Tailor to Ottawa elite closing after 92 years

An Ottawa men's clothing shop that has tailored suits for prime ministers and governors general is closing after 92 years.

An Ottawa men's clothing shop that has tailored suits for prime ministers and governors general is closing after 92 years.

G.L. Myles, on Queen Street, also sold suits to the military and gowns to Supreme Court judges and lawyers.

The shop will close at the end of January because the current owner, Kent Wilkinson, 67, is being treated for cancer and the business is not what it used to be.

Wilkinson said Thursday that men just aren't wearing suits as much as they used to.

He has been clothing Ottawa's elite for 42 years, 32 as owner of the store. 

"I've done a half a dozen governors general since I started, about six prime ministers. Many of them insisted I call them by their first name, although that would never happen if anyone else was in the store," he said.

Wilkinson is discreet about his clients, but he said no one could tie a bow tie quite the way Liberal prime minister Lester Pearson could.

Competition issues

And he remembers one PM asking him how business was. Wilkinson said he gave him a piece of his mind.

"The government has taken the embargo off 19 countries and we can't compete with their wages. We're going to lose an awful lot of business," he recalls telling the prime minister.

"To which he replied, 'I put my foot in my mouth this time. We were in Hong Kong, and guess what I did?' I said, 'You probably bought a couple of suits.''

The prime minister replied: "That's why I've called you here today, to alter them."

"There you go," Wilkinson said. "I'd better not say [any more]. He's still living."

At its height, G.L. Myles used to sell top hats and white gloves. And during the Second World War, the shop's tailors turned out three uniforms a day for soldiers. 

Wilkinson said he'll miss his customers. some of whom have been coming to the store for 50 years.

"The people … you're going to make me cry ... I'm pretty sentimental," he said.

Watson Gail, a customer for 27 years, is astounded that Wilkinson never forgets Gail's exact pant length.

"It's been a pleasure every time I walk through the door — the quality of the people here, the quality of the product over the years has been outstanding, and I can find great bow ties. This place will be sorely missed," Gail said.

Tailors at G.L. Myles also make silk robes for justices of the Supreme Court of Canada and a wool variety for lawyers. Wilkinson said he'll try to keep a tailor on contract to fill those orders.