Browns Shoes Inc. is a Canadian retailer of footwear and handbags for men, women and children. Its vast selection of products covers a variety of styles, from Reebok to Michael Kors to Manolo Blahnik. In addition to offering many major international labels, Browns Shoes designs several house brands and stocks Canadian brands like Pajar, Hip and Bone, La Canadienne and Mackage.
The history of Browns Shoes began in 1940 when Benjamin Brownstein opened a family shoe store on Montreal’s St. Catherine Street. When a fire gutted the store in 1954, the founder’s son, Morton Brownstein (1928–2013), took over the company and decided to focus more on fashion and designer brands, primarily from Italy.
Browns was initially called Brown’s, with an apostrophe, but the store’s name was changed to respect Quebec laws regulating the use of French on public signs. However, Brown’s made headlines in the late 1980s when it took the cause of English signs all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Michael Brownstein, the founder’s grandson, became president of Browns Shoes in 1999. As of 2018, the company has 50 Browns stores across Canada, plus 9 stores in its young urban chain, called B2, and 8 outlet stores. Its head office is on Cohen Street in Montreal’s Saint-Laurent borough.
Fitterman, Lisa. “Morton Brownstein, 85: shoe-store magnate, philanthropist, challenger of Quebec language laws” The Globe and Mail, The Globe and Mail Inc., 11 May 2018, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/morton-brownstein-85-shoe-store-magnate-philanthropist-challenger-of-quebec-language-laws/article12326579/.
Jordan. “Obituary: Browns Shoes’ Morton Brownstein.” Footwear News, Fairchild Publishing LLC, 26 June 2013, https://footwearnews.com/2013/influencers/power-players/obituary-browns-shoes-morton-brownstein-142574/.
Madeleine Goubau, Contributor