Your cart
Close Alternative Icon

The Army & Navy Story

With a truck load of bargain merchandise from Kamloops, a bank loan, a no-frills philosophy and determination, Samuel “Sam” Cohen opened his first storefront on Hastings Street in Vancouver in 1919. His stock-in-trade was predominantly military surplus from which the name Army & Navy was born. From there he grew it into Canada’s first discount department store chain with nine stores and a mail order business in Western Canada.

His philosophy of “Buy cheap, sell cheap. Pass the deal onto the customer” remained Army & Navy’s guiding force. Notable stories include the brand’s Legendary Shoe Sale which began in the company’s early days and drew crowds of women who lined up around the block for hours to gain entry and shop the thousands of pairs of shoes. The creation of Army & Navy’s fishing department – a passion project for Sam – established the chain as THE place for brand-name fishing tackle at the best prices in town, a reputation which stood until its 101st year.

In 1998 Sam’s granddaughter, Jacqui Cohen, took the reins of the company, asserting herself as a hands-on business owner and maintaining the stores as important contributors to the community and people in which the chain operated.

“My Grandpa Sam started Canada’s original discount department store chain in 1919, and I am so proud to be honoring his vision and to celebrate this iconic company,” said Jacqui Cohen, President & CEO, at Army & Navy’s 100-year celebration. “My father once said it’s a family business with a history, a soul and a smile. Everyone in Western Canada has an Army & Navy Story to tell.”

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the global economy hard, and the impact was beyond anything the company had ever experienced. The challenge proved insurmountable by the 101- year-old company, and the five remaining Army & Navy locations – Vancouver, New Westminster, Langley, Calgary, and Edmonton – were closed permanently. “I am proud of Army & Navy’s history and our contribution to the Canadian landscape” said Ms. Cohen.

“I am so grateful for our staff and their years of service, our suppliers with whom we forged decades-long relationships, and of course our loyal customers who were the heart and soul of our business.”

Jacqui turned her focus to her philanthropic work with Face The World Foundation, an organization she started in 1991. Face The World has raised over 20 million dollars to support hundreds of charities that benefit Vancouver's most vulnerable.