The Silvana Family Clothing Department Store

By Sayada Nabi

“There is a Silvana behind The Silvana Family Department store, and it’s my mother,” Domenic D’Ambrosio proudly advertises.

The fact that his parents Rocco and Silvana D’Ambrosio are present at the store indicates spring is around the corner and the busy season for their retail business has approached. Rocco and Silvana D’Ambrosio are semi-retired, ensuring they come around during the busiest times of the year – the six months following Easter. Through their visit at the store the couple acknowledges and socializes with their existing clientele, in order to express their gratitude. It’s integral to mention that their attitude and customer service skill are factored into maintaining relationships with clients who have been with them for the past 40 years.

With a triumphant amount of courage coupled with little business experience Rocco D’Ambrosio opened his store in 1974 at the tender age of 25. The first location of Silvana Family Clothing Department store was not within Emery Village, it was at Eglington Ave West. D’Ambrosio initially catered to the Italian community, being an Italian immigrant himself he was able to understand their needs and met them quite successfully.

“My father was a big importer,” Domenic D’Ambrosio remembers, bringing in bedspreads and towels from Italy for his customers.

As the clientele began expanding, the business moved to 4040 Steeles Ave West, after 20 years at their first location. At this point the area was not as developed as it is now.

“There was a drive in theatre” Domenic D’Ambrosio pointed out. Once again the demand for expansion increased and in the year 2000, the business moved into its current home of 45000 sq ft at 40 Fenmar Drive, employing a team of 21 staff members. The expansion allowed the introduction of new product lines and invigorating existing lines. The store carries women’s wear, children’s wear, bedding, gift wear, comfort footwear and 18K gold imported from Italy.

Domenic D’Ambrosio laughs as he recollects, “we used to be known as the Ma and Pa store, or the Home Depot for parents.” Gradually these perceptions changed as the demographic of their clientele shifted. As the existing clients got older, their children began to visit the store, and that established the need to bring in products that appeal to the younger generation. Now the focus of the business is the mature woman, who may need a dress for herself as well as her children for events such as a wedding, communion or even a baptism. In 2007 the business introduced a section called the mother of the bride, and became one of the largest stores to cater to that target clientele, carrying brands such as Frank Lyman, Joseph Ribkoff, and Nueva. Keeping in mind that “nothing fits quite perfectly,” the store has 4 in-house seamstresses, to help with alterations.

The business was built on family values, and with the help of family it continues to grow. Daniela D’Ambrosio, Domenic D’Ambrosio’s wife is essential to the business. She is the woman with the keen eye who selects the magnificent dresses for women’s wear and gift wear products. Domenic D’Ambrosio’s brother Mauritzio D’Ambrosio takes care of many aspects of the business behind the scenes, such as data analysis and statistic predictions. Domenic D’Ambrosio, is the last piece in the puzzle holding the store together. He is the passionate and humble man, who foresees the daily affairs within the store, ensuring the customers are satisfied. He is also the person who edits and produces the advertisements on TV for his store- so if you have the jingle stuck in your head he is to blame!

Currently the business is working on their website, recognizing the growing need for online and social media presence, which will be launched this fall. As the business has changed and transformed over the years to adapt to the needs of their client, there is no doubt that this piece of history will continue with us into the future.