Jim’s Clothes Closet is celebrating 50 years in the men’s wear field on Vancouver Island this month.
Jim Harris opened the flagship store in Port Alberni in 1968, in the heyday of the logging industry. “Port Alberni was booming; there were seven men’s wear stores,” says Drew Bradley, general manager of Jim’s, which has grown from the first store to include four locations.
There are now stores in Port Alberni, Courtenay and Campbell River on Vancouver Island, as well as the newest shop in Prince George, which opened in 2017.
Harris operated the original store for 15 years. In 1983 Don Ferster and Terry Parkinson bought the store from Harris, and 10 years later decided to open a second outlet on Fifth Street in downtown Courtenay. Parkinson retired in 2011, and Jim’s moved to a larger location.
In Courtenay, Jim’s has moved four times since it opened on Fifth Street, and now occupies a 4,200-square-foot space. It is Jim’s Clothes Closet’s largest store.
The third store to open was in Campbell River in 2014, at the foot of Dogwood Street in Mariner Square. “We found Campbell River very similar to Port Alberni, with very similar industries. It made sense when we went up to Campbell River.”
And while Port Alberni, Campbell River and Prince George may be regarded as more laid back, outdoorsy communities, they still have customers who travel to cities to do business. That’s why they offer everything from denim to suits and even tuxedos, says Bradley.
“We carry everything a guy needs.”
Jim’s opened its Prince George location in 2016—the first store off of Vancouver Island. “There’s 100,000 people in the city common and there’s about 350,000 in the area, and they didn’t have any kind of independent men’s clothing store,” Bradley explained.
“Our assumption was the business was there, but there wasn’t a good succession plan. They’ve had a huge resurgence of entrepreneurial blood that has come in—it’s a great place to live, it’s an outdoor focused community. It’s a large community with a smalltown feel, much like our other locations.”
All the stores are located in downtown areas or away from big-box stores. “We’re kind of like a large specialty boutique, but we’re still a small, local business operator,” Bradley said. “We’re not a big-box store. We support local. Downtowns have a vibrant, eclectic feel.”
Each store hires staff local to their community, who don’t work on commission—their focus is customer service, and being knowledgeable about all the different brands the store offers. “All our computer systems are connected with our communities and we keep (customers’) sizes on hand,” he said. If someone comes in to buy a gift for a regular customer they can look up the proper size.
Most importantly, he added, is they ensure style is up to date “but that quality is not being sacrificed.
“We’re seeing positive growth in all our markets. It’s amazing the number of longer term customers we have from Port Alberni that have come to our store in Campbell River and we’ve even had a few in our Prince George store.”
In Port Alberni, Jim’s is still located in its original space on Johnston Road in Adelaide Centre. “We’re the last of the men’s stores,” says Bradley. “We did something right over the years to continue to be there.”
The location is visible and attracts visitors stopping in Port Alberni on their way to and from Tofino. “They’re seeing our unique mix of product. Most men don’t like shopping, but they come into our store and they see we’re a one-stop shop. And they like that.
“We’re proud to be from Port Alberni and that we’ve grown to be a British Columbia company—and that we continue to grow.”
For more information, visit the store website at www.jimsclothescloset.com.