Let’s Go Shopping:

20th Century Downtown Shops

King Street has long been Brockville’s commercial centre – the home of innumerable businesses over the years providing important goods and services to area residents and visitors. It remains a vibrant hub of activity today, boasting over 300 businesses.

Although rare today, the 20th Century saw many businesses mark their 100th anniversary. Some of these businesses, and others from this period, now invoke a sense of nostalgia among residents who remember shopping there as children. Stories abound! From first elevator rides to wedding dress purchases to a horse that survived two fires.

There are hundreds of shops and thousands of stories that could be explored. Here we will briefly explore just a few.

Remember, you can always browse our collection online to discover objects and stories from businesses like these and more.

To explore Downtown Brockville of today, visit www.downtownbrockville.com

(Click on images to expand)

King St at Courthouse Ave c1955

Most of the shops explored in this exhibit operated in Downtown Brockville at some point between 1910 and 1970. This image shows busy shoppers in the Downtown core c1955.

Curry's Drug Store c1895

First, a look at pharmacies.

In 1895 FR Curry took over Barr’s Drug Store located on the corner of King and Courthouse. Curry went on to buy out the drug store Allan Turner and Company in 1900 and Watt’s Drug Store in 1912.

In 1916 the building and business suffered a fire, but was able to reopen.

When FR Curry died in 1920, his son Col. FC Curry took over the business.

Curry's Drug Store c1921

In addition to pharmaceutical products, Curry also sold cameras and film and a variety of other handy household products.

Curry's Drug Store c1971

In 1962 Stan Leslie and Dave Harkness purchased the business with Stan Leslie becoming sole proprietor in 1963.

Curry Drugs Ltd. closed c1986 and the neighbouring clothing store Alan Browns expanded into the space.

Wark's Drug Store c1971

Wark’s Pharmacy was established in 1931 when Herb Wark acquired the business previously owned by the Stayner family at the corner of King Street W and John Street.

At one time the store also featured a lunch counter.

Wark retired in 1964 and sold the business to Mac Paterson and Don Moore. Moore went on to work at the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital and Brockville Drugs, but Paterson continued to operate the store under the Wark name until it closed in 1989.

Fullerton Drugs c1971

The Fullerton Drug Store was established by druggist Adam Fullerton following his purchase of F.C. Lalonde’s drugstore in 1894. It was located at 2 King Street West on the north-west corner of King Street West and Victoria Avenue.

In addition to pharmaceutical products, Fullerton was known in 1909 for carrying amateur photography supplies and in 1979 promoted a full photo service department.

It closed in 1995.

Walkers Dept Store c1953

Moving to Clothing Stores now…

Walker Stores Ltd was located at 82 King St through the 1950s.

They became part of the Walker’s division of Gordon Mackay & Co Ltd, and continued operation at 82 King through most of the 1960s.

Walker's Charge Card

Walker’s was a department store that sold fashions for all ages, as well as toys, make-up, fabrics, and music.

Many local residents recall buying special outfits there, and that it was the only store in Brockville to have an elevator.

Walker's c1971

Walker’s moved to 47-51 King St. W (across from Curry’s) where they operated through most of the 1970s before closing.

Kers Menswear c1950

John Ker got his start in 1923 working for S.A Jackson and Co., which operated a tailoring store at 83 King St W. In 1934 Ker bought out the company, renaming the store Ker’s Men’s Wear.

Initially, this was a “merchant tailor” operation where the clothes were made from bolts of cloth selected by the customer. Jackson and Ker built up a successful business in manufacturing uniforms, outfitting members of Brockville’s Police and Fire departments.

Ker's Menswear

In the 1940s, the store started carrying ready-made clothing, with the tailoring shop closing with the death of John Ker in 1948.

In 1960, Ker’s became the first colour advertiser in the Recorder and Times newspaper.

Ker's Garment Bag

In 1973, the store expanded with a second location at the new 1000 Islands Mall.

Three generations of the Ker family owned and operated the business until it closed in 2006.

Craig's c1911

Robert Craig learned the fur trade from his cousins, George and Tom Mills, who owned fur and hat stores in Kingston.

In 1885, Craig was made manager of the Mills’ new store in Smiths Falls.

Then, in 1888, Craig decided to open his own store, independently of his cousins, in Brockville, establishing R. Craig Furrier at what is now 53 King St. W.

Craig's (c1900 interior)

At one time, Craig’s made the fur cuffs and collars for the coats sold by some of Montreal’s notable fashion houses. In 1909, the business moved to 30 King St. W. and was renamed Robert Craig & Company Ltd.

Some locals recall a taxidermy bear that was prominently displayed in the store.

Robert Craig died in 1930.

His brother Francis (Frank) Craig took over the business until his own death in 1937 when Robert (Bert) Craig Jr. took over.

Craig's Store 1967

Grant Craig joined his father in 1954 and they reorganized the business as Robert Craig & Sons Ltd.

At this time, the business expanded their women’s and children’s product lines.

Bert Craig died in 1981 and Grant sold the business in 1988, 100 years after it was established by his grandfather.

Reilly's Furrier custom Fur Doll Coat

Edward Reilly & Co. Furrier, was established in 1918 and located at 133 King St. West.

It moved to 86 John St. in 1934.

Three generations of the Reilly family operated the business for just over a century.

Clients could browse and select skins to have turned into coats.

It was only around 1994 that they started selling ready-made coats.

A large part of the business was providing climate-controlled storage, at one point storing 4,500 coats.

HP Conklin Co billboard

In 1919, Harold Perry Conklin was an employee of Robert Craig Co. Ltd., but in 1922, he established H.P. Conklin Haberdasher, advertising “clothing, hats and furnishings, and fur storage” at 56 King Street West.

By 1963, Perry Conklin had withdrawn from the business, handing ownership over to long time employee Fred Levia who continued to operate the store under the name H.P. Conklin Co. Ltd.

Alan Brown's c1970

In 1966 Levia sold Conklin’s to Alan Brown, and the store became Alan Brown’s.

In 1976, Brown sold the business to employee, Steve Yeldon. Dave Shaw became partner in 1981, buying out Yeldon in 1990.

In 1986 Alan Brown’s expanded into the neighbouring storefront after the closure of Curry Drugs Ltd.

Alan Brown’s is still in operation, selling men’s and women’s fashions.

Coate's watch

Now on to Jewelry Stores…

William Coates was a watchmaker and jeweler who established a business on Main Street in 1857.

In 1892, his son, Herbert B. Coates, joined the business.

William died in 1907, but Herbert continued the business, relocating to 91 King St. in 1910.

At the time, the store was stocked with a full line of watches, clocks, fine jewelry, silver and plated goods, as well as optical supplies.

The store closed in the 1920s.

Steacy's Jeweler

Thomas Boyd Steacy opened a jewelry store with a focus on watch repair on King St in 1860, moving to 62 King St. W in 1867.

Glasses from Steacy's

Son, F.B. Steacy took over the business in 1900, adding optometry to the business.

Grandson, A.D. Steacy took over the store in 1949, and operated it until his death in 1965

Steacy's interior

In 1962, the store promoted itself as the 2nd oldest Jewelry Store in Canada and the oldest retail store in Brockville.

Souvenir spoon from Wingfield's Jewelry

When Grandson, A.D. Stacy died in 1965, ownership passed to four long-serving employees, including A.R. “Hap” Wingfield, for whom the store was re-named.

The store closed in 1989.

A G Dobbie Co c1910

And now a look at a couple of Hardware stores…

Alexander G. Dobbie purchased a business from his former employer in 1890 and established a hardware store.

He moved to the “Round Corner Store” in 1907, establishing his business as A.G. Dobbie’s Hardware Store.

It operated at this location for over 40 years.

Smarts Hardware display of Smarts Foundry products

Smarts Hardware was established in 1873 by R. Bogue (Bougue) and R. H. Smart upon their purchase of McDougall’s Hardware and Tin Shop at the corner of John and King Streets.

R. H. Smart was a nephew of James Smart, the founder and owner of James Smart Manufacturing.

The hardware store sold many of the products manufactured by that company.

In 1878 Smart became the sole owner.

Smart's Hardware Fire 1949

In 1926 Edwin Smart became President and General Manager and in 1946 Chester Warren purchased controlling interest.

At that time the business was the largest retail hardware store in Eastern Ontario.

In November of 1949 a fire destroyed the block in which the building was located.

Smart's Hardware 1965

After the fire, the business was temporarily housed on Home Street, but by August of 1950 a grand opening was held in the brand new building on the burned out site.

In the early 1950s the store became known simply as Smart’s Hardware.

Smart’s Hardware closed in 1986.

Ritchies c1970

Turning now to a few specialty shops…

Ritchie’s is one of the oldest (still operating) stores on King St.

Ritchie’s was founded in 1870 selling tobacco and periodicals.

In the 1890s ownership passed to Frank Ritchie.

Ritchies (interior)

In 1905, Frank enlarged the store, adding a billiard and pool room at the back, and a bowling alley in the basement.

The store’s inventory grew to include sporting goods and a variety of wholesale products.

Frank died in 1957, and the store was purchased by former employee, Jack Hickling.

Jack had started working at Ritchie’s in 1922 when he was just 13 years old.

The bowling alley was eventually closed to make room to expand the wholesale business.

Ritchies pool hall c2002

Jack operated the store with his son, John, until his death in 1985, after which John took over, later bringing on his son, Peter.

The pool hall closed around 2009.

In 2019, John and Peter were still running the shop; remnants of the old pool hall and bowling alley still present.


Around 1915 Wilfrid Dailey bought a harness and leather goods store from Charles Rudd (who had established his business in 1899).

The business was located at 173 King Street West, between Buell and John Streets.

By 1929, the harness-making business had moved to 107 King Street West

By 1933 the focus of the business had changed from harness making to leather goods in general.

After returning from the Second World War, Wilfred’s son, Tom, took over the business.

Dailey Travel 1960

In 1958 a travel agency was added and the leather goods part of the business expanded to include travel and gift items, Tilley products, and souvenirs.

Dailey's Fire (demolition underway in1966)

In 1965 the store suffered from a devastating fire that ravaged the whole King St. block.

Dailey's 1970

After the fire the store relocated just south of its King Street location to Home Street into what had been the livery stable for the Strathcona Hotel.

On March 31, 2000, that building was also destroyed by fire.

After that fire, Tom Dailey retired.

The Dailey Travel portion of the business was taken over by Howard Travel and the Leather Goods business was discontinued.

"Smokey" the Dailey display horse

Many Brockville residents recall the life-size model horse used (originally) to display harness equipment in the store.

Incredibly, the horse was rescued from both fires and was donated to the Brockville Museum in 2021.

Dave Jones Sports

In the early 1960s, a young Dave Jones opened a retail store in the shopping plaza on Stewart Blvd.

By 1973 the store relocated downtown to 57 King St. W., and by 1980 it had expanded into 65 King St. W

Friends of Dave Jones recall that the store was always overflowing with inventory because Dave could never say no to placing an order with a salesman.

Dave Jones Sports closed around 2009.

Downtown Brockville map 2022

Downtown Brockville is still home to hundreds of businesses, including pharmacies, clothing stores, and specialty stores.

These stores are adding their names and stories to Brockville’s history, and keeping our Downtown “alive and vibrant” in the 21 century!