As small town institutions go, none are as important to the local residents, or more tightly woven into the fabric of the community, than J.T. Bradley’s Country Convenience Store in Navan.
In fact, it is impossible to imagine what the east end community would be like without J.T. Bradley’s. It is the common thread that has tied the community together for more than 120 years.
|J.T. Bradley’s Country Convenience Store as it appeared at the turn of century in 1900 (above) and as it appears today (below). FILE PHOTOS
The store first opened in 1898. The original owner, John Thomas Bradley moved to Navan from Blackburn Hamlet with his wife Florence and their six children. The original store was little more than a lean-to out of which J.T. Bradley sold dry goods and other sundry items.
It was three years before the lean-to was replaced by a general store on the south side of Colonial Road to serve the residents of the local village and the surrounding area. J.T. also owned and operated a milk transport business which remained in the family until the late 1970s.
When John Thomas Bradley suddenly died in September 1932, his sons Morris and Borden Bradley took over the family business. The two brothers managed the store through the Great Depression and the Second World War.
After Borden died in 1952, Morris ran the store on his own with the help of his oldest son Lorne.
Tragedy struck the business in August 1948 when the store and principal home burned to the ground. Reconstruction began immediately afterward and the new building opened for business in January 1949. In the interim, the store continued to operate out of an adjacent garage that wasn’t affected by the fire.
Morris continued running the store until his death in 1975.
Morris was a charter member of the Navan Lions Club in 1952 and a huge supporter of all community activities throughout his lifetime. His wife Elda was a tireless worker of the Navan Women’s Institute, the Navan Branch of the Canadian Red Cross Society, particularly during the Second World War, and a proud and faithful member of the Ottawa Women’s Canadian Club for many years. The couple had three children – Lorne, Ross and Marilyn – who would all become integral parts of the community.
Lorne Bradley took over the store after Morris’ death in 1975. At the time he had already been operating a school bus business since 1965. Today, M.L. Bradley Ltd. has over 100 buses owned and operated by his daughter Kathleen, her husband Gord and managed by their son Andrew.
The headquarters of M.L. Bradley Ltd. is located on Frank Kenny Road.
Besides Kathleen, Lorne and Joyce Bradley had three other daughters – Joy, Lorna Jane and Wendy.
Lorne was President of J.T. Bradley & Sons Ltd. from 1975 to 1991. Like his father, he was also a charter member of the Navan Lions Club and a staunch supporter of all community activities, mainly the building of the first Navan Arena in 1952, its rebuilding in 1955 and the installation of artificial ice in 1972 and the construction of the third Arena in 1982.
He was president of the Navan Curling Club when it opened in 1991, but unfor-tunately passed away in December the same year.
Morris and Elda’s second eldest, Ross Bradley spent his entire working career at Statistics Canada in Ottawa where he worked from 1954 to 1989. He served as a trustee on the Cumberland Township public school board from 1965 to 1968. During his tenure on the board Meadowview School in Navan and Riverview School in Cumberland Village were built and the sod was turned for Queenswood Public School in Orléans. He has been a member of the Navan Lions Club since 1960 and was instrumental in the creation of the Navan Tennis Club in 1976.
Ross was also a driving force in the formation of the Navan Curling Club in 1984 and its construction in 1991, and he continues to be a member of the Board of Directors. Ross also served on the fundraising com-mittee for the Navan Cenotaph located next to the Navan Memorial Arena.
Ross and Gwen Bradley have four children– Carol, Heather, Don and John, who they raised in their home on Trim Road.
After Lorne’s death in 1991, the store was sold to Gerry Labelle, who managed the business for three years until she resold it to Lorne’s nephew and Ross and Gwen’s youngest son John Bradley.
|Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson is flanked by Ross and John Bradley during the store’s belated 120th anniversary celebration in March 1999. FILE PHOTO
John bought the store in 1994 after a successful stint with J.M. Schneider Ltd. where he worked in sales and marketing for seven years. He is the great-grandson and namesake of the store’s original owner, John Thomas Bradley.
Like his great-grandfather, grandfather and great uncle, John quickly immersed himself in the daily life of the community.
John was very active in the preparation of the bid to bring the International Plowing Match to Navan in 2001 and he organized a series of street dances from 1999-2001which raised over $60,000 for the event.
In 2001, he joined the board of directors of the OutCare Foundation as vice-chair. As an independent registered charity the foundation is dedicated to raising funds for community-based palliative care in Eastern Ontario. John would eventually ascend to the role of chairperson from 2015 to 2019.
A tireless fundraiser and organizer, John would hold a fourth street dance in 2005 and chicken BBQ which together raised more than $25,000 for the OutCare Foundation, the Navan Fair Board and the Navan Lions Club. All told, the street dances raised over $100,000. He would later organize a series of golf tournaments at the Hammond Golf Club which raised thousands of dollars for the OutCare Foundation.
Through it all, John was supported by his wife Linda, who he married in 1991, and his father Ross, who has been a fixture in the store for years.
In 2016, John resurrected the Bradley Cup. The Bradley Cup was established in 1926 by John Thomas Bradley and put up as a challenge thrown out by the Navan Hockey Club to a rival club in Vars.
The game was won by the home team when Nelson Kennedy scored the winning goal in the second overtime period to end what had been a 0-0 tie. Besides winning the trophy, the Navan team shared the $100 prize money which was also put up by John Thomas.
The Cup was offered up twice more before the start of the Second World War. In 1929, it was won by a team from Cumberland Village. It was recaptured by Navan four years later and sat in the J.T. Bradley and Sons store until 1948 when the Navan team beat their Cumberland Village rivals 8-1 thanks to five-goal effort by World War II veteran and former Navan resident Eric Smith.
After French Hill won the Cup in 1959, it was retired indefinitely and sat on a shelf in J.T. Bradley’s until John Bradley dusted it off in 2016 for a tournament to celebrate the trophy’s 90th anniversary and raise money for the Hannah Billings Foundation.
The hockey tournament was held for the next three years until 2020 when the COVID pandemic forced organizers to cancel the event just two weeks before the opening game. It was canceled again earlier this year, but organizers are promising to bring it back in 2022.
As you can see, J.T. Bradley’s Country Convenience Store and the Bradley family have been an integral part of the fabric of the community ever since the store first opened in 1898.
Many a regular customer has passed through its doors and spun a yarn while enjoying a cup of freshly brewed coffee. As the saying goes, if the walls could speak the stories would be endless.
And while the store has supported the community for the past 120-plus years, the community has supported the store despite the rise of the big box chains just a short drive away in nearby Orléans.
Running a successful small town general store is no easy feat. Fortunately, J.T. Bradley’s has been aided by the ability to sell alcohol and beer ever since the store acquired a Liquor Sales Licence in 2002.
Along the way they’ve never been afraid to showcase locally made products. In May 2015, they jumped at the opportunity to become a distributor of the Purina line of animal feed products.
Selling animal feed brought the store back to its roots as they used to sell feed to area farmers in the mid-1900s.
As J.T. Bradleys begins a another chapter in the store’s history under new ownership, Navan residents can rest assured that it will continue to be an important hub of the local community.
For his part, John Bradley is looking forward to help celebrate the store’s 125th anniversary, not as the owner, but as a customer..