In 1873, the Brandenberger Block was built for William Brandenberger as seen in the image below which highlights the original building on Wellington Street Stratford. It began as simply a grocery store and a hotel, located where Blowes Travel currently resides. This first section of the block consisted of a three storey building, which still stands tall today with a lot of its original features, like the store front windows, still intact. Throughout the years this section of the block housed a variety of tenants (1876-1891), ranging from stove dealers, to ladies clothing stores to shoe stores and more! Next, the Brandenberger Block added their second bay, which is now where Blowes Stationery & Office Supply resides. William Brandenberger's wife Caroline added this block, turning it into a hotel named the German House upstairs with a grocery store at the base level of the building. Caroline continued the successful business of hotel-keeper, grocer and landlord all throughout the 1870's, while her husband and his brother Albert were horse-traders (there was even a stable behind the hotel!). Throughout the years there were many new tenants within the store front, ranging from a pork dealer, to multiple different grocery stores, to a CNR city ticket office, until it eventually was taken over by the first generation of Blowes owners and became Stan Blowes Books and Gifts and Travel. The final bay of the Brandenberger Block was added in the mid 1880's with a produce dealer opening up in the retail portion, and Caroline Brandenberger and her family continuing to reside upstairs. Throughout the years, the retail portion of this bay has ranged from a tin shop, to a shoe shop, to a grocery store, to a book shop, and then eventually the first Blowes store opened in 1949 called Stan Blowes Book and Gift Shop. Currently, this is where Blowes Cards & Gifts is located.
On March 31st, 1949 Stan Blowes opened his shop doors for the very first time, beginning the long line of Blowes family businesses with both a gift, book and office supply shop, along with a travel service. Stan originally purchased a business called Kenner's Book Store, that opened in 1890, which sold all different types of books, including the textbooks needed by students for each school year. Many Stratford residents remember standing in long lines out front of this book store, as well as the Blowes store, waiting to collect their books for the upcoming academic year. Stan Blowes continued the book store tradition, while adding office furniture and equipment, as well as giftware and a travel service throughout the upcoming years. All the while, the apartments seen above continued to stay occupied by different tenants up until 1953, and housed a few notable people. Interesting facts about this building are that it was the first business in Stratford to use electricity to put up an electric sign, and it was the original home of the box office of the new Stratford Shakespearean theatre in 1953.
On March 31st, 2019 the Blowes businesses (Cards & Gifts, Stationery & Office Supplies and Travel Agency) celebrated their 70th anniversary of business in Stratford. Since opening their doors in 1949, all three businesses have stayed within the Blowes family name, with hopes to stay within further generations to come. Aside from a few coats of green, yellow and red paint, the building stays almost identical to its roots that date all the way back to 1873 when it was first built and named the Brandenberger Block. Inside the store itself, many original aspects of the building throughout the years are featured within displays and signage throughout the store. The original wooden squeaky floor and tin ceilings could tell some stories! In visiting owner Brian Blowes's office, you can see an assortment of office supplies used throughout the years, including one of the biggest typewriter collections you have ever seen! The Blowes family prides itself on maintaining the history and integrity of this building, as it is deemed a heritage building by the city of Stratford. In comparing all three photos seen on this webpage, it is evident that this building has stood tall and proud over the years, with no intentions of going anywhere any time soon!