1, 2021 touched many in our BIA and we want to recognize his incredible work as a founder of our BIA and long-time community member.

Please feel free to share any of your own memories, photos and mementos of Albert to office@riverside-to.com, as we will be adding to this live blog (at bottom).

An excerpt from Albert’s official familial obituary:

“Our much-loved family patriarch, collector of papers, repairer of watches, and taker of pictures. Beloved husband of Ruth Edelstein for 72 years. Loving father and father-in-law of Annette (z’l) and Robert Joseph, Barry and Brenda Edelstein, Gayle and Jeffrey Jackson, and Deena and Menachem Mendlowitz. Loving grandfather to 11 close-knit grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren in Toronto and Israel. Founding member and long-time chair of the Queen-Broadview (now Riverside) BIA, and lifelong devotee to public art and Yiddishkeit.”

We spoke to Albert’s daughter Gayle in May 2021, and she shared many memories  and photos of her father’s time on Queen Street East with the BIA which are included below with some from the BIA archives:

“My father’s store was ‘Albert Jewellers’.  He originally opened a store on Larchmount and then bought the building at 718 Queen Street East in 1953. It was near the corner of Queen East and Broadview Ave. Toward the corner at the time there was a little diner, then a men’s clothing store, and then my dad’s store. ”

June 1999 Photo inside the former 'Albert Jewellers' at 718 Queen E, with the late Albert Edelstein (forefront at left) speaking with the late Jack Layton (June 23rd, 1999) (Photo from the Edelstein Family)

June 1999 Photo inside the former ‘Albert Jewellers’ at 718 Queen E, with the late Albert Edelstein (forefront at left) speaking with the late Jack Layton (June 23rd, 1999) (Photo from the Edelstein Family)

In the late 1970s, Albert was one of several local community-minded business owners along Queen Street East near Broadview Avenue in Toronto, who had been sitting and planning around a kitchen table on many a late night. There was Albert, Jack Korman, owner of Corby’s men’s clothing store (late father of current BIA Chair Mitch Korman), along with a handful of others.

From there the original founders of the Queen-Broadview Village Business Improvement Area – the 12th formed in the city of Toronto and one of the first in the world  – fostered the BIA as a labour of love for the community and out of a real need to collectively improve the marketing, programming and streetscape of the area.

Albert Edelstein, former Chair of the Queen-Broadview Village BIA (now Riverside BIA) in a 1993 photo showing off the BIA's new banner and planters improving the streetscape on Queen East (Photo by Jack Kohane)

Albert Edelstein, former Chair of the Queen-Broadview Village BIA (now Riverside BIA) in a 1993 photo showing off the BIA’s new banner and planters improving the streetscape on Queen East (Photo by Jack Kohane)

“He always had lots of ideas. He had a great relationship with City Planning during his decades with the BIA and always used to call them up when he had an idea and say ‘You’ve got to come down to the store to talk about this’ and they would. He was able to work with the BIA Board and City Hall to put a lot of those ideas into fruition. He wanted things to be better for the community.”

In this 1993 photo Albert Edelstein, is with former Mayor of Toronto the late June Rowlands in the Mayor's office (Photo by J. Richards)

In this 1993 photo Albert Edelstein, is with former Mayor of Toronto the late June Rowlands in the Mayor’s office (Photo by J. Richards)

“He envisioned the art for the Bridge, the weather vanes, the inscriptions about time, and so many of the happenings that went on in the BIA at the time like the Harvest Moon festival, the summer street festival, and holiday lighting.”

The only way the family was able to get Albert and his wife Ruth to retire when in their mid-70s was when a good offer came in to buy their building and they closed up shop in the year 2000.

Apparently, Albert always liked to say he “was not stubborn, he was determined”. 

“When the shop closed up, we made little memory boxes for the kids, including a TABIA (Toronto BIA Association) newsletter from 1992, which was when Albert stepped down as Chair of the BIA, but was still involved as a Board member until just after the closing. The memory box also had an original Queen-Broadview Village banner, and other mementos.” says Gayle

This June 1999 photo shows Albert Edelstein speaking at the launch of new public wayfinding art in the Queen-Broadview Village BIA with local officials (now Riverside BIA) (Photo from the Edelstein Family)

This June 1999 photo shows Albert Edelstein speaking at the launch of new public wayfinding art in the Queen-Broadview Village BIA with local officials (now Riverside BIA) (Photo from the Edelstein Family)

This June 1999 photo shows Albert Edelstein speaking at the launch of new public wayfinding art in the Queen-Broadview Village BIA (now Riverside BIA) with local officials (Photo from the Edelstein Family)

This June 1999 photo shows Albert Edelstein speaking at the launch of new public wayfinding art in the Queen-Broadview (now Riverside BIA) Village BIA with local officials (Photo from the Edelstein Family)

In 2016, the Riverside BIA, thanks to a grant from the City of Toronto, commissioned mural artist Nick Sweetman to create a mural on the wall of 777 Queen Street East. Nick created a special mural called “A Time for Pollinators” which among other themes, pays homage to Albert with its references to watches and time, while connecting the many other art pieces about time in the Riverside neighbourhood that Albert helped bring to fruition in his time with the BIA. 

Albert and his wife Ruth were so pleased and attended the launch of this mural in fall 2016. They are pictured below with Riverside BIA Chair Mitch Korman:

Albert and Ruth Edelstein pictured with Riverside BIA Chair Mitch Korman in 2016 at the launch of the Riverside Pollinator Mural by artist Nick Sweetman which pays homage to Albert's time with the BIA (Photo by Riverside BIA)

Albert and Ruth Edelstein pictured with Riverside BIA Chair Mitch Korman in 2016 at the launch of the Riverside Pollinator Mural by artist Nick Sweetman which pays homage to Albert’s time with the BIA (Photo by Riverside BIA)

“The area eventually became what my dad always thought it could be.” says Gayle

A big thanks to Gayle and her family for sharing these precious memories of Albert.

Please feel free to share any of your own memories, photos and mementos of Albert to office@riverside-to.com, as we will be adding to this live blog.