TORONTO — Kosher consumers enjoying Canada’s Wonderland will notice one less attraction at the park this summer.
Howie T’s, the lone vendor of kosher consumables in the 330-acre venue, located in Maple, Ont., north of Toronto, will not be back. Howie Rosenberg, the man behind Howie T’s Burger Bar, was told shortly before the amusement park opened May 3 that his services were no longer required. Rosenberg had provided kosher hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers and other items at Wonderland for the past two years.
Rosenberg is puzzled by Wonderland’s decision. He had been in talks with park officials for months about a new, high-traffic location for his food cart, as well as improvements that would make the provision of kosher food more convenient.
But over the course of several months, talks went from discussions about improvements to his arrangement at Wonderland to notice that he would have to bid for the contract to word that Wonderland would no longer have a dedicated kosher vendor.
He was told that Wonderland was going in a different direction and that pre-packaged kosher food would be available at other restaurants in the park.
That was the arrangement three years ago, before Wonderland approached him and asked him to provide fresh kosher food. At the time, park management wanted something more appetizing and convenient for kosher consumers. Often, staff at other restaurants that stocked the pre-packaged kosher items did not even know they carried it or what it was, Rosenberg said.
There had been a gap in the availability of fresh kosher food in the park from the time Perl’s stopped providing it 15 years ago to the time he was asked at the last minute to step in before the 2013 operating season, he said.
Rosenberg rushed to prepare his location and opened for business about a month after the park opened that year. He said he enjoyed the patronage of the local Jewish community, but also from visiting Jewish campers from the United States and Quebec, school groups and even many non-Jews who preferred eating kosher food, he said.
“I had a steady trade. The customers were not just Jewish. It was more of the non-Jewish guests than the Jewish guests, because I’m quick, fast. People came.”
Kosher consumers would come to the park and know they had a food option they didn’t have before. Wonderland’s decision could well affect the number of Jews who come to the park, he suggested, as kosher eaters will have less incentive to spend long hours in the park when there is no appetizing kosher option for them.
“I think they made a mistake in going back to the way it was three years ago,” he said.
Rosenberg operates two kosher restaurants, one near Bathurst Street and Lawrence Avenue and one at Bathurst and Steeles Avenue. Howie T’s – the T stands for his middle name, Thomas – is also the kosher catering option for MLSE properties at the Air Canada Centre, BMO Field and Ricoh Coliseum.
Rosenberg said when he first started at the park, he was aided by its former food and beverage director. But that person subsequently left, and his successor has also been replaced. There have been other changes in senior management, and perhaps that accounts for the mixed signals he was receiving, Rosenberg suggested.
Shannon Kelly, Wonderland’s manager of public relations, said, “As a park, we continue to meet the needs of all specific dietary regimens including gluten-free, milk-free, egg-free, peanut-free, vegan, vegetarian, halal and kosher options. Due to a lack of demand and minimal sales, the Howie T’s cart has been replaced with six delicious meals located in two restaurants in the park.”