Bell’s Clothing in Ottawa celebrates 100 years in business – Shaw Local
When Irving Bell opened I. Bell’s Clothing in 1922, he opened it because he saw a need for it in downtown Ottawa.
One hundred years later, Bell’s Clothing still supplies Ottawa with men’s clothing at 601 La Salle Street under the ownership of Patrick Graham, who became a partner with Paul Baker in 1978. This need, according to Graham, has never gone away and that’s why Bell’s Clothing is celebrating 100 years in Ottawa.
“We have a huge trade, especially in the farming community and the regular person, because we sold a lot of work boots and big winter stuff instead of just selling clothes and sportswear,” said said Graham. “You just have to find your niche and keep working in it.”
Graham said customers are looking for a good product and the pandemic has changed the business for the better in Bell’s case. While Macy’s and all the other major apparel suppliers faced product restrictions, Bell’s didn’t have to.
She supplies her own product and orders have not slowed down for her private company as they have for the rest of the world. It’s certainly not the only time Bell’s has withstood a once-in-a-lifetime event. Many memories come when a business has been around for 100 years.
Irving Bell, known as Israel Kubelsky when he immigrated to the United States from Lithuania in 1913, escaped to pre-World War I Europe at the behest of his mother to work in the haberdashery of his uncle in Waukegan. According to a March 2010 Times Newspaper article, he was living with his first cousin, famous early radio comedian Jack Benny.
“Irv was 22 when he bought the store from Joe Richards,” Graham said. “Joe left Ottawa after that and went to run a company store out west, one of those deals where people who work for the company can come in and buy their stuff from the store. He tried this for about four years before coming back and opening another store for his son, which was called Leon Richards’ Men’s Wear.
This store eventually became known as Donahue’s Men’s Wear.
“He’s just one guy bringing two stores to life in downtown Ottawa,” Graham said.
Bell’s partner, Leo Thompson, bought the store two or three years after Bell opened and worked there until 1983, after Graham bought with Paul Baker. Baker currently lives in Ottawa at age 94.
“We’ve been blessed with a lot of help over the years and I always have good help,” Graham said. “That’s the most important thing.”
Graham said he shopped at Bell’s Clothing as a child and had a payment account when he was 12. He knew the store and befriended Bakerç
“I was working for Bill Walsh at the time and Paul called me and said, ‘Hey, I know you’ve always been interested in the company’ and asked me if I wanted to come over and fill it. “, said Graham. . “That’s what he wanted and when I came in we bought them out and we went on for a long time.”