By Connor Lynch
NAVAN — Back when it was founded by John Thomas Bradley in 1889, JT Bradleys, the Navan general store, sold as much seed as it did coal and flour.
Nowadays, John Bradley still runs the place. He’s J.T’s great-grandson.
The store is celebrating 120 years in business this March.
It’s not the original store from way back when. The original store was destroyed by fire in 1948. Rebuilding was a struggle, said Bradley, but part of the trick was the old-timey touch. Bradley’s grandfather, Morris, ran the store at the time, and in the aftermath of the fire, realized people still needed their necessities. So until the rebuild was done about four months later, he slung groceries from his the nearby garage that had survived. And before the reopening, they had the community together again, hosting a barn dance inside before the furnishings went in.
Once upon a time, a general store was the only option and an utterly necessary one for locals to buy necessities. The challenge, as transportation has gotten easier and faster, said Bradley, has been to transition from a community’s sole source of products to its easiest and most familiar. Getting a licence to sell liquor as an LCBO back in 2002 didn’t hurt either.
They’ve long had ties to the farming community. The general store sold feed until the 1950s, when a feed mill opened in town. In the 1960s, Bradley’s uncle got into milk trucking, though competition pushed them out before the end of the decade.
But, some trappings of the early days remain. Urban Ottawa’s horse community boards many horses in the area, and the farms around do stop in to supplement a ration for hogs or poultry, or grab some milk replacement. It’s still not unusual to see a horse hitched up in front of the store.
In fact, the very day Bradley got back into the feed business, a Mennonite fellow turned up in horse and buggy to pick up some horse feed, he said. “That was kind of classic.”
Celebrating 120 years in business, the store is hosting an open house on March 29, offering cake and coffee from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the eve of the Bradley Cup, the annual six-way hockey tournament between local towns. Initiated in 1929, it raises funds to either help people in town or go to charity.