army navvy store closing

Canadians heartbroken as retailer Army & Navy announces it's closing after 101 years

A beloved discount department store chain is the latest high-profile retailer to close in Canada on account of financial challenges presented during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — this one, after more than a century in business.

Army & Navy was founded in Vancouver 101 years ago as liquidation stock outlet for bankrupt or closing stores, as well as low-priced WWI surplus goods.

The family-owned business expanded just one year after launching on West Hastings Street in 1919 to open a second store in Regina, Saskatchewan. When the pandemic hit earlier this year, Arm & Navy had five stores across Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C.

The company's owner and CEO Jacqui Cohen announced on Saturday that her team had made the difficult decision to close all of their stores permanently due to the "insurmountable" economic challenges of COVID-19.

All five of Army & Navy's stores are now closed permanently and 205 workers who had been laid off temporarily in March have lost their jobs for good.

"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," said Cohen, whose grandfather Samuel Joseph Cohen founded the company.

"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." 

Longtime customers of the unique retail chain were crushed to learn that Army & Navy — the first discount department store in all of Canada — would be no more.

"A discount retailer closing will bring challenges to the communities that rely on it," wrote one on Twitter. "My mom bought us our first Star Wars action figures at an Army & Navy in the earliest 80's."

"Saturdays at the A&N were the norm for us in the 60s & 70s," wrote someone else. "Bought some of my grooviest things there. Best shoe sales. Then a wander up to that underground diner across from the Cenotaph..."

As for what comes next, Cohen says she'll be doing whatever it takes to help her laid off employees, some of whom had been with the company for decades before its unexpected closure.

"I am spending the weeks ahead ensuring the women and men who have worked for Army & Navy have our support," said the CEO.

"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."

Army & Navy will forever be remembered for its low prices, huge product selection and the interesting characters known to frequent its flagship Vancouver store.

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