Montreal·Audio

Hymie Sckolnick, the man behind Beauty's, dies at 96

Beauty's Luncheonette on Mont-Royal Avenue has been an iconic Montreal institution since 1942.

Beauty's Luncheonette on Mont-Royal Ave. has been an iconic Montreal institution since 1942

Hymie Sckolnick opened Beauty's Luncheonette 75 years ago. He died at age 96. (Paul Wilson/ CBC)

Hymie Sckolnick, owner and founder of the iconic Beauty's Luncheonette in the Plateau-Mont-Royal, died peacefully at home on Monday, according to Paperman & Sons funeral home. He was 96.

Sckolnick first bought the restaurant on the corner of Mont-Royal Avenue and Saint-Urbain Street with his wife Freda in 1942.

They renamed the place Beauty's in a tip-of-the-hat reference to Sckolnick's old bowling nickname.

Hymie Sckolnick first bought the building and opened Beauty's in 1942. (beautys.ca/)

Even after 75 years in business, Sckolnick was known to show up every morning, helping run the operation and greeting customers from his perch at the counter with a welcoming smile.

"Beauty's has always been like family for me," said Montreal writer Dave McGimpsey, who said he'd been frequenting the diner for the last 30 years.

"Hymie was always a kind person," he said, "It was a great comfort seeing him there."

Before it was Beauty's, the restaurant was known as the Bancroft Snack Bar. (beautys.ca/)

McGimpsey described the place as "timeless," saying that despite it's come-as-you-are attitude, the restaurant still had a lineup every weekend morning for brunch.

"It's the very heartbeat of the neighbourhood," said McGimpsey.

The interior of Beauty's has a time-capsule charm to it, with memorabilia on the walls and a menu that hasn't changed much since Freda created the famous Mish-Mash omelette — the only one in Montreal where you can get little pieces of hot dog mixed up with your eggs, says McGimpsey.

An iconic man

Hymie Polansky was a contemporary of Sckolnick and practically grew up at Beauty's, visiting the beloved eatery off and on over the last 70 years.

"He was always a proud, iconic type of man," said Polansky. "When you met him, he impressed you."

Polansky said Beauty's got its start when a local gambler agreed to sell the real estate to Sckolnick for $500 down, so long as he could keep his card games going on in the back.

The restaurant was about a third of the size it is today back then, and slowly, Sckolnick was able to build it up, buying out the bakery next door and expanding.

Polansky recalled once interaction with Sckolnick when a customer walked into Beauty's and ordered 25 hot dogs — all dressed — and 12 cherry Cokes.

"And Hymie became very concerned about it," said Polansky. "So he called The Herald. He was concerned the guy would get sick."

By the time the customer made it through half the order, he was bursting at the seams.

"By this time a crowd had gathered around," remembered Polansky, now 82. "Someone asked him, 'how can you eat all this?' and the man replied: 'This? This is nothing. In Europe, I eat half a horse.'"

The family business

The restaurant remains in the Sckolnick family, as Hymie is survived by a number of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His wife Freda died in 2008.

The family posted on Facebook Monday night, saying that "we will work hard to continue the family tradition and make Hymie proud."

The funeral service will be held Wednesday, Nov. 29 at 11:00 a.m. at Paperman & Sons, 3888 Jean Talon Street West. Beauty's Luncheonette will be closed that day.

The family is asking people wishing to make a memorial donation to direct it to the Jewish General Hospital.

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