Gary Waters flawlessly mixes contemporary with traditional menswear.
Paul DiFelice is known to some as the “Michelangelo of merchandising.” Or at least that how Coppley’s Warwick Jones describes him, noting his attention to fabric detail. Also known for his sense of style and high fashion, DiFelice is greatly admired by Russ Fearon of Throat Threads: “His values are always in the right place. He’s a sincere, caring person who wants to make you look and feel good. He has an amazing sense of humor and his passion resonates in everything that he does. His laugh is infectious! I am proud to be Paul’s friend and it has always been a pleasure doing business with him.”
Gary Waters has an interesting, 52-year history. It was originally established in 1961 as Brill and Bunn by Jack Brill and Ron Bunn. The store manager at the time was a young, energetic guy named Gary Waters, who in 1971, bought out the original owners and changed the store name to his own. In 1995, brothers Paul and Patrick DiFelice merged their contemporary menswear store, Joseph Anthony’s Men’s Fashion, with Gary Waters. The idea here was to combine Joseph Anthony’s assortment of designer denim and sportswear with Gary Water’s expertise in basics and turn. In 2005, the DiFelice brothers took over the business completely, and in 2010, Dennis Wilson joined them as a third owner. Wilson, who worked at Coppley for many years, came on to build a custom business for Gary Waters.
Gary Waters’ product assortment is a unique mix of traditional, contemporary and designer menswear. Hot this season are hybrid jackets, five-pocket trousers, woven shirts, V-neck knitwear and footwear. Trimmer silhouettes are trending in all categories. Looking forward to spring 2014, Paul DiFelice says, “We’re looking for more versatile pieces for spring ’14 based on the success we’ve had this season. It’s really the nature of how our customers dress; they want something that will take them from day to night. Color will also be key.”
An important piece of the business will be the online component. While there’s no e-commerce yet, they’ve completely revamped the website and are planning for a social media push within the next six months. Paul explains, “Our online strategy is very information-driven. So while we won’t sell product, we’ll use the space to educate and show guys what the in-store experience will be like.”
Another exciting marketing strategy is the spring 2014 look books they’re producing with their fellow Fashion Senate stores. (FSG is a group of 12 independently owned retailers in Canada who meet twice a year to exchange information and share ideas about their respective businesses.) “We’ve all decided to do three look books a year featuring specific product that we sell in the store. For a small store it can be tricky, because you never buy enough to make it really worth it, so we’ve teamed up to make it more cost effective. We all decided on which brands to feature and divided them up so everyone is responsible for choosing items from their assigned brands. Each store must include that product within their buy for the season. We’ll each be able to send out more look books to our current customers (as well as prospective ones) because we’re working collaboratively.”
Paul credits FSG as a great inspiration to his business, as well as the previous owner Gary Waters. “Gary was a mentor to me,” he says. “I had a lot of fun working with him because he was so passionate about the business and we shared a lot of similarities. I think he’d say that he had a lot of fun with us too.” When Paul isn’t working he’s likely spending time with his wife and two daughters Celina (18) and Alexa (15). He says that Patrick loves to cook (his specialty is Italian) and Dennis enjoys spending time at his cottage up north.
Gary Waters at a Glance
- Established in 1961 by Jack Brill and Ron Bunn. Currently owned by Patrick and Paul DiFelice and Dennis Wilson.
- Location: St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
- Size: 6,500 sq. ft.
- Assortment: 100% menswear
- Ratio: 95% branded/5% private label
- Category Breakdown: 30% clothing, 15% denim/contemporary, 15% designer, 15% sportswear, 15% accessories, 10% furnishings
- Top vendors: Alberto, Canali, Coppley, Corneliani, Eton, Etro, Ferragamo, Hugo Boss, John Varvatos, Versace
- Exciting in-Store Events: Annual women’s Christmas event in November; Taste of Europe event featuring brands like Canali, Ferragamo and Eton
- Charitable Organizations: Alzheimer’s Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters Niagara, St. Catharines General Hospital Foundation & Community Care