Name: Jacqui Cohen
Title: President and CEO
Business: Army & Navy
What do you do and how did you get here?
I am the president and CEO of Army & Navy. What do I do? Everything! How I got here: my grandfather, Grampa Sam Cohen founded Army & Navy one hundred years ago in 1919. I have grown steadily through the ranks and worked at pretty much every job here from stock girl, to cashier, to buyer, and now here I am as president. It’s in my blood and I am so proud to continue honouring my grandfathers vision. The first store was located at Hastings and Cordova and to this day, Army & Navy is the longest running family owned chain department store left in Canada, and the oldest business in Gastown.
Our building, originally named both the Lonsdale Block and the Dunn Miller Block, provided a home to many different tenants and businesses, including the first synagogue in Vancouver. I call it the Cordova Store today and its history continues to be revealed as we discover more about the space. During our renovations this year, beautiful brickwork has been found hidden behind modern walls. It’s exciting to see the true original character of Gastown come forward to greet us in this new beginning for our company.
Army & Navy has always felt community based, remaining true to its original ideal of great prices, inclusivity, and giving back. Has it changed at all?
Upon walking from the store to meet you today, we came across a young couple that had just done a big shop at our Cordova store. I think they were new to Vancouver, as they had bought everything from shag carpets, to eggs, to clothing, and kitchen utensils. A lot of people are told to come to Army & Navy for great deals and selection, and it’s pretty much a one-stop kind of shop. The community is very important to us and we’re lucky to be able to help less fortunate people in Gastown and the DTES through our outreach and charities. We often receive words of gratitude from people who have said that Army & Navy has made all the difference in helping them get through difficult times. I am very proud to be able to give to others and to uphold the philosophy of my grandfather that the community is always number one.
What do you love about working in Gastown?
I love the fact that Vancouver started here. I love the evolution of Gastown; where it is today and where it has come from. The architecture is simply wonderful and with the age old buildings comes an obvious pride of ownership. I think a lot of people have a wrong perception of the Downtown Eastside and Gastown. Often, it is seen as dangerous or seedy; it’s not. One could get mugged in Oakridge. I’ve been here most of my life and have never had a problem. Some people are here for destructive purposes, but the majority love Gastown and are proud to call it home.
If you had 15 minutes only in Gastown – how would you spend the time?
I’d spend it shopping at Army & Navy. But other than that, I am a frequenter of Jules Bistro, and today we had lunch at Tacofino. De Beppe is my new favourite hotspot – a welcome addition to my block. I love walking past the Brush Salon – it’s always busy and full of energy.
Can you recall a particularly happy moment here in Gastown?
I have been able to bring a few of my celebrity friends here to shop and that has been fun. I am so proud of all this – from the time I get out of my car on Cordova street and into the store, to when I set foot in our head offices.
What’s your philosophy for living a good life?
Be true to yourself. In business, I have never deviated from what my grandfather wanted Army & Navy to always be: a place where bargains are our business and where we pass the deal onto the customer. I know who I am and what fulfills me. Obviously exercise, eating well, and not smoking is important but bigger than all that, is to feel good about yourself when you go to bed at night and when you look in the mirror, and I am very proud of who I am today.
We Are 100! Army & Navy Birthday Bash
WEDNESDAY, MAY 1 – MAY 5
Starts at 8 AM
Come celebrate a century’s worth of bargains at the Army & Navy 100 year B-day Bash.
The party kicks off on May 1 and runs until May 5.
Great deals and good times at Gastown’s oldest company and Canada’s longest standing family run department store.
All are welcome!