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Iconic Toronto retailer William Ashley acquired by McLean Watson

Control of a family-owned Canadian retail institution is being bought by a venture capital firm.

A controlling stake in William Ashley Ltd., a destination for upscale dinnerware and crystal, is being acquired by McLean Watson Investments Ltd. of Toronto.

A trailblazer in running a bridal gift registry, William Ashley has faced growing competition in the past several years from the likes of U.S.-based Williams Sonoma, Crate & Barrel and others rivals. Now, McLean Watson is looking to revitalize the business and possibly expand it internationally.

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"William Ashley already has an international reputation, and McLean Watson is investigating a wide range of expansion opportunities," it said in a statement on Tuesday night.

Loudon Owen, managing partner of McLean Watson, was named chief executive officer of the chain, while Karen McGuire was appointed as president.

The iconic Toronto-based retailer was founded in 1947 by Tillie Abrams in a store on Toronto's tony Bloor Street West. It was a trailblazer in launching its lucrative gift registry soon after; in 1989 it opened a second store in Mississauga. Ms. Abrams died last year at the age of 98.

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About the Author
Retailing Reporter

Marina Strauss covers retailing for The Globe and Mail's Report on Business. She follows a wide range of topics in the sector, from the fallout of foreign retailers invading Canada to how a merchant such as the Swedish Ikea gets its mojo. She has probed the rise and fall (and revival efforts) of Loblaw Cos., Hudson's Bay and others. More

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