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

Indian Day School students eligible for $10K apiece

Islanders included in settlement package reached with Canada’s federal government

Discovery Island wolf continues to thrive

The wolf, known as ‘Takaya’, has lived on the island for seven years

Early indications say allergy season could be milder this spring

The Aerobiology Lab collects pollen samples from across Canada to help make predictions

EDITORIAL: Housing is one of our basic needs

We all need food, clothing and shelter first

BIG READ: The two sides of the Strait of Georgia roe herring fishery

The case for the Strait of Georgia roe herring fishery Comox fisherman,… Continue reading

After mosque attacks, New Zealand bans ‘military-style’ guns

The gunman killed 50 in a Christchurch mosque

Parksville’s mystery cowboy revealed

Kevin Gourlay’s horse garners attention for being ‘parked’ outside a liquor store

Yarns, string and human hair pose a risk to Vancouver Island birds

Wild ARC handles a number of entanglement cases each year

Raine Maida, Chantal Kreviazuk present new duo act at the Port Theatre

Couple touring new album ‘I’m Going to Break Your Heart’ across Canada, starting in Nanaimo

Royals face Blazers to kickoff WHL playoffs

Series opens Friday, March 22 at Victoria’s Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre

Nowhere to grieve: How homeless people deal with loss during the opioid crisis

Abbotsford homeless advocate says grief has distinct challenges for those living on the streets

ICBC shifts to Alberta model, with higher rates, private insurers say

Minor injury cap, court restrictions take effect April 1 in B.C.

Most Read