The Bromwell Company is the oldest business in the city of Cincinnati, and has a rich history. Indeed, it is part of the pioneering legacy of the American Midwest!
Bromwell's has been in continual operation since its inception in 1819. It has always been family owned and managed remarkably, by only 3 families over the course of its 185 year history.
The Bromwell family can be traced back nearly 400 years, to the beginning of US history, starting with Isaac Bromwell. He was a master of the ship, Assurance, that brought in 220 colonists to Virginia from England in 1635. In the late 1700's, descendents hailing from Baltimore learned the trades of wire goods making and lumber from England. One family member, Jacob Bromwell (1785- 1866), settled with his family in Cincinnati to start the Bromwell wire weaving business in 1819. For historical perspective, Ohio had become the 17th state of the Union just 16 years before, forty years had passed since the American Revolution, and 30 years since the establishment of the Constitution.
Cincinnati quickly grew and became a gateway to Westward expansion. Bromwell's grew with it, supplying pioneering families a multitude of household goods. The Gold Rush brought business in tin cups, pie tins and pans. By 1850, Bromwell's made and sold many items: screens; strainers; animal traps; bird cages; cheese graters; buckets; and popcorn poppers. A local publication touted Bromwell's as a business, “possessing ample means and of the highest grade of credit, with sales approximating one quarter of a million dollars per annum. Its elegant 5-story store with cut-stone front…forms one of the ornaments of the mercantile portion of the city.”
By the early 1900's, Bromwell's was selling fireplace accessories to settled families and had grown to 6 factories around the city of Cincinnati. In 1923, the second family to own Bromwell's entered the picture, when Joseph B. Gerwe bought the company. Another faction established itself in Michigan city, Indiana and is still operating separately today (they make tin goods and Bromwell's of Cincinnati still gets old fashioned popcorn makers from there).
Joe Gerwe was known for his long line of store pets (cats, dogs, and ducks) that he felt pulled customers in off the street! The store carries on this tradition today by offering dog biscuits and water in front of the store, and allowing owners to bring their pets into the store.
Today, Bromwell's resides on 117 W. Fourth Street in the heart of downtown Cincinnati. While over the course of its history the business has had at least 10 locations, all of them have been in the city.
Jeff McClorey bought the Bromwell's business on April Fool's Day, 2005, ushering in only the 3rd family to run the company. The Gerwe family still works in the store and stays actively involved in the business, including Gary, former President, Gary's brother, Joe, and his wife, Mary Jo who is the store manager.
The McClorey family bought Bromwell's because they are impressed with its legacy of outstanding service, quality products, and family atmosphere. Plus, Jeff McClorey believes passionately in reviving the downtown Cincinnati area, particularly 4th street.