Well before they built their wholesale clothing chain into a business which surpassed retail sales in excess of $100 million, brothers Jon and Marvin Gurman, 54, grew up as average kids in a Côte Saint-Luc duplex, attended public school and loved hanging out at the Cavendish Mall.
Today the Gurmans realized a bit of a dream when a brand new member of their growing yogurt chain opened at that very mall. Located on The Avenue, a street Mayor Anthony Housefather hopes to develop into “the Monkland Avenue of Côte Saint-Luc,” Yeh! Yogurt and Café (www.yehyogurt.com) is taking North America by storm.
As the Gurmans explain, The Mall decision was a bit of an emotional move. Over the years this shopping centre has been carved in half, making way for a housing development. “My mother is a Mall walker,” Jon noted. “She said there are not a lot of people in the Mall. I said ‘Mom, we are going to bring people back to the Mall. That Mall is going to be hopping.’ The other vendors are happy we are coming.”
During a business trip to California in 2007, Marvin came across a frozen yogurt store that really impressed him. About a year later, while walking with his daughter down trendy St. Laurent Boulevard, they stopped in at the then only Yeh!Yogurt and Café. Boasting a self-serve format of different frozen yogurt flavors, over 40 toppings and an attractive interior layout, Marvin was beyond impressed. Six months later he and his brother became equal partners with the company’s founders.
“It really started out as a hobby for us,” said Jon.
The hobby quickly turned into a labour of love. After purchasing the remaining shares in the company last December, the Gurmans began to embark upon their plan to expand the brand across the globe. “We call ourselves ‘the Starbucks of the yogurt business’ said Jon. “Most yogurt places look like ice cream shops. That is not the case with us.”
With a combination of both corporate owned and franchised stores, by the end of this year Yeh! Yogurt will have opened close to 40 locations in various parts of Canada and the US including Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, New York, Massachusetts, and California. Besides the Quartier/Mall and the original store on St. Laurent, there are five other stores in Montreal: Ste. Catherine Street West downtown near Concordia University; Centre Eaton; the Quartier des Spectacles; Monkland Village in N.D.G. and Dollard des Ormeaux.
“Out motto is ‘You go, you get!’” the brothers state. “It is more than just a brand; it is a life concept that leads to realizing your full human potential. We want people to empower themselves to reach their goals and make a difference in the world.”
The history of JCorp dates back to 1929, when Myer Gurman arrived in Canada from Europe with little money and big dreams. He soon opened a small business producing caps. In 1952, his son, Jack, joined the company with the intention of bringing the best quality goods to the Canadian market. In 1978, brothers Jon and Marvin joined the company with the goal of becoming a major player in the industry. Before long they transformed their grandfather’s cap business into an international apparel powerhouse.
After quickly developing a keen eye for fashion trends and an awareness of their customers’ needs, the Gurman twins became very adept at developing private label programs for retail customers. Among their present-day retail partners are Walmart, JC Penney, Sears and TJ Maxx. Some of the brands and licences include Bugle Boy, PNB Nation by Nick Cannon, Old River, Gurilla Biscuit, Hollywood Era jean brand , and celebrity endorsements by Ashley Tisdale and Pauly D. They are also the manufacturers of MMA Elite, a UFC sponsored clothing line.
JCorp employs 90 people at their headquarters on Gince Street in the Montreal borough of St. Laurent. They moved to this location in 2004, giving a complete facelift to what was once the Rockland Tennis Club.
To learn more about Gurmans, their brands and licenses, log on to www.jcorp.ca and http://www.yehyogurt.com.