|In the beginning...|
Founder John Bulloch and brother James
|The Gold Braid Story
Big John, as the staff use to call him, was a pious man. He was raised in a family of strict God fearing Christians. As children, we would endure no less than 5 visits every week to our local church meeting hall. Father permitted no radio, TV, movies or other worldly effects within our family. While he mellowed over the years, he was pious to the last.
Which is why I was mildly shocked and somewhat amused when I heard the Gold Braid Story from a former employee of ours who visited me soon after my father's passing.
During the war, my father did his bit for the war effort by making uniforms for the Canadian officers. Since the government gave each officer a $200 voucher for their military uniform, John decided to offer a full 5-piece made to measure uniform for $200. The best quality money could buy. He knew if he could create a following of satisfied officers, then they would stay with him after the war.
He and his first born son, John Jr., used to travel in their old Desoto up to the Military Bases on the weekends to measure the officers, returning the next week to fit them and the following to deliver the finished garments. In fact, John had a special letter on his license plate allowing him extra quantity of rationed petrol, because he was servicing the troops.
|The war effort was a two-edged
sword. While it provided work, you were unable to do anything else but service the war
So when a military man casually told John Bulloch that there was a serious shortage of gold braid developing - and gold braid was needed for all the officers' uniforms - John was thunderstruck. This shortage could cripple his business. He needed braid to survive.
So he developed a somewhat devious plan. One that he never shared with his family.
In those days, a firm called Shiffer-Hillman tailored his uniforms. They were paid after the final suit was delivered, not when it was initially shipped to the retailer for a "try-on". So, my father made up a huge number of dummy orders for an immense number of dummy officers. All the possible sizes were covered. And then some. Shiffer-Hillman was overwhelmed at the energies and success of this young businessman and poured out the try-ons. All included gold braid.
Time passed. Soon other officers who needed uniforms were redirected to Bulloch's, because he was the only tailor with gold braid. Eventually 80% of all the Canadian military officers acquired their uniforms from Bulloch Tailors.
And his business grew. And grew.
The rest is history.
Belle Bullochs Famous Chicken Soup
After a unique televised meeting with North York's Mayor Lastman, John Bulloch, the late founder of Bulloch Tailors, placed the following advertisement in the Toronto Star some 25 years ago:
The end result of this cooking endeavour is a soup AND a meat AND a vegetable course. Cooked noodles or rice are spooned into a soup bowl first and the hot soup poured onto it. When this is finished, the meat and vegetables are ladled into a plate as the second course. Do not use the same spoon for skimming as you do tasting. Saliva enzymes are a no no!
Wash, salt and clean chicken, wash again and put with the bones and meat into a large soup pot. Add enough water to cover. With a gentle rolling boil, scum will form. Skim well, lower heat to simmer, and cook with the cover on until the meat is tender. Add vegetables, using half the seasonings. Before serving add the rest. Skim the fat before serving being careful not to disturb the contents, so that the soup is clear and a golden colour.
Do not store any leftover soup in metal pot. Refrigerate when cool, leaving the soup bones in the soup. Reheat at low temperature.
Belle Bulloch is alive and well at 86 and living in North York.
For Better or For Worse
Canada was built by immigrants and John Bulloch was one of them. He took advantage of the Canadian government's offer to come to this new country in return for working on the Prairies for one full harvesting season.
With that over, in the fall of 1929, John moved to the nearest big city, Winnipeg, Manitoba. For it was known that Timothy Eaton, originally a Northern Irishman, would always hire his countrymen to work at the famous department store, The T. Eaton Co. Ltd.
And that he did. Having sold suits in his native Belfast, and being a 6'5" handsome charmer made him a natural to work in menswear. Later it was recommended that he should move to Toronto where his career in men's clothing could grow. That he did, and his career did blossom as he quietly built a solid customer following, all the while improving his prospects for management.
Until he met, courted and asked for the hand in marriage of the comely Bella Halter who worked in the Linen and Bedding department.
|Bella, you see, was of a
different faith. And, he was told in no uncertain words, that if he married that young
lady, he would not be permitted to join management. It simply wasn't acceptable. John
Bulloch did not agree.
They married, of course, and ironically Belle left her faith to join John's.
But the decision was made. His upward career was effectively over in Eaton's. He soon left to start in business for himself, renting an abandoned grocery store on Bay St. across from the Eaton's College St. garage.
The little tailoring store opened in 1938 in a nowhere location at the height of the depression. Stubbornness, however, can be an important asset to an entrepreneur. He didn't know he was an entrepreneur. He just needed to make something happen, on his own terms. We think he did.
This story is in no way intended to slight the good name of the Eaton family or the T. Eaton Co. This is a story of life in a different era. Eight members of our family worked there over the years and we all have only the warmest memories of our involvement with Eaton's.
|John Bulloch, the Man
Father wasn't famous, or infamous - and certainly not dull. He was a unique individual and he created a business that was a reflection of his personality and his upbringing. Bulloch Tailors, formed in the depression, led him to boldly post signs in the store declaring: "Terms Strictly Cash". Credit cards were never even considered during his lifetime.
Because the store was situated in such a poor location, he had to rely on advertising to find his customers since there was no passing trade. And advertise he did, lacing his ads with aggressive, often outrageous religious and political commentary. In fact the term "editorial advertising" is credited to John Bulloch.
His ads regularly outraged special interest groups. Feminists in the 60's would picket his store when he touted the benefits of marital bliss and staying home to have babies. Over time his store windows were broken so often that the insurance company eventually cancelled the coverage.
He supported the regime in Rhodesia when it was politically correct and government policy to support the black struggle against white domination. In fact he was such a thorn in Ottawa's side that they exerted pressure on the Globe and Mail to control his advertising. This, of course, made him fight all the harder.
Being a simple, hard working immigrant left him well outside the established order. (He liked to call himself a "pig ignorant Irishman").
|This, plus the hardship of
living during the Depression, drove him to strive for success in his tailoring efforts. He
focused on the average businessman, not the well-to-do. And he was determined to offer the
best value in town. This was most important to him.
To offer low prices he developed the "factory outlet" concept where his suits were tailored on the premises. Volumes grew at an amazing pace. In the late 1950's he would routinely sell 200 hand tailored suits on a Saturday! We doubt there was any other single operation on the planet that had such an extraordinary operation.
His low prices and high quality created massive sales which in turn led to a larger tailor shop - which meant that he had to continually drive the business to maintain the volume. It was not uncommon for him to buy a full container-load of British woollens.
I remember when he advertised Harris Tweed Jackets off season for $39 tailor made. His fellow competitors howled and repeatedly conspired to cut off his source of supply.
They were heady times. Very different from today.
It is 60 years later and the 3rd generation is kicking into gear. And while the price of our suits is no longer close to the lowest in town, we hope our customers will still feel a little of the presence of John Bulloch.
I know I do.
Peter Bulloch, Grateful Son