Army & Navy celebrates 100th birthday by remembering the less fortunate in Vancouver

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      It's hard to imagine a family business lasting 20 or 30 years, let alone 100, especially in a relatively young city like Vancouver.

      But last night, the president and CEO of Army & Navy, Jacqui Cohen, celebrated her company's centenary at the flagship store at 36 West Cordova Street.

      She joins an exclusive club that includes H.Y. Louie Co. Limited, Modernize Tailors, and Ming Wo in reaching the 100-year mark while still remaining under one family's control.

      Founded by her grandfather Sam Cohen in 1919, the original Army & Navy outlet was in a rented storefront at 44 West Hastings Street—the first Canadian discount store in Canada.

      In 1948, it moved to the current location in the Dunn-Miller block and remains the oldest surviving retailer in Gastown.

      Last night's party attracted many well-known Vancouverites, including Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark, ICBC chair Joy MacPhail and her filmmaker husband James Shavick, Concord Pacific CEO Terry Hui, Granville Entertainment Group founder Blaine Culling, and clothing entrepreneur J.J. Wilson.

      The celebration came a week before Army & Navy's famous and fabulous annual shoe sale, which begins on May 1.

      Georgia Straight video: Watch the excited reaction from customers at the 2016 Army & Navy shoe sale.

      At one point, MacPhail quipped that she had to head over to the aisles to buy some footwear.

      She's one of the directors of Cohen's Face the World Foundation, which has raised $18.5 million over the past three decades. The money has been distributed to hundreds of charitable organizations.

      Near the entrance to the party, artist John Ferrie was selling colourful prints of his painting of the store's exterior for $100, with the proceeds going to help the less fortunate.

      Artist John Ferrie shows off a print of his colourful painting of the Army & Navy store in Gastown.
      Charlie Smith

      Cohen's philanthropic efforts have also rubbed off on her daughter Kasondra, who founded her own charity a decade ago called the Face of Today Foundation.

      It's formed a partnership with WE Charity to develop a mental health centre in the nearby Dominion Building.

      Kasondra Cohen told the Straight that the space will offer workshops in a wide range of areas, including art, fitness, nutrition, finance, and entrepreneurship. 

      Initially, it won't be open every day, but it will be available for groups that want to rent the space.

      Face of Today president and CEO Kasondra Cohen and vice president J.J. Wilson are looking forward to the foundation's new mental-health space, which will be in the Dominion Building.
      Charlie Smith

      She revealed that she grew up being dyslexic, which carried its own stigma. That has influenced her to try to address the stigma around mental health.

      She also credited her mother for inspiring her to become a philanthropist.

      "She has always been very, very supportive of me," Kasondra said. "I want to be following in her footsteps."