As told to Jeff Beer
My wife, Rae, is from New York and we met in Montreal at McGill. After school, she wanted to move back to New York, so I decided to go to Brooklyn Law School. In my second year, I became really disillusioned. Lehman Bros. had gone bust, the economy had tanked, and firms all over New York were laying people off. It was no longer a matter of walking out with a $165,000 job at the end.
At the same time, I had begun making smoked meat at home. That’s when it struck me that this could be a great business. It was trial and error at first. I found some rough guidance by going through all sorts of recipes for different deli meats—pastrami, roast beef, even turkey—and there are a lot of recurring spices and flavours. I wasn’t sure if it would work as a business or not, but I knew my product was good. I did a risk assessment on the money I was about to send in for another year of law school and made the decision to use it to launch a business. Biking home one day I saw a tiny storefront for rent. I called the number and off we went.
We wanted it to represent Montreal in some way. We talked about calling it “Plateau” but figured people wouldn’t get it because it’s a common word. But Mile End can’t really be confused with anything, and our inspiration certainly comes from that area—the bagels, smoked meat, Wilensky’s. It just rang true. I definitely see more Mile Ends in the future in New York and maybe elsewhere. I’ve been asked when we’re going to franchise, but that’s not our thing. It’ll always be my family business.