Scott Thompson took over W&J Wilson Clothiers from his parents. The shop has been in his family for generations, and is the oldest running family business in its original location in North America. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Victoria’s longest-running, original location business is older than Canada

W&J Wilson Clothiers is also the oldest family-run clothing business in North America

There’s a shop sitting on Government Street with gilded gold lettering and stylish colourful pea coats that hasn’t moved since it opened 156 years ago.

W&J Wilson’s Clothiers is the oldest operating business in Victoria to stay in its original location, and the oldest family-run clothing store in its original location in all of North America.

“It’s a little humbling because we’re a thing that isn’t around much anymore,” said owner Scott Thompson, whose family has run the shop for three generations after taking over from the Wilson family. “You want to do a good job, you want to live up to the legacy. It makes us listen a little more and change.”

ALSO READ: BBB rewards Island businesses with ‘honest and ethical’ practices

In 1862 founder William Wilson immigrated from England with clothing in hopes of making good sales at the gold rush in Barkerville. Wilson put some clothing on consignment when he stopped in Victoria, but did not get paid for the assets and ended up seizing the store and opening a business of his own.

Since then, shop owners have imported clothing and accessories from Europe.

“We still strive for quality and fashion, some of the lines we’ve carried for 60 years,” Thompson said.

The men’s and women’s shop carries everything from smart casual to high-end fashion pieces and even makes customized suits. Since its inception, the brand has also opened two other shops, one in Sidney and one in Oak Bay.

ALSO READ: B.C.’s oldest bakery shuts down in Victoria

Thompson said while the products are important, the key to the continued success is the staff.

“Some of our staff are 25-year people most are 10 or 15,” he said. “We try to run it as our extended family. My seamstress now runs my Oak Bay store and she’s known me since I was yea big.”

While the business has always been part of Thompson’s life, he didn’t always plan on following the family tradition.

“I have a biology degree, so no it wasn’t what I was planning on doing, but it worked,” he said. “There’s something about working for yourself, it’s been part of our family, it’s been part of our dinner table since I was a small thing. It’s helped me raise my family the right way.”

The last secret Thompson shared in running a successful business was to be willing to change.

“My grandfather would kill me if he saw me in the shop without a tie, but here I am,” Thompson laughed. “If you don’t adjust, you stagnate and go away.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

Just Posted

New report finds B.C. victims of opioids crisis on lower of end of socio-economic spectrum

UVic scholar calls for decriminalization of drugs responsible for opioid crisis

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh visits with Langford high school students

Students asked him questions about current political issues

Building permits up, but residential construction softening in Greater Victoria

Greater Victoria led the province in issuing new building permits in August

City of Victoria to see 588 affordable housing units

Provincial funding is aiming to see 4,900 new mixed-income rental properties across B.C.

Victoria Curling Club, arena parking lot considered for new Crystal Pool location

Considering other vendors could cost Victoria first year of provincial and federal funding

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

Kuhnhackl scores 2 odd goals as Isles dump Canucks 5-2

Vancouver drops second game in two nights

Student arrested at Vancouver Island elementary school

Pupils never in danger, incident unrelated to the school

POLL: Have BC Ferry waits ever forced you to cancel your travel plans?

Many BC Ferry passengers heading out from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen on… Continue reading

Stink at B.C. school prompts complaints of headaches, nausea

Smell at Abbotsford school comes from unauthorized composting operation

Fear of constitutional crisis escalates in U.S.; Canadians can relate

Some say President Donald Trump is leading the U.S. towards a crisis

Racist slur cleaned off memorial at Qualicum First Nation graveyard

Site was hit by vandals on Friday; many immediately offered support and assistance

B.C.-based pot producer Tilray reports revenue surge, net loss

Company remains excited about ‘robust’ cannabis industry

Canada stands pat on Saudi arms sales, even after hearing Khashoggi tape

Khashoggi’s death at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul further strained Riyadh’s already difficult relationship with Ottawa

Most Read