Rideau Spotlight: Gregory’s Leather and Suede Fashions
August 22, 2023
Many of the shoppers who come to visit the Rideau area tend to spend most of their time at venues like the Rideau Centre. It should come as no surprise, either; with some of the world’s most high-end and sought-after fashion lines comprising its roster of over 180 businesses, each of the mall’s 20 million yearly visitors are certain to find something to their tastes and styles.
Beyond the front doors of the Rideau Centre, however, are businesses that have had a long-established presence along Rideau Street – some even longer than the mall itself! These are stores that have spent decades developing their craft and reputation in order to offer shoppers an experience that leaves them with the feeling of having truly embraced the spirit of Ottawa’s Original Downtown.
Enter Gregory Gitas and his leather store.
From the moment one walks into Gregory’s Leather and Suede Fashions, the level of care and meticulousness that the shop’s owner puts into his products is immediately apparent.
From wall to wall and floor to ceiling, leather garments of all different sizes and colours hang from clothing racks and mannequins. Winter hats decked out in furs cry out to be worn on a cold winter’s day in the Nation’s Capital. And proudly displayed at the front and centre of the store is Gregory’s latest piece – a taupe-coloured button-down jacket with flairs strung along the chest.
From Humble Beginnings
Such craftsmanship can only be obtained from a career and a pursuit of excellence that spans several decades.
This year, Gregory will be marking 50 years since he began catering to the needs and desires of his clientele both on Rideau Street and beyond. However, his career traces its roots even farther back than that.
Gregory Gitas first immigrated to Canada from West Germany in 1967. At that time, he had already garnered a great deal of experience working with furs before settling in Montreal. Shortly thereafter, he relocated his business to Ottawa in 1973, where he operated out of a storefront at the intersection of Rideau and Cumberland (the building still exists today as a National Bank.)
In 1982, his store moved once more to its current location at 456 Rideau Street, sharing a building with Panago Pizza.
The Value of Hard Work
Gregory’s Leather is a business that was truly built from the ground up. From the tools in his workshop to the client base he’s fostered for himself over the years, all aspects of Gregory’s business reflect his belief in working hard and taking pride in one’s work.
“You can’t expect to get something from nothing,” he says.
True to form, everything that Gregory has for sale in his store is priced according to the quality of the materials and the labour that goes into making them. When a customer makes a purchase from his store, they can take solace in knowing that they won’t be getting a half-heartedly made product that will begin to fall apart mere months after they buy it – they’re getting quality garments at a fair price.
A Reputation That Precedes Itself
Over the years, Gregory’s work ethic and craftsmanship has attracted the attention – and business – of some remarkable people who have commissioned his services. Many of these customers have written him letters of thanks, which he proudly displays in the mirror he keeps in his storefront.
One such client is the Ottawa Town Crier, also known as Daniel Richer, who has been working his trade in the National Capital Region for over 40 years. Pictured above the store’s mirror is a photograph of Richer wearing an outfit that Gregory designed for him, complete with flairs on both sleeves and an extravagant top hat.
Other past clients include the Family Brown, who were a renowned country music act born out of Ottawa and best known in the 1970s for their hit television show “Call It Country” that was broadcast nationwide. Gregory designed dresses for Lawanda and Tracey Brown, two members of the band.
Longtime football fans in Ottawa might also be familiar with the name Condredge Holloway, another former client of Gregory’s and one-time quarterback of the now-defunct Ottawa Rough Riders. Holloway would lead the Rough Riders to their final Grey Cup victory as the team’s quarterback in 1976.
You don’t need to be famous to get a fantastic customer experience, though! The longevity of Gregory’s business acts as proof of his devotion to ensuring that his clients are satisfied, no matter who you are or what your needs may be. Whether you’re looking for something custom-made or just a minor repair job, Gregory will go to great lengths to ensure that your garments are looking their best.
Past, Present and Future
In the 50 years since Gregory first appeared on Rideau Street, he has witnessed many of the major changes that the street has undergone. Condos have been erected, wires have been strung along electrical poles and torn down, yet Gregory and his leather store have remained throughout it all.
He fondly remembers walking to the Rideau Bakery two blocks down from his store and ordering bread from the Kardish brothers. “You used to be able to get good rye bread there,” he recalls. Today, the bakery is no more, but the building in which it was housed lives on as Chef Ric’s, providing healthy and affordable meals to those who need them with the cooperation of The Ottawa Mission.
In the future, Gregory has a vision in which he imagines a Rideau Street that is largely similar to the boulevards that one sees in major European cities. He hopes that one day, he’ll be able to watch parades travel up and down Rideau Street from the comfort of his storefront window.
“You go to Greece, or Paris – everyone wants to go to the boulevards.”
50 years after he began building his life and legacy on Rideau Street from the ground up, Gregory’s Leather continues to offer clients a masterclass in leatherworking excellence and customer satisfaction. Pay Gregory a visit next time you find yourself in Ottawa’s Original Downtown!
📞 (613) 789-4734