Wars, family feuds, and recessions - Ingledew's story would make a great candidate for the next Sopranos. Now a century old, the store first opened in 1915 on Granville Street by William Wright Ingledew. The first sign of trouble appeared in the Second World War when many materials and products – including leather and fabric shoes – were in short supply. At times the store was closed for days until they could scrape together enough inventory.
Another ill-fated event was in 1959 when Ingledew's attempted to expand to the United States. Victims of bad timing, only two years after Ingledew's bought a shoe business in Seattle, a monorail for the World’s Fair was built right in front of the store.
“It was a disaster,” says Bill Ingledew, grandson of the company’s founder. “The store was shut down and sold. That was our one American experience.”
At first, Bill Ingledew was uncertain if he wanted to join his family’s business. His father advised against it and warned him that he’ll ‘never make a nickle.’ His father was also concerned about the animosity within the company, as the three second-generation brothers were in constant conflict. Gar Ingledew, president of the company from 1921 to 1971 - and Bill Ingledew’s uncle - was especially difficult to deal with. He was known to be a strong, well connected businesses man, but quite the tyrant to work for.
“I had a tough time adjusting to my uncle and there was a lot of conflict. It was really stressful,” Bill Ingledew recalls.
Even when Gar retired and Bill took over as president in 1978, his uncle still came to the office frequently to leave notes telling his nephew how he should be running the company.
Finally, the much more functional third-generation took over the company. But although Bill, his brother, John, and his cousin, Don, were “determined not to have a team that was [as] dysfunctional as the previous generation”, they still faced challenges. A major recession hit and there was inflationary pressure on the price of shoes. To add fuel to the fire, Gar Ingledew died in 1991.
“We had to buy out his interest when we were struggling to make a go economically. But we were able to make a deal with his estate to pay it off over time,” Bill Ingledew says. Then the company “invested in inventories when others were bailing out [due to the recession] and it paid off handsomely. When the recession end[ed], we were well positioned to look after customers.”
Ingledew’s may have moved locations to 900 West Hastings Street but it still prides itself on looking after its customers. At Ingledew’s, their goal is to provide quality footwear, a range of fittings, and attentive service. You might even get fitted by Bill Ingledew himself! His office is only seven minutes away from the new flagship store on Hastings Street and often drops by the store to fit customers himself.
Both timeless and modern - Ingeldew's is a perfect fit with Hastings West. To celebrate the store launch and anniversary, customers are invited to enter to win a $1,000 shopping spree at the new flagship location until the end on March.