Waxman, A family affair

Design Louis-George

How do you begin to describe Waxman’s? By saying that this is the place to go in Montreal for tuxedos? That you can rent everything from shoes to shirts for formal events, such as weddings, balls, or corporate soirées? Or do you focus on the fact that the place has been in business for 88 years in the same location? Perhaps one should start with the personalized service that often results in close, long-term relationships with customers. Waxman’s is all that, and more. In 1927, Willie and Paula Waxman, who had emigrated from Poland, started a business on Park Avenue that their son, Hershie, would eventually take over. Family members have been actively involved ever since. William Paul (named for his grandparents), known as Billy, started working there at the age of 12, and now runs the company. In fact, he is currently in the process of setting a new course for the business: tuxedo rentals are still Waxman’s main bread and butter, but Billy is taking advantage of the location to keep things humming all year long. Seventy percent of sales are related to weddings, which generally take place from May to October. In 2014, to spread things more evenly throughout the year, Billy opened Hershie’s Espresso Bar, named for his father, right on the premises. He also installed a barber chair, and is planning to add three more. The store is located in the heart of the very hot Mile-End neighbourhood, where passers-by are always interested in a cool place to hang out on the sunny side of the street. Of course, the hipsters lingering on the terrasse are all potential customers. The place oozes Italy: outstanding espresso, a Ducati motorcycle in the window (Billy loves it), a small menu written in Italian, shaving products imported from Italy… The atmosphere is cosmopolitan and always friendly. Billy does what his father and grandfather always did: chat with customers, establish a warm connection, even build friendships. For him, people always come before money. Family reigns supreme. Billy talks about his father all the time; he pays homage to him at every opportunity, and dozens of framed photos of his parents hang on the walls. But there is a rebranding going on, and Waxman Formal Wear is about to become Waxman House. Note that Billy does not just work there, he lives there, too, with his Argentine wife Monica, and their two sons, Julian and Miguel, the fourth generation of Waxmans. For now, Billy is passing his values on to his children, preparing for the future and having more fun than ever, to his – and our – great pleasure. Spending time with them, in fact, is a little like being welcomed into the family.

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Photos : Adrien Willams