Peter & Richard Simons
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, goes to Quebec City to open his first dry goods store near Porte St-Jean. In his tiny shop, he sells products imported from England and Scotland. People are soon hooked and John Simons, with his keen business sense, quickly understands that satisfied customers are his best measure of success. This policy snowballs and customers know they will receive full satisfaction or their money back!
La Maison Simons moves to its current location at 20 côte de la Fabrique near the large basilica. It becomes—and continues to be—a highly respected fixture in the very heart of Old Quebec.
The years pass, and Gordon 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. In 1952 Donald Simons enters the scene, ushering Simons into the modern era and transforming it into a department store and fashion leader.
When current president Peter Simons talks about the time his father pulled on his hunting boots to go see a field near the Quebec Bridge with Steinberg grocery chain founder Sam Steinberg in 1961, no one at the time could have predicted the future. But a few minutes and a firm handshake later, the pair of businessmen with a singular vision and enthusiasm for the future had sealed the fate of Place Sainte-Foy and La Maison Simons, which became Quebec City’s leading source for fashion.
The decision was quite revolutionary for retail commerce at the time. The concept of a shopping centre was highly innovative, and part of an evolution in 1960s urban planning that marked a major economic shift.
The announcement of Expo 67 breaks down borders and minsets, spurring the creation of a new way of living. Women ages 20, 30, and 40 begin to seek fashions more in tune with their modern, increasingly active lifestyles, free of traditional constraints.
Simons answers their call, unveiling its new department Contemporaine, founded in 1961, featuring designers like Lanvin, Chloé, Tiktiner, Courrèges, Cardin, Ricci, Cacharel, and Daniel Hechter, to name but a few. This marks a major shift in the history of women’s fashion in Quebec, sparking an interest in the era’s top designers.
Men’s fashions were quick to follow suit. The original formula for Le 31 for Men—from the expression se mettre sur son 31 (dress to the nines) referring to a superior vintage fabric with at least 31 threads per centimetre—is the name of the new Simons shopping destination that will revolutionize the concept of fashion for men of all ages.
Home fashions are also at the forefront of this new space. Bold and innovative marketing techniques are used to showcase leading modern brands by cutting-edge designers for the department, named La Lingère.
In 1981 a demographic explosion pushes the city’s limits outward. 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 clothing store serving a clientele further from the city centre.
The company is ripe for new challenges. The Simons concept is extended 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.
2001: A sixth store opens in suburban Montreal at Promenades St-Bruno.
2002: 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.
in 2010 the growth of the company calls for new facilities to better serve its 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 is complete.
The company continues to thrive and attracts increasingly more and 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. A dedication to providing the hottest fashions, a window on international trends in a refined atmosphere, and above all impeccable service are how the company has made its name, and 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!
The initiation of new projects, the pursuit of bringing fashion from around the world right to your door, and the advent of a Simons online store open up new horizons and help us reach you, bridging the distance between us. Everyone at Simons works hard to serve you and maintain Simons’ position at the forefront of fashion. A new page in the history of Simons is being written right now and you, dear customers, are once again the star players!