Browns Shoe Shops Inc., a family-owned business established in Montreal in 1940, is synonymous with top international designer collections, luxurious leather goods, and exclusive street savvy fashion for ladies, men and children. One of the secrets to the success of the chain is the retail philosophy of chairman Morton Brownstein, who explains, "I want every customer to say, â€˜I need to go to Browns,' not â€˜I need to buy a pair of shoes.' If we accomplish this, then we have succeeded in equating shoes with Browns in a customer's mind, so that for her or him, the only place to purchase shoes is Browns." A third generation now leads the business, and the company has expanded with each successive generation's strengths. The founder, Benjamin Brownstein, had the foresight in 1940 to open a family shoe store with products in a wide range of prices, on St. Catherine Street, the central shopping district of that era.
After a fire gutted the location in 1954, Morton Brownstein, who had taken over the business from his father, gave the company a new direction, focusing on exclusive designer and fashion footwear. In 1959, Morton Brownstein was the first North American retailer to travel to Italy and to bring Italian designer shoes to Canada. He worked directly with the legendary Salvatore Ferragamo at his original store on Via Tornabuoni in Florence, where Signor Ferragamo himself wrote the Browns' order for shoes and handbags. Browns was the first Canadian retailer to carry Charles Jourdan, Bruno Magli, and Rossi Moda (which now produces collections for Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein and Pucci.) Today, Morton's son, Michael Brownstein, is the president of the company, and has successfully expanded the chain to its current 40 locations throughout Canada. He is the first retailer outside of Italy to win the prestigious Micam award in Bologna, for his fashion interpretation, his knowledge of craftsmanship, and his success in promoting the Italian shoe industry .
Michael has brought the company to the forefront of the 21st century by creating a new chain of stores, B2, that focuses on the edgy, street fashion that appeals to a younger generation as well as to trend-conscious consumers. Michael has also continued the company's tradition of creating personal relationships with the leading shoe designers of today, who provide Browns with many exclusive styles. The dynamic of a family culture is quite evident in the company. Not only has a fourth generation of Brownsteins started to work at Browns today, but there are many other families who work at the head office, and in the stores in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Morton Brownstein feels, "there is no greater compliment to a business than when staff members invite their family and friends to join." The head office and warehouse in Montreal is a trilingual operation, where many staff members are fluent in English, French and Italian. – less–ZoomInfo