There’s no business like shoe business! And there’s no family that knows shoes like the Markowitz family!
The Flagship store of Davids Shoes, which sits at the corner of Bay and Bloor was built by three generations of the Markowitz family – who all love fashionable footwear. This admiration stems from the Markowitz matriarch, Riva, who sold shoes from the family home on Grange Avenue, in the Kensington area, after emigrating to Canada from Poland, before World War II began. Working hard in their new world, Riva taught her son Lou, nicknamed, “Lou the Shoe,” about the shoe business. At the age of 15, Lou sold and delivered shoes after school, for $.50 a pair, via his bicycle, in and around their neighbourhood.
Lou married “his girl” Julia in 1946, and together they founded Davids in 1951 at College Street and Brunswick Avenue. Davids was named after Michelangelo’s masterpiece “David”. Lou and Julia felt that this sculpture was a beautiful symbol of excellence and added a European flair to their products, and Davids quickly became well-known for fine, magnificent footwear.
In 1971, the Markowitz family moved their store to the current Bloor-Yorkville location, in keep with many other premiere fashion brands which were then being established on Bloor Street. Their slogan, “Where is Bay and Bloor? It’s at the corner of Davids,” is still well known, and even I have often described the Bloor-Yorkville BIA’s office as being located “above Davids.” Boasting over 5,000 square feet, this location became the largest shoe store in Canada, holding on to that title for many years.
Five years after the grand opening of their flagship store, Lou’s son David, and his brothers opened Capezio, at Bayview Village. A year later, they opened another, to great success at the Bay and Bloor location. The Capezio stores are also celebrating this year, with their 40th anniversary!
Lou and Julia incorporated their businesses in 1979, creating Markio Designs. Today, the Davids, Capezio, the newly launched DUET brands all fall under the Markio Designs corporation, which remains a strong and lasting brand.
Reflecting on the brand David Markowitz says “We are a hands-on family business. My father mentored my wife and I, and passed on the DNA to us, of what they sought as a business. We expanded it successfully by retaining the original vision and we are very proud of that. We survived four recessions and Davids and Capezio remains a strong, iconic, Canadian brand in this very competitive industry. I took what my father taught my wife and myself, and my brothers, and I passed it on to our son Richard, who ‘gets’ the business.”
“My father sold shoes for $.50 cents a pair to the neighbourhood, and now we sell Loubitons for $1,500 a pair at Bay and Bloor. Very humble beginnings to representing world class designer footwear, that is what we built. Collectively at Davids, we have the best of the best top brands, and we edit our footwear really well. Our customers find this valuable, as you will not find the same service from a single brand store. In essence, we have the world’s best shoes, curated from the world’s best buyers.”
With the third generation of the Markowitz family keeping up with the standard of selling fine, quality footwear, I wonder if the next generation will soon join the ranks. Richard laughs, “Well, my kids are quite young.” But David assures me that, “Oh yes! They sure will!”
Soon enough, great-grandchildren will join the Markio team, and another generation of one of Bloor-Yorkville’s most famous families will carry on the tradition of fashionable footwear, in Toronto’s most fashionable neighbourhood!