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

Saanich Police nab drunk driver who passed out at two red lights, kept driving

Hot rod motorcyclist, excessive speeding part of busy start to 2019 for Saanich Police traffic

Transport truck driver identified as one victim in double fatal head-on crash

Clifford Bishop, 54, a resident of Cassidy, had been a truck driver since he was 18

Capital Regional District directors demand declaration of climate emergency

Saanich councillor, Victoria mayor, Sooke mayor call for action

Vancouver Island science project to be launched into space

Experiment designed by 5 Parksville high school students will travel to International Space Station

Flood-evicted Comox resident: ’We didn’t get any compassion, we don’t have a home’

Frustrated Mariner Apartments residents find few answers in community meeting

VIDEO: Car flies across median, flips over edge of B.C. overpass

Dash cam footage shows vehicle speeding across Brunette Avenue overpass in Coquitlam

VIDEO: Mattress fire at Cowichan Hospital under investigation

The Cowichan District Hospital was locked down on Tuesday afternoon due to… Continue reading

UPDATE: One person confirmed dead in Port Alberni motor vehicle accident

Rural residential road remains closed as RCMP, coroner investigate

New orca calf in Salish Sea ‘healthy and active’

Birth cause for celebration but things still dire genetically, expert says

Indigenous energy summit includes session on pipeline ownership options

Steven Saddleback of the Indian Resource Council says a session will feature presentations on financing models

Japanese grand champion Kisenosato retires from sumo

The 32-year-old Kisenosato was the first Japanese-born wrestler in 19 years to gain promotion to sumo’s highest rank

UPDATE: Accused B.C. high school killer found fit to stand trial

Gabriel Klein is accused in the 2016 stabbing death of Letisha Reimer at Abbotsford Senior Secondary

Right-wing, neo-Nazi, white supremacist groups an increasing concern: Goodale

Ten people died in April 2018 when Alek Minassian allegedly drove a rental van down the busy stretch in Toronto

Canadian stock exchanges to conduct lottery for ‘POT’ ticker amid high demand

The symbol became available after fertilizer Potash Corp. officially merged with Agrium Inc. in early 2018

Most Read