The Bradshaw advertisement in the Stratford Directory for 1896 notes that J. L. Bradshaw China Hall carried China, Glassware, Crockery and Lamps as well as Teas, Coffees, Cutlery and Silverware. That location at 58 Ontario Street was known as the Orr building and had once housed Wilson’s Hotel.
By 1907, J. l. Bradshaw had moved his China Hall to 84 Ontario Street, the address most associated with the Bradshaw China business. Then J. L. Bradshaw began making buying trips abroad, and nothing, including the First World War, (1914-1918), and the Kaiser’s submarines, could keep him from the great English and European warehouses. He introduced group buying and became a major importer, wholesaler and retailer of china, mainly Staffordshire. He was also Canada’s leading importer of Limoge tableware. His store, which sold a variety of goods, was especially remembered, according to Mary Jane Lennon, for the delicious aroma of coffee wafting onto the street from within.
One of J. L.'s sons, Harold Struthers Bradshaw, (1891-1968), worked with his father in the business and took it over after his father’s death in April 1942. In 1920, Vernon's Stratford Directory notes that Harold is living at 149 Caledonia; his father remained at 150 Douglas. When Harold took over the business in 1942, he was married with children and living at 21 Britannia Street. In that year, the Stratford Directory lists J.L. Bradshaw's residence as 21 Britannia as well. By 1961, Harold's son, 20 year-old John David Bradshaw, (1930-2009), is already involved with the family business. David is married and living with his wife Joan at 219 Cambria. By 1967, he succeeds his father as president having been secretary-treasurer before that. The business remained in the Bradshaw family until it was sold to Gordon Wreford in 1975.
After the sale in 1975, Gordon Wreford retained both the Bradshaw name and location at 84 Ontario Street. In 1985, the business moved across the street to 129 Ontario Street. The store at 84 Ontario was temporarily vacant until David Bradshaw, Harold’s son, and the father of Carole (Bradshaw) Rowe, opened a new china and glassware business at the original 84 Ontario St. location and named it Watson’s Chelsea Bazaar (see Ontario Street) after the original purveyor of china and crockery, Peter Watson. Across the street, the Wreford family opened a second Bradshaw's at 149 Ontario, both owned by Willian Wreford. In 2023, the present store at 129 Ontario Street that retains the Bradshaw name in part is called Bradshaws and Kitchen Detail. Bradshaws Stratford.
In the years between the sale of the Bradshaw family business in 1975 and 1985, David Bradshaw had operated his own business. When he re-entered the china business again with Watson's Chelsea Bazaar, at 84 Ontario Street, he did so from his business location at 245 Downie Street.
In this way, four generations of Bradshaws have been involved with the family china business and the Bradshaw name is still found on Stratford's main street.
David Bradshaw was also deeply involved in the life of Stratford as a city councillor/alderman and member of the public school board. One event is certainly worth mentioning. In the late 1960s, when a plan to tear down the city hall and replace it with a hotel complex, stirred controversy, Ald. Bradshaw almost single-handedly made certain the citizens of Stratford had a hearing to air their views.
Dean Robinson, in the chapter The saving of city hall, a 10-year odyssey, in his book Not the last waltz and other Stratford stories wrote this:
“Always colourful, Dave Bradshaw never shied away from an issue as an alderman, as a businessman, as a citizen. He often chose the trail less travelled because he saw it as a better way, or a less expensive way for the taxpayer, or just to hear the other side further explain and defend its position. Well travelled, especially in Europe, he appreciated the value of built heritage and how, if properly maintained, it could continue to well serve a community, especially in a city centre. While often a lone voice on council issues, he was a loud voice. He could be frank and funny, reasoned and respectful. He walked easily and boldly with those fighting to save their city hall from demolition. The bench bearing this plaque sits outside city hall, near the front steps."