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.