Hospitality is in our DNA

Sometimes, a business is just destined to be great! Bromwells certainly was, thanks to the spirit of warmth and hospitality that our founder extended 200 years ago.

Just look at our Jacob Bromwell! Said to be a “large, portly man,” the founder of our 200-year-old business appears to possess a fireside friendly and congenial spirit. And, indeed, it was written that Bromwell (1785-1866)  had a reputation for keeping “an open house and table for his friends and kindred.” We bet he always kept a warm fire burning, as well.

Jacob Bromwell as imagined by famed Cincinnati illustrator, C.F.Payne

As it did during Jacob’s 29-year reign over Cincinnati’s oldest business, hospitality rules at today’s Bromwell’s, where our expert staff and roaring fireplace settings kindle close, meaningful connections with our customers. We may not sell the brushes, flour sifters, popcorn poppers, tin cups, rat traps and camping tools made by the Bromwell clan for 104 years, but their family flame burns bright at our downtown shop.

So, exactly who was Jacob Hall Bromwell?

Born in Virginia in 1785 and Quaker-educated in Baltimore, he worked in his father’s wire weaving business until his early thirties. He served three years in the War of 1812, married and had several kids before loading a flatboat with wire weavers and supplies and floating down the Ohio River to Cincinnati, a western outpost of 10,000 people.

Bromwell brought business integrity and an entrepreneurial attitude with him, eventually building a state-of-the art store in downtown Cincinnati. Several locations later, 200-year-old Bromwell’s at 117 W. Fourth St. is Cincinnati’s longest continuously operating retail business. Happy bicentennial, Bromwell family!

Bromwell’s own brood consisted of 12 children, 10 born to his second wife, Helen Moore, whom he married after serving in a sharpshooters infantry during the War of 1812. Jacob, who’s British-American family dates to 1635 Jamestown Va., launched Bromwell’s in 1819 at 30 W. Fifth St., during the young union’s first financial panic. Yet the wire and brush business grew exponentially under his family until 1923, when his ascendants sold it to the Joseph Gerwe family.

The Gerwes kept the shop but sold  Bromwell’s manufacturing arm. They weathered the Great Depression and thrived by moving into the fireplace business. Jeff McClorey became Bromwell’s third family owner in 2005 and has guided its transformation into a beautiful, luxuriously comfortable and historically rustic place for friendly folks like Jacob Bromwell to shop.

Jacob Hall Bromwell outlived several of his children and died in 1866 at age 81 at his southeastern Indiana home, likely on the 40 acres given to him as a government payment for his war service. Jacob’s legacy remains emblematic of the quality products and service offered at Bromwell’s 200 years after its humble beginning.


By Guest Contributor, Brent Coleman

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