88 Wellington Street: A Part of Stratford’s “Sweet” History

As holiday time arrives, our thoughts turn to celebrating with friends, family, food, and of course, sweet things to eat.

The Remax office, is a building with an interesting history involving candies and chocolates.

88 Wellington Street, Stratford, Ontario

The land on which it stands was part of Canada Company Survey Lot 299.  In 1857 it was owned by Thomas Mayne Daly, the son of John Corry Wilson Daly who was one of the first settlers; the Dalys were the largest property owners in what was to become Stratford.  

In 1878 part of the lot was bought by John Idington who later became a member of the Supreme Court of Canada. He sold the north part of the lot which changed hands several times until, in 1889, it was bought by the O’Brien brothers, who at the time were Stratford’s largest confectioners.  They erected a building and established a confectionery business, which Lucy O’Brien operated until 1898, when it was rented by W. G. Brown, another confectioner. 

In 1897 Idington had the Victorian Gothic building at #88 erected on the south part of the lot, and rented it to a grocer, a tinsmith, and later a plumber.  In 1902 W. G. Brown – who had been running his confectionery next door – moved in. 

Brown’s establishment was highly respected.  He made candy for the wholesale as well as retail market, and also sold groceries: fruit, nuts, cereals, canned and bottled goods, and tobacco-related merchandise.  The store was also an ice-cream parlour and restaurant, offering “good meals at all times.”  In 1908 he bought the building from Idington.  

A 1911 article about “Brown’s Candy Kitchen”, as it was popularly known, gives a telephone number (#330), which suggests an upmarket clientele among the minority of Stratford residents who themselves had telephones.  

From 1924 to 1950 it was a restaurant, still run by the Brown family, until Olin, W. G.’s son, converted it back to a candy store in 1951.  It was from Olin that Rheo Thompson – who worked there from 1959 to 1969 – learned the art and craft of confectionery and in turn, Derek Barr worked for Rheo Thompson.

Olin sold the business in 1973 and from 1975 to 1989 the building housed a number of businesses. In 1989 the City bought it and did some renovation, including installing replicas of the original windows that are now a notable feature.  

Since 2002 the building has been home to ABC Remax. More renovations were done at that time and when a section of flooring was removed the story goes that a wonderful odour of cocoa wafted up from beneath.  Clearly the building remembered its many years of being a candy store.