Touma's Confectionary and Ice Cream Parlor, also known as Touma's "House of Mirrors," was operated by the Touma family from 1905 to 1958 at 50 W. Falls St., Niagara Falls.
In the top photo, Amin M. Touma, who immigrated from Lebanon at the age of 17, is shown in Touma's Confectionary and Ice Cream Parlor soon after he opened it at the foot of West Falls Street, next to Davy's Bazaar, which was on the corner of West Falls Street and Riverway.
The bottom photo shows Touma's in 1958 from the same angle, with the photographer again standing near the front door.
In both photos, the soda fountain is on the right, although it has been resurfaced from the original marble, top, to a more spacious metal and wood arrangement. The same cash register is visible in the same place in both photos and is still in the possession of the family.
Amin's son, Richard A. Touma, said his father's first job in this country was as a clerk at Davy's Bazaar. Three years later, when Amin Touma was 20, he rented the space next door and opened his own establishment.
"Amin married Monsora Solomon on Oct. 7, 1915," wrote Richard Touma. "Together they continued to operate the business and later with the help of their children, Helen, Richard, Gamil and Edward. Many employees were hired throughout the years.
"Touma's had an all-day full lunch menu, along with ice cream treats and homemade and souvenir candies, various beverages, and soda fountain specialties. There was a film, camera, slide and movie section and an outdoor popcorn stand that sold caramel corn, fresh roasted peanuts and buttered popcorn. The store was open from 8 a.m. to midnight daily. Business was brisk.
"The walls of the store were beveled mirrors from ceiling to the floor with marble trim. Patrons saw 66 ice cream parlor chairs that looked like hundreds of chairs due to the mirrored reflecting effect. Customers seated at tables having refreshments could see countless views of themselves at different angles. The store had beautiful Casablanca fans.
"During the fall of 1958, the shortening of Falls Street by one block began as part of the New York State Reservation expansion program, with the main purpose of increasing parking. The structures on the east side of Riverway, the west side of Prospect Street, the north side of Falls Street where Touma's store was located, along with the Gorge Terminal on the south side of Falls Street, were to be eliminated. A few years later urban renewal claimed the rest of Falls Street.
"Tourists loved to visit and revisit Niagara Falls, N.Y., as there were many things for them to see and do. Falls Street with its heritage buildings, stores, souvenir shops, theaters and fine restaurants was a major attraction. Over the years many dignitaries from all over the world were patrons of Touma's Confectionery and Ice Cream Parlor. Many tourists who visited on their honeymoons returned in later years with their families.
"Falls Street is gone, but people will never forget this famous street. During the Falls Street Reunions of the late 1980s, facades of businesses were recreated from old photographs. They included Wallens and Amberg's Men's Shops, J.N. Adams, Mack Friedman's, the old Y.M.C.A., Yaseens Jewelers, Vernor's Ginger Ale, McLeod's Carmel Corn, Unique Coffee Shop, Touma's House of Mirrors Ice Cream Parlor, Gluck Building Barber Shop, Niagara Gazette, Strand and Cataract Theaters, Louis Restaurant, Beir Brothers, the train station and Bubbles Shoeshine.
"Thousands of people attended the Falls Street Reunions. They reminisced and remembered Falls Street and enjoyed themselves immensely. Rainbow Boulevard has been renamed Old Falls Street.
"Fond memories of one of the great addresses in the world, Falls Street will remain!" Richard Touma wrote.
Amin Touma died on Feb. 5, 1943, and his wife continued to operate the ice cream parlor with her son Richard until urban renewal took the building. She died on Nov. 17, 1978.
Amin and Monsora Touma's oldest son, Edward, taught at Niagara University and later was an executive at Moore Business Forms before his death on Sept. 12, 1982, at age 65. Their daughter, Helen Touma Murphy, who worked as a librarian in the LaSalle branch for many years, lives in Lewiston. Their second son, Dr. Gamil Touma, was a dentist with offices on Third Street until his death at age 64 on Oct. 5, 1984.
Richard, the youngest, graduated from Niagara University in 1953, then ran Touma's with his mother full-time from 1953 to 1958. When it was demolished, he went to work in the Niagara Falls school system, teaching at various elementary schools. He retired in 1991 after 10 years at Geraldine Mann School, and lives with his wife, Margaret, in Niagara Falls.