Bradshaws History Timeline
Peter Watson, proprietor of P. Watson & Son China Hall (selling china, crockery, tinware, glassware, cutlery, tea and spices), dies. In May 1895, local businessman (furniture and undertaking) John Leeming Bradshaw buys the P. Watson & Son stock to clear it out. In the following four months, Bradshaw decides he likes the business so much that he will carry it on for himself under the name J.L. Bradshaw China Hall.
October 16, 1895
J.L. Bradshaw moves Bradshaws China Hall to new, larger premises at 84 Ontario St. in Stratford.
J.L. Bradshaw establishes a wholesale business, buying large quantities direct from manufacturers in England and continental Europe, and distributing this merchandise to other Canadian shops.
1914-1918 World War I
J.L. Bradshaw is the only chinaware dealer from the whole of America who maintains his annual business trips overseas through U-boat infested waters. Between 1896 and 1937, he was reputed to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean 87 times.
J.L. Bradshaw dies. The business passes to his son, Harold, who runs it for the next 23 years. Also in 1942, David Bradshaw, son of Harold, starts working in the family shop as a student for $2.00 a week.
Harold Bradshaw retires and David Bradshaw officially takes over. Harold Bradshaw dies 3 years later in 1968.
Bill Wreford starts working for J.L. Bradshaw Ltd. in the traveling end of the import business.
Bill Wreford (age 28), and his father Gordon Wreford, buy the retail business, marking the end of 3rd generation ownership by the Bradshaw family, but keeping the Bradshaws name for the store. David Bradshaw continues running the wholesale operation as a completely separate business.
Bradshaws is awarded the Retail award for excellence in the first year that the Canadian Gift & Tableware Association gives awards. 1984 Bradshaws moves across the road to its present location at 129 Ontario St. Major renovation includes installation of a number of large wooden display cabinets obtained from Linkert's Jewelry when it closed in 1980. The Crabtree & Evelyn line of products is added.
A second Bradshaws store opens in London, Ontario. The store is eventually purchased by a former employee of Bradshaws Stratford, Myra Tuer, who operates it for many years before moving on to pursue other interests.
Bradshaws in Stratford wins the prestigious Canadian Retailer of the Year award. In the years that follow, Bradshaws wins three more awards for retail excellence, (for a total of five awards since 1978), more than any other Canadian Retailer. A stand alone Crabtree & Evelyn and Kichen Detail store are opened, later to be located in an expanded main location.
Bradshaws celebrates its 100th Anniversary in Stratford. Operated by Bill and Sharon Wreford, the store continues to be one of the country's truly unique stores. Bill and Sharon adapt to the changing face of the tableware and gift industry by continuing to introduce new and innovative product. The store is sought out by the trade every time new product is to be introduced into the marketplace.
Bill and Sharon Wreford retire. Their son, Jeremy Wreford, along with his wife Carrie, buys the business, becoming the 3rd generation of the Wreford family, and the 6th generation of Stratford families, to be involved with Bradshaws. The couple continues in their parent's practice of acknowledging the past, yet constantly moving forward.
Jeremy and Carrie Wreford win the CGTA Retailer of Distinction Award - an award presented to top retailers across Canada.
Despite a retail landscape dramatically different from the one that existed in 1895, Bradshaws continues to be the foremost examples in retail of its’ kind. Even in the age of the chain store and the big box, Bradshaws remains one of Canada's Great Stores. J.L. Bradshaw would be proud.