Dubbed the “Duke of the Danforth,” Saul Korman was more than just a businessman; he was a pillar in the Danforth community, and a beacon of light for all of Toronto. He passed away on Sunday, January 31st at the age of 86, and that light he cast over Toronto? It dimmed, noticeably so.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Saul, his honorary title of “Duke of the Danforth” given to him by former Toronto Mayor, Mel Lastman, is no exaggeration. In the ‘50s, Saul opened Korry’s Clothiers to Gentlemen, one of the first businesses to grace the Danforth apart from service businesses and various used car lots. When you entered his shop, he gave you a good, old-fashioned handshake. He got to know you, he’d let you get to know him, and then he sold you his suits.
Through his lively personality, kindness towards customers, and impeccable suits, Saul became a household name, dressing celebrities like Christopher Plummer, Donny Osmond, and Pinball Clemons, to name a few. But what made him such a successful businessman and vibrant fixture in the Danforth community were his values, and his commitment to those values. For Saul, it all came down to family. When others pointed out that he could have had better business on Bay and Queen, Saul responded with: “the Danforth was my street, and I never wanted to leave it,” because he genuinely viewed the Danforth as his family, his tribe.
If you’re a long-time Toronto radio listener like my dad, you may remember Saul’s spirited radio advertisements. Less than half of these advertisements were devoted to Korry’s, while the rest were unpaid, glowing promotions of his fellow Danforth business owners, and of businesses all over Toronto. But Saul’s dedication to his community didn’t stop there. His magnetic personality drew people in, helping him raise millions for various charities, religious institutions, and community centres, including Michael Garron Hospital located in the heart of the Danforth. Saul gave back to educational institutions by sharing his wisdom with students from Seneca College, George Brown College, and our very own, Centennial College.
According to his son, Shawn, he even took students under his wing at Korry’s. And let’s not forget Saul’s annual involvement in the Taste of the Danforth, bringing people together from all over the world, from all walks of life, to the Danforth to enjoy delicious food and great company. As Mayor John Tory tweeted in response to the news of his passing, Saul made the Taste of the Danforth more than just a tourist hotspot, he made it “a destination.”
Because Saul’s contributions were vast, they were definitely noticed. For his outstanding community service, Saul was recognized by the Retailers of Canada, the radio broadcasting industry, Michael Garron Hospital, and was even a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal. He also received high praise from community members and public figures, including Mayor John Tory who proudly tweeted about his experience shopping at Korry’s, and Steve Simmons, the sports columnist of the Toronto Sun, who bought his bar mitzvah and wedding suits from Saul.
When asked to comment on his father, Shawn Korman remarked “he was just a great guy,” and everyone who knew him thought so too. While we are in a unique situation and can’t hold a formal memorial for Saul, one way we can honour his memory is by carrying on his legacy. By uplifting our community, and supporting each other like Saul did, we can keep his light shining bright.
Photo by Aminah Deen