Once upon a time…

Joshua Lewis Taylor, the eldest of three sons was born in Harbour Grace, Newfoundland and moved to Montreal with his mother and brothers at the age of 12.  His father had died a few years before.

Joshua married Margaret Anderson in 1903.

Over the next ten years, Margaret and Joshua found themselves parents of three children:  Charles the eldest, Dorothy and Ernest each two years apart.

Although Joshua was employed as a manufacturer’s agent selling English woolens he possessed an entrepreneurial spirit, so he decided to open his own dry goods business in downtown Saint Lambert.

In 1920 Joshua purchased the building located in the heart of Saint Lambert, formerly a hardware store named Malo & Dion.

Many of the manufacturers agents travelled by streetcar from Old Montreal  lugging their bulging valises from the train to visit Taylors.

It was not unusual for these salesmen to be asked to stay for supper and join the family.

The business prospered as more and more  middle class families visited the store to purchase fabric and notions to make their own clothes.

Margaret Anderson & Joshua Lewis Taylor
Purchased building in 1902

Beginning in the 1920s, Margaret managed the store with only one employee, Barbara Cordon, while her husband Joshua continued working in Montreal in the British woolens import business. When Margaret fell ill, her children had to pitch in and help. Every lunch hour and after school, they would shelve merchandise in display cases, assist customers and make deliveries by bicycle. And that’s how the family business started.

In 1938, Charles, Dorothy and Ernest became owner-managers of the store, in partnership with their father Joshua. Them, in 1955, when Joshua died, the three children became sole owners of the business.

Robert Taylor remembers:

“My father Charles had to quit high school to help his ailing mother with the store. He loved school, was an excellent student and had wanted to go to university. I saw that throughout his entire life, he took courses, read and taught himself. When I earned my degree in accounting at McGill, my father had tears in his eyes; he was so proud that I had achieved his dream.”

Dorothy Taylor
Ernest Taylor
Charles Taylor
Charles at a counter in the store

Graham and Ross remember a time when the Taylor family knew their customers personally.

When their father, Ernest, learned that a customer had been recently widowed, he offered her a job at the store to help her provide for her family.

And when a young customer was caught shoplifting, Ross, as Director of Personnel, brought them into his office to have a talk with them, with their parents present. He never called the police, confident that the family could take care of the situation themselves.

A Note from the Mouillepied Historical Society

In 1955, when Joshua Taylor died, his three children took up their management roles in the store.

Charles, as President, looked after all the finances and kept a tight rein on the budget. Dorothy, with her impeccable taste and eye for fashion, did the purchasing, within the budget parameters set for her by Charles. Strongly devoted to her customers, Dorothy found ways to ease the rules for those few who could only afford to pay in installments or who were unable to get out to shop in the store or could only make it outside regular store hours.

Ernest was greatly appreciated by the employees as Director of Personnel. He offered them opportunities to display their skills, in return for which they gave him respect and loyalty.

Ernest in front of the store with an employee

The Third Generation: Stuart, Ross, Robert and Graham Taylor

From let to right: Robert, Graham & Ross Taylor. Photo: Michel Cojan

Store founder Joshua Taylor’s three children got involved at an early age in their parents’ store and it led them to devote their entire professional careers to it. Charles and Ernest passed on this legacy to their own children. Charles initiated his son Robert, while Ernest did the same for his three sons, Stuart, Ross and Graham. As for Dorothy, she remained single and devoted her life to the store.

The cousins remember when they were youngsters going on Saturdays to the toy section of the store, where the Lionel electric trains and little Dinky Toy cars filled them with wonder. As adolescents, during their summer vacations, they were given jobs doing deliveries or painting in the store. When Robert got his driver’s licence, he replaced the delivery truck driver while he was on vacation.

The four boys did their university studies in finance or retail commerce. By their own admission, they principally learned their trade from their parents and the store employees. Stuart was the first of his generation to get involved in the store’s management after college. He became Director of Purchasing. Young and full of audacity, he set the direction for the future of the business. Ross, then Robert and finally young Graham followed his lead.

Stuart Taylor

Stuart died last year but the men and women who had the good fortune to work alongside him as buyers still remember the stimulating, visionary and, above all, humane relationships that he fostered with them.

A single word described him; he was a gentleman.

Employees with more than forty years of service remember working with the young Taylor generation as a brilliant time, when they were given every opportunity to succeed.

Taylor’s main store and outlets

Notes from the Mouillepied Historical Society

The first Taylor’s store opened in St. Lambert in 1920 at 306 Victoria Street, which was previously the Malo and Dion hardware store.

Other businesses on St. Lambert’s main street at the time included five banks, 4 grocery stores, 2 hardware stores, 2 butcher shops and a pharmacy.

In 1927, M.J. Taylor bought the building.

1920: Joshua Taylor’s original store
1968 : Taylor’s store, after the enlargements

In 1959, the Taylor children bought the building next door, which had housed the Victoria Cinema, a bowling alley and a billiard hall. Over the next ten years, they undertook substantial renovations to enlarge and link the two buildings. Thus, by 1968, the original store was graced with an added third floor and the buildings were united by a brand new concrete façade. The façade’s geometric motif was conceived by St.Lambert architect John W. Cooke, who is also credited with designing the town’s Eric Sharpe Arena. At the back of the store, a parking lot with space for 100 cars completed the renovations.

Starting in 1974, the third-generation Taylor cousins began further expanding the business. They opened their first retail outlet in a new shopping centre being built in Granby and were offered a space in Brossard’s new Champlain Mall. More retail outlets followed; at  Promenades St. Bruno, Montenach Mall in Beloeil, Fairview Centre in Pointe Claire, Carrefour Laval and at Ville d’Anjou.

The latest expansion, an online boutique, was created in 2011.

In 2004, Robert Taylor fulfilled an old dream. He hired local St. Lambert architect Frank G. McGrath and designer François Zuttel to design a new facade on the main store on Victoria Street, further showcasing to advantage the original two buildings.

2004 : Taylor’s store, with its new facade

Robert Taylor Remembers…

Robert (Bob) Taylor remembers that his father Charles and uncle Ernest were not in favour of expanding the business; they would have preferred to strengthen and consolidate business at the flagship store in St. Lambert. However, he and his cousins decided to open a number of outlets in the new shopping centres that were starting to flourish at the time.

Eventually, economic factors like the added GST-PST federal and provincial sales taxes, the 1982 recession and higher interest rates made it unfeasable to keep so many locations open, so they decided to restrict business to the geographic area south of Montreal (St. Lambert, St. Bruno, St. Hyacinthe, Beloeil, Brossard, Granby and Sherbrooke).

Value for Money When You Shop at Taylor’s

Notes from the Mouillepied Historical Society

The South Shore Echo December, 1954
The South Shore Echo November 16, 1954

When Taylor’s first opened in 1920, the store sold fabric, needles and thread. Its founder, Joshua Taylor, worked in Montreal as a distribution agent for British woollens. He continued as an agent in the city and his wife and teenage children looked after the store when he was busy.

In those days, it was the custom in many families for mothers to sew clothing for themselves and their families. At Taylor’s, women could buy all the sewing supplies they needed without having to go far from home.

Before long, some of Taylor’s customers began asking for ready-made clothes, so Mr. Taylor introduced these into his store. He bought principally from a number of Jewish clothing manufacturers in Montreal, renowned for the quality of their work. As a fabric dealer, he was familiar with the Montreal garment industry and knew where to buy the best clothes.

Department stores had begun to take hold in Canada in the Thirties and, by the following decade, the custom of buying clothes “off-the-rack” (prêt-a-porter) had become fairly common. St. Lambert kept in step with the latest trends in fashion and Taylor’s grew with the times, selling clothing for women, men and children, as well as school uniforms, accessories, lingerie, bedding and toys.

Prices were affordable and their clothes were of the highest quality. Sales boomed and they added departments for jewellery, perfume and toiletries for men and women. At Taylor’s customers could find, just a few steps from home in their own quiet, suburban neighbourhood, knowledgeable and attentive sales agents, familiar with the individual tastes of their customers.

Personalized service like that is beyond value and it is what Taylor’s has offered since it first opened its doors.

In the 1990s, the wind began to go out of the sails of the Canadian garment industry. Production began to move to Asia at that time; nowadays, less than 10 percent of clothes are manufactured in Canada. By 2010, Taylor’s clothes came principally from China, Turkey and Italy, as well as the Scandinavian countries and Eastern Europe.

The store reverted back to basics, selling men’s and women’s clothing, shoes and some jewellery.

Space in their flagship store is rented to select small businesses; a photo and print shop, a lingerie boutique and a beauty salon.

Taylor’s Management Philosophy

Notes from the Mouillepied Historical Society

From the start, Taylor’s values were strongly influenced by the Montreal Jewish community. Founder Joshua Taylor was a Wesleyan Protestant but he and his family worked their entire lives with Jewish businessmen in the garment industry. The Taylors admired their business sense, as well as their allegiance to family and community.

These values of respect toward people and commitment were adopted and handed down through three generations of Taylors.

St-Lambert store front
Photo: Michel Cojan

Management by the Taylor family for its St. Lambert family

The backbone of Taylor’s store is made up of family members whose lives have been closely intertwined for three generations. They support and help each other, pass on skills and contribute to the development of the family business; even, on occasion, putting aside their own personal goals to do so. Charles quit university, at which he excelled, in order to help his mother in the store; Dorothy lived at home with her ailing mother while continuing to work at the store and Ernie completed his university studies and then went straight back to take commerce in order to support his brother.

Taylor’s store aims to serve the members of its St. Lambert ‘family’. It seeks to satisfy their tastes and needs, takes into account their income level and offers them quality clothing in exchange. Taylor’s employees, often mothers themselves, were given the opportunity early on to have a balanced work and family life, long before that became a popular concept.

A business finely tuned to its community

Taylor’s store in the 1920s, under Joshua and his wife, was a lively place where people got together to talk and exchange ideas. The store opened at 9 a.m. but closed only when the last customer and supplier had left. The table on Taylor’s second floor was always open to those who wished to carry on a conversation into the evening. From the beginning, Joshua demanded of his children and grandchildren that they respect the people with whom they worked. He didn’t allow them to denigrate merchants who displayed merchandise they didn’t like. They have a right to be respected, he taught them, and they could change suppliers at any time.

The three directors of the next generation treated their customers with great respect and did their utmost to satisfy them. Customers came from as far away as 100 km outside St. Lambert, just to receive this individualized service. Miss Dorothy would personally bring clothes to a sick customer so the customer could take the time to try them and select the ones they liked. This service is still offered today. She would often stay at the store after hours to wait for a customer who was unaccountably delayed.

Ross Taylor. Photo: Michel Cojan

Taylor’s Employees

Notes from the Mouillepied Historical Society

To keep a successful business like Taylor’s going for one hundred years you must have the support and collaboration of employees who share the same goals as their employers. They must be at the service of customers, looking for and finding clothes that respond to their tastes, proposing new styles at affordable prices, keeping loyal customers satisfied and attracting new ones. The employees are an integral part of the machine that keeps this wheel turning. Over the course of one hundred years, many people have filled these positions, as supervisors, managers, buyers, sellers, accountants, deliverymen, seamstresses, graphic artists, display managers, window dressers, shippers and receivers and those in charge of labelling and maintenance.

We want to salute the commitment and ability of all these employees; they are a vital part of Taylor’s 100-year success story.

At the peak of its expansion to eleven stores, Taylor’s had about 150 employees. Today, it employs 98 people in eight locations. While it would be impossible to name them all here, we shall mention just a few. Barbara Condon, Taylor’s first employee in 1922, became an invaluable aide to Barbara Taylor when her health began to decline. Everyone remembers the little bell she used to summon Mrs. Taylor (then living above the store) when she needed help with the customers. In 1973, Jean d’Arc Coiteux became manager of the first branch store in Granby. As the story goes, she could have managed the entire province! Mrs. Jeannine Lemieux, noted for her dignity and easy authority, became the branch manager in Brossard in 1974 and, last but not least, in 1976, Mrs. Denise Morin, affectionately known as “Marie-Meilleure,” became the very capable manager in St. Bruno. All three women possessed the qualities needed to make their branches prosper.

Another store legend is certainly Mrs. Therese Sved, known as “the Duchess.” Formerly chief buyer for Eaton’s department store, she knew everyone in the European and Quebec fashion industries and all the manufacturers and importers knew and respected her. She brought a whole new level of experience to Taylor’s. Finally, three people who played a key role as Robert Taylor’s right hand in managing the entire group of stores are Leslie Marlin, first supervisor, followed by Linda Saint-Onge and Christiane Leroux. They took on enormous responsibilities and gave the president information crucial to his decisions.

A dozen employees have worked or still work for Taylor’s for more than forty years; yet another dozen for more than twenty-five years. Some began as summer students and ended up spending their entire careers there. A number of them perfected their skills, with the support and encouragement of their bosses. Why did they stay such a long time in the same place? They appreciated being able to learn and develop in a climate that encouraged initiative and always invited them to strive to do better.

According to one we spoke to; “They believed in us, they could see what we were capable of.”

Leslie Marlin
Linda St-Onge
Christiane Leroux