French & Brawn Market Place celebrates 150 years in business

By Susan Mustapich | Jun 15, 2018
Photo by: Susan Mustapich Carolyn Wiley, left and Gavin Worden, right, know how to make everyone who goes through the check-out at French & Brawn feel good that they stopped by the store.

CAMDEN — French & Brawn is celebrating 150 years in business June 15 and 16 with raffles and assorted giveaways, free coffee all day, and store and vendor samples.

Friday morning, employees were all wearing their royal-blue 150th anniversary tee-shirts, and enjoying the celebration as much as the customers.

Todd Anderson, the store's owner since 1995, provided a history that details the continuous ownership as well as changes over time.

In 1868, French and Brawn Market Place was known as Cleveland and Simonton. By 1869, the store's name had changed several times. In 1915, the store was located where the Camden Yacht Club is now, and called Carleton, Pascal & Co. Under the management of Captain Frank Carleton and his brothers it furnished supplies for the lime kilns. As the kilns went out of business, the focus shifted to general trade.

In 1899, Alton French began working at the store, and in 1916, purchased an interest. In 1927, the store's name changed to Carleton, French and Company, and employees made rounds on horse-and-buggy, taking orders from housewives of the weekly supplies they needed. The goods were then delivered the same night. Employees would also visit the drug store if a customers needed medicine, and would also go to the bank and post office to help elderly, disabled or bedridden customers complete their errands.

An educator named William Brawn moved to Camden in 1953 and entered into a partnership with French. Brawn's third son, Jeff, who would become the future owner of the company, had just been born. Ten years later, the store was renamed French & Brawn.

French passed away in 1970, leaving William Brawn president of the company. Jeff Brawn and his wife, Robin, became managing owners in 1977, keeping "the long-standing tradition of fantastic customer service to any and all visitors and inhabitants of the town," Anderson said.

In the mid-1990s, Anderson was searching for a store to buy, and was encouraged to consider Camden by his parents, Richard and Sandra. He was initially hoping to buy a hardware store, and consulted area business owners for their opinions, including Jeff Brawn. After several conversations, Brawn surprised Anderson by proposing that the two enter into a partnership. Anderson accepted, leaving the idea of a hardware store behind. In 1996, Brawn went to work at the high school's Zenith Program, and sold French & Brawn to Anderson, who became owner, which he is to this day.

In 1998, a large renovation was undertaken, adding a third more retail space, and four new 12-foot refrigerated display cases for deli, meat, seafood and produce. Anderson married Sarah Beaudoin in 2004, doubling the store's ownership.

"We are continuing French and Brawn's long-standing tradition of excellent food, competitive prices and top-rate customer service, serving the community of Camden and ensuring preservation of a piece of coastal Maine history," Anderson said.

This story will be updated with an interview with Todd Anderson.

Long-time and newer employees, from left, Shirley Marriner, Matt Homan, Ron Towers, Matt Hall, Bob McGowan, Tatum (visitor), Taylor Peasley, Sarah Mitchell, Lynda Larner and Roxanna Munteau, are all part of the team that make French & Brawn a special place. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
Boar's Head representatives were grilling up four kinds of chicken sausage and planning to put hot dogs on grill next, at French & Brawn's two-day 150th anniversary celebration, June 15. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
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