Canadian Fashion Connection – Agnew-Surpass Shoes 1928-2000


Brown snakeskin shoes labelled ‘Fashion Plate – styled exclusively for Agnew-Surpass’ c. 1950

Founded in Brantford, Ontario by John Agnew in 1879, his shoe store grew to include three locations before merging in 1928 with Surpass stores. Agnew-Surpass Shoe Stores Ltd. soon grew to become Canada’s largest national footwear chain.

In 1962 the chain was acquired by American footwear retailing and manufacturing giant Genesco. In 1987 the chain was resold to Vancouver entrepeneur and former Bata Shoe executive Michael Graye for 89 million. It was discovered in 1996 that Graye had laundered money through the Cayman Islands during the deal, which lead to a 4 year jail sentence for Graye in 2003.

Shoe sales for Agnew-Surpass dwindled under competition from big-box discount shoe sellers that entered the Canadian market in the 1990s. In August 2000 Agnew-Surpass declared bankruptcy and closed its 223 stores across Canada.

Agnew Surpass Shoe Store, Fairview Mall, Toronto, 1972

Agnew Surpass Shoe Store, Fairview Mall, Toronto, 1972

2 thoughts on “Canadian Fashion Connection – Agnew-Surpass Shoes 1928-2000

  1. I bought several pairs of shoes in the very store pictured here. I assure you it kept that 1970s spaceship aesthetic well into the 1980s.

    • I do have a vague recollection of seeing the shop from the mall but not going in – it reeks of Space 1999.

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