Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Famous city grocer loved job, customers

Running store was his enduring passion

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Joe Cantor, at his store in 1999, believed in selling milk and bread below cost, his son says.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Joe Cantor, at his store in 1999, believed in selling milk and bread below cost, his son says. Photo Store

Winnipeg grocery-store legend Joe Cantor of Cantor's Meats and Grocery died Saturday at age 88 from a massive heart attack on his way home.

Ed Cantor, who now manages the grocery, said his father died shortly after leaving the store at the end of the business day.

"It is a shock to all of us," Ed Cantor said Tuesday. "He left a few minutes after six, just after he saw the totals of the sales for the day.

"He was driving on Logan and had just turned left onto King Edward when he must have started getting chest pains. He coasted to a stop after going over a curb.

"When people came up to help him from the Salisbury House there, they knew who he was because he was wearing his Cantor's hat."

Joe Cantor and twin brother, Oscar, took over their dad's grocery business in the mid-1940s and expanded it with a new building on Logan Avenue almost four years ago.

For decades, Cantor's smiling face and outgoing personality greeted customers and encouraged them to keep coming back.

They were also drawn by the store's prices -- especially on milk and bread. "My dad always believed in selling milk and bread below cost because it is basic food," Ed said.

It caused Cantor to run afoul of the province because in the mid-1980s he was selling quarts of milk for 16 cents less than the minimum price allowed by law. He won the fight and the province eliminated minimum prices for milk.

Ed said his dad also sparred with the Freshwater Fish Marketing Board because he wanted to sell fish he purchased directly from the fishers.

Cantor's daughter, Merle Rosenberg, said her dad's dream was always "to stay at the store until it closed. He got a rush from that."

Rosenberg said she and her siblings always knew their dad loved them, but they also knew the store was No. 1 in his life.

"His third passion was cards -- he was a huge poker player."

Rosenberg said her dad's love for the store was brought home to her when her parents once cut short a vacation in Hawaii.

"Five days after they left he called and said they were coming back. He said, 'What on Earth can you do in Hawaii after five days?' His store was everything."

Cantor's other son, Michael, said his dad came with his family from Poland when he was a child.

"They came in the 1920s with virtually nothing and he created a landmark with his brother which is still thriving. That's a tribute to both him and my Uncle Oscar. It was through hard work, brilliance and compassion to people."

Cantor's daughter, Rhonda, said her father "was a huge contributor to society. I think they should name a street after him because he helped so many people."

Ed said he already knows he won't make changes to the store his dad successfully ran for so many years. "Why change anything if it brings people back?"

Cantor was predeceased by Leah, his wife of 47 years, 10 years ago. Besides his four children, he is survived by an older brother and sister -- also twins -- and seven grandchildren.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 22, 2013 B2

History

Updated on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 7:26 AM CDT: The store is located in Weston.

8:15 AM: replaces photo

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