Legendary Vancouver retailer Army & Navy closes after 101 years in business

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      Normally around this time of year, Army & Navy would be holding a massive shoe sale at its flagship downtown Vancouver location.

      It's been doing this for seven decades.

      But this weekend, after 101 years in business, the legendary retailer has closed its doors—yet another victim of COVID-19.

      The company announced the temporary closure of all five of its stores on March 18, but it became permanent today.

      "We had hoped to reopen but the economic challenges of COVID-19 have proven insurmountable," CEO Jacqui Cohen said in a statement.  "I am full of gratitude for our staff and their years of service, our suppliers with whom we forged decades-long relationships, and of course our loyal customers who were at the heart of our business. 

      "It is hard to comprehend," she continued. "This time last year we were celebrating the centenary of Army & Navy—a company my grandfather started in 1919—and we were looking forward to the years ahead. Now we are closing a company that was at the heart of eight communities in western Canada over its 101 years."

      Army & Navy was in an exclusive club of 100-year-old locally owned Vancouver businesses that had remained under one family's control.

      Others include H.Y. Louie & Co., Modernize Tailors, and Ming Wo. 

      "Army & Navy stood alongside Canadians for the country’s highs and lows, but the economic impact of this global pandemic is beyond anything we have experienced," Cohen said. "I am proud of Army & Navy’s history and our contribution to the Canadian landscape."

      Sam Cohen founded the store in a rented storefront at 44 West Hastings Street, creating the first discount retailer in Canada.

      After the Second World War, the original store moved to the Dunn-Miller block in Gastown.

      "I am spending the weeks ahead ensuring the women and men who have worked for Army & Navy have our support," Jacqui Cohen pledged. "I will then be focusing on the philanthropic work of Face the World, an organization I created 30 years ago to support our city’s most vulnerable, and most importantly, my family, which has recently grown by one.

      "Wishing you health and prosperity as we all move forward."