THUNDER BAY -- Of the current businesses on the Ruttan Block on Court street, mars. clothing was one of the first to move in. James Nigro founded the business in 2012. Although he was a hair dresser, he had liked working in retail as a high school student and decided to give it a try.
After a soft launch as a pop-up shop, he moved into the Ruttan Block. Another clothing store, the Loop, moved in around the same time, and the Foundry was just opening around the corner. “The rent was affordable and I could see that there was a change coming [to the area],” Nigro recalls.
mars. clothing sells both mens’ and women’s clothing; “things that you’re going to be able to wear for years,” says Nigro. He describes his aesthetic as basic but different; a classic that you wouldn’t tire of after one season.
The style is “a combination of me, and the people who work here, and the customers. The customers tell me what they want; they show me by what they buy,” he says.
Made in Canada with Japanese fabrics, Naked and Famous Denim is one of the Canadian brand that mars. clothing carries. The store also offers brands from Denmark and Sweden, as well as bags and accessories from Herschel Supply Co.
The eight years since Nigro started his business have seen box stores and online retailers squeezing out independent small stores, but he still feels that there’s enough people in Thunder Bay who like what he offers, and prefer having sensory input when they shop.
“You just have to listen to the people who come in. See what they want,” he says. “And don’t assume. I think people have a lot of assumptions about the city; you might think a clothing store like this might not survive, because who’d want to wear these clothes in Thunder Bay? But you see all these people come in, and you’re like, ‘Where are you from? I never see you out!’ It’s a very diverse community here that people don’t know.”
mars. clothing has an online store, and Nigro hopes to expand that while his storefront is closed during the pandemic. The support of other business owners in the neighbourhood has been priceless during these trying times, he says. “Everybody tries to help out everybody. We’re all family down here. We’re all messaging each other and trying to figure it out together.”