The story of La Maison Simons begins when Peter Simons, born in 1785 in Scotland, settles in the Quebec City area on a small farm on Lac Duchesnay (now Lac Beauport) to raise his family of five children.
One of his sons, 17-year-old John Simons, moves to Quebec City to open his first dry goods store near St. John’s Gate. In his tiny shop, he sells imported products. Already at that time, John Simons was regularly traveling across the Atlantic to replenish his shop. He is said to have made at least 72 round trips between Canada and Europe by boat. Travel as a means of innovation thus becomes anchored in the company’s values very early on. People are soon hooked on the new items arriving regularly and John Simons, with his keen business sense, quickly realizes that customer satisfaction is his best measure of success. He develops the famous policy “full satisfaction or your money back,” laying the foundation for La Maison Simons’ business philosophy based on customer loyalty.
La Maison Simons moves to its current location at 20 côte de la Fabrique near the Basilica. The years pass, and Archibald Simons takes over from his father, John. The thriving business continues to attract a select and increasingly loyal clientele.
Postwar prosperity paves the way to brand new markets. Donald Simons enters the scene, ushering Simons into the modern era and transforming it into a specialty fashion retailer and a fashion leader.
Donald Simons is part of a generation of creative young entrepreneurs with remarkable intuition. Guided by the energy of his time, he quickly grasps the importance of meeting the clothing needs of modern society.
He sets out to carve fashion niches unprecedented in Quebec. The 1960s give rise to Twik, fashions for young women 16 to 25. Modeled after Twiggy, Brigitte Bardot, and Françoise Hardy, who broke with tradition and set the tone for a new generation of women, Twik is much more than an inspiration or a passing fad. It is a complete brand that becomes the place to shop for creations by bold young designers revolutionizing fashion in Europe and the U.S., including Mary Quant, Kenzo, Emmanuelle Khanh, and many more.
This year marks a turning point in the family business. Donald Simons pulls on his hunting boots to go see a field with Steinberg grocery chain founder Sam Steinberg. A few minutes and a firm handshake later, he buys the field on which La Maison Simon's Place Sainte-Foy will later stand. The business enters a growth phase with a new store in the heart of Quebec City’s most affluent suburb. In this spacious, modern location, men’s fashion and household linens play a prominent role. The decision is quite revolutionary for retail commerce at the time. The concept of a shopping centre is highly innovative, and part of an important change in 1960s urban planning that marked a major economic shift.
La Maison Simons adopts the name Le 31 for the new shopping destination that will revolutionize the concept of menswear for all ages. The name comes from the French expression "se mettre sur son 31," the equivalent of the English phrase "to dress to the nines." The number 31 refers to a high-grade vintage fabric that had at least 31 threads per centimeter.
Home fashions are also at the forefront of this new space. La Maison Simons uses bold and innovative marketing techniques to showcase top brands by cutting-edge designers for La Lingère.
Simons keeps on growing… As women 30 to 40 seek fashions more in tune with an increasingly active lifestyle, Simons unveils its new department Contemporaine, featuring designers like Lanvin, Chloé, Tiktiner, Courrèges, Cardin, Cacharel, Ricci, and Daniel Hechter. This marks a major shift in the history of women’s fashion in Quebec.
New markets open as a fledgling business district sprouts to the north of Quebec City. La Maison Simons debuts at the newly opened Galeries de la Capitale as the city’s largest fashion retailer, serving a clientele further from the city centre.
The company is ripe for new challenges. Simons extends beyond the Quebec City area when a store opens at Carrefour de l’Estrie in Sherbrooke.
Then, another store opens on Rue Sainte-Catherine in downtown Montreal, marking the beginning of a new era for Simons. Under the young leadership of Peter and Richard Simons, Donald Simons’ sons, the business moves into the next century and continues to grow.
A sixth store opens in suburban Montreal at Promenades St-Bruno.
A seventh store opens in the Montreal area at Carrefour Laval in the heart of one of Quebec’s most vibrant suburbs.
One hundred and sixty-five years after it was founded, Simons pursues its rising fortune and continues to be recognized as Quebec’s fashion leader despite increasingly stiff competition in the retail market. Expansion of the original store on Côte de la Fabrique becomes necessary to offer both Quebec City customers and a significant tourist clientele more shopping space. New offices are also required to accommodate growing work teams.
Business development calls for new facilities to better serve customers. Peter Simons announces the expansion of the Place Sainte-Foy store, which will double its retail space and present customers with a totally innovative, avant-garde architectural concept that will reinvent the shopping experience. At the same time, the company acquires a fourth building (the former Empire Cinema) on Côte de la Fabrique, which will be renovated once expansion of the Sainte-Foy store has been completed.
The company continues to thrive and attracts increasingly more loyal customers. The Simons website becomes transactional, and customers across Quebec and the rest of Canada can now shop online. The same passion, passed down from generation to generation, continues to drive the entire Simons team. The company built its name based on its dedication to providing the hottest fashions, being a window for international trends in a refined atmosphere, and above all, impeccable service. These remain the greatest challenges it faces as it moves forward into the future.
Even today, for Peter Simons and everyone who strives daily to move the company forward, the methods may have changed but the challenge remains the same: to keep innovating!
Peter Simons announces the construction of an eighth store located at Galeries d’Anjou on Montreal Island. He also confirms the launch of major expansion outside Quebec with the first store at West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping centre in North America and a primary tourist attraction in western Canada.
The future is therefore in the making. A new page in the history of Simons is written each day thanks to you, dear customers, who are the star players!