A conversation with Mission business owners

If you think Mission and you think mens wear, it’s almost impossible for your brain not to go directly to Rex Cox.

Rightly so, considering that this June will be their 95th year in business.

A major player in the world of menswear is owner, Carlo Billinger.

Carlo and his family immigrated from Germany in 1956 and they came straight to Mission. He grew up in a boarding house on the corner of Murray and 1st Avenue and consequently spent his entire childhood and teenage years down on Main Street.

“I knew all the business people by first name,” Carlo explains. “And they all knew me. I was always the kid they hired to do their odd jobs.”

It’s hard not to get nostalgic, being reminded of Mission’s past individuals and businesses that were once such an integral part of the downtown core – Toothy Lane from Lane’s Men and Ladies Store, the Jersey Lunch, the old Dairy Queen and of course, Rex Cox.

Mission was always important to Carlo but like most young men, his aspirations were soaring and after high school, he enrolled in BCIT to pursue his education.

Fortunately for our little town, Carlo ended up with a burst appendix which, after being hospitalized for three weeks, forced him out of school and back to Mission.

In 1979, Ted Buckle’s father made Carlo an offer to buy the business as a joint venture and he and Ted have owned it ever since.

“I got married in Mission. Both my daughters were born and raised in Mission.” Carlo tells us. “In my heart, I will always be a Mission guy.”

Rex Cox has been good to Carlo and Ted.

Not many businesses can brag loyal and solid customers ranging over three or four generations. They have always been forward thinking with their clothes line and have the astounding ability to talk most men in to newer, more fashionable outfits.

“People have grown to trust us,” Carlo boasts. “We are the ones that they turn to for prom, first dates and weddings. We have grown up with the community just as much as they’ve grown up with us.”

Rex Cox has always prided themselves on working towards the betterment of our community. New businesses come and go, and there will always be a certain element of competition regardless of what you sell, but protectionism doesn’t help thread our neighbourhood together.

Regardless of their success, Rex Cox has been met with their share of challenges and tough times. Carlo looks back to when the forestry industry collapsed and economy ground to a halt. Even times when the strength of Main Street has weakened, Rex Cox remained solid due to their exceptional customer service.

“The difference between then and now is that those were controllable tough times,” Carlo explains. “What is happening today is something altogether unprecedented, and I believe that we will be forced to view things differently from now on.”

Advice form Carlo during a difficult time?

Don’t hide.

Hang on to the top part of the rope for as long as you can and if you have to come down, only come down by one notch.

Keep the lines of communication open with your supplies and your customers. Go extraordinary. Only concentrate on the positive.

Work with the community and especially the people who are your customers in the community.

“The world is changing by the hour.” Carlo admits. “We need to figure out where there is need and how to react to it.”

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