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Published: Wednesday, 6/9/2010

Toledo's third-oldest firm moving out of city

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

By the end of this year, Toledo's third oldest company - a wholesale hardware company that traces its roots to a muddy downtown riverfront in 1855 - will be in Toledo no more.

Bostwick-Braun Co. is building an 18,000-square-foot headquarters in an office park off West Central Avenue near King Road in Sylvania Township and will move its 55 employees there before Thanksgiving, Bill Bollin, the company's chairman and chief executive officer, said.

"The building should be done in October, and we should move before Thanksgiving," Mr. Bollin said of the structure at 7349 Crossleigh Court behind the Meijer store. "I'll still consider us a Toledo company, though."

According to the company's Web site, Bostwick-Braun was started by two brothers as W. & C.B. Roff & Co. in a building at the intersection of Monroe and Summit streets downtown when the city had about 8,500 residents.

The wholesale hardware company drew its current name from Oscar Alonzo Bostwick and Carl F. Braun, who hired on in the 1860s and ultimately ended up running the company.

Although the move out of the Toledo city limits is the company's first since 1855, Bostwick-Braun has changed locations.

The business has spent the last 20 years in the Toledo Technology Center in the 1900 block of North 13th Street near downtown. Prior to that, it was in the former AP Parts offices off Michigan Avenue downtown.

It also built an eight-story,

300,000-square-foot building in 1908 at Summit and Monroe.

Mr. Bollin said the company's decision to construct a headquarters in Sylvania Township was made in January as its lease on its current office space was coming up for renewal.

"We started looking around for alternatives in 2008, knowing that the lease was coming up. We looked at over 30 different options that were available, but we couldn't find too much that fit our needs," Mr. Bollin said.

With a continuing slump in both real estate and the construction industry, building a new office presented the most promising alternative, the chief executive said.

"It was a great time to build, and a great time to buy land. We've tried to keep everything local - the contractors, the architect, the subcontractors," Mr. Bollin said.

The company, which is privately owned by the employees and whose annual sales have been about $100 million, supplies tools, plumbing fixtures, and other merchandise to about 800 Pro Hardware and independent hardware stores and industrial clients in several states. It has more than 200 employees.

The pre-Civil War firm is the oldest in Toledo behind The Blade and Lloyd Bros. Walker Co.

Bostwick-Braun wasn't recruited by suburban officials to relocate outside the Toledo city limits, nor has it received incentives for the move, Mr. Bollin said.

Dean Monske, Toledo's deputy mayor for external affairs who handles economic development issues, said he hadn't heard that the longtime Toledo business stalwart plans to leave town.

The loss of Bostwick-Braun is a classic example of why economic development officials need to be proactive, Mr. Monske said.

"This certainly is a great example of why, at least, if you have strong retention programs, at least you have the opportunity to talk to them about what they need to stay in the community," he said.

The city is exploring adding a retention program, he added.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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