THUNDER BAY -- Founded by John Beaconsfield Evans in 1912, J.B. Evans Fashions and Footwear is still going strong in its original location on Frederica Street. Now owned by the founder’s grandson Jack Moro, his wife Barbara and their son Andrew, the business is a cornerstone of the Westfort neighbourhood.
Initially, the store sold only menswear, but has since expanded into women’s fashion, footwear and accessories, going through building expansions in the 70s and 80s. From its original footprint of about 2,500 square feet, the store has nearly tripled in size to just under 7,000 square feet. “We’re like a mini department store,” says Andrew. “We have a lot to offer, and we have history with our customers.”
In Westfort, businesses have come and gone, but two clothing stores, J.B. Evans and Swartz Fine Fashions, have withstood the test of time. “It’s a great little community, a one-stop neighbourhood,” says Andrew. “You can get your groceries, get your hair cut, grab a bite to eat, go to the pharmacy. We have a little bit of everything in our neighbourhood.”
Despite being one of the oldest businesses in the city, the Moros still feel that they need to get the word out. “Even though we’ve been here for a hundred years, we’re always trying to let people know that we’re here, let them know what we have,” Andrew says. “A lot of people think we’re really expensive, or that we only carry suits. We’re mid to high-end, and although we originally started with menswear, we’ve had ladies [wear] for a long time.”
Andrew is the fourth generation at J.B. Evans. When they were younger, he and his brothers worked at the store parttime, but their father never tried to convince his sons to stay. “I was the only one that really loved fashion,” says Andrew, “but my dad always encouraged me to go and try other things.”
For a while, he worked in construction and moved out west, but eventually came back to Thunder Bay. His parents asked if he’d like to help out at the store again for a bit, and he never left.
The father of two daughters, he hopes that one day, one of them will eventually want to go into the business with him, but he figures he’ll adopt the same strategy his father did: “I’ll tell them to go try things, go to school. But it would be nice to have my daughter come in and run with the ladies’ section!”