Browns Brushes at Stone Store

One of New Zealand’s oldest manufacturers has started selling some of its products in New Zealand’s oldest shop. 

Staff member Gina presents a row of Brown's Brushes.
Stone Store Visitor Host Georgina Murphy with Browns Brushware.expand/collapse

Auckland-based Browns Brushware has started supplying brushes from its heritage range, along with its genuine waxed canvas tarpaulins, to Kerikeri’s historic Stone Store.

The Kiwi manufacturing legend started trading in 1879 unveiling a line of locally made brushware at an expo in Gore celebrating the first train trip from Dunedin to Invercargill. The company has been making quality brushware ever since – 143 years in all. 

This impressive heritage of brush manufacturing caught the eye of Liz Bigwood who manages the Stone Store. The store is cared for by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, is a Tohu Whenua, and has been trading continually since 1836. 

“The Stone Store has been in business for 185 years, and my team are always on the lookout for products that would appeal to visitors to the Kerikeri Mission Station – whether they be authentic trade goods sold at the Store in missionary times or examples of quality Kiwiana that reflect the building’s post-War era as a general store selling everything from a needle to an anchor,” says Liz. 

“We try to stock New Zealand products wherever possible, and I was particularly struck by the extraordinary commercial history of Browns Brushware in New Zealand as well as the quality and authenticity of their products.”

The clincher was the company’s Superior and Native ranges of brushes made from wood, natural fibres, and cast and pressed iron – similar to the brushes that were sold at the store in the past. 

Intriguingly, the company’s ‘Superior’ line of brushware was used in the Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1957 led by Sir Edmund Hillary. Certificates of authenticity were issued by the Ross Sea Committee certifying that ‘J.F.Brown and Sons’ were supplying brushware ‘...being used in the Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1957’ – a historic connection to Kiwi polar exploration that is treasured by the company. 

Almost a century and a half down the track, the brushmaking business is having a ‘deja vu moment’ with all-natural materials increasingly making a comeback according to fifth generation family member Ukiah Brown. 

“Generally, the wood, metal, and natural fibres have an ecological advantage over many synthetic products. The focus on how to maximise performance and sustainability while minimising waste is integral to Browns stepping back in time, to then move forward with a focus on our supply chain composition and ethos,” he says. 

“The natural raw material renaissance is no stranger to the Browns Brushmaking craft as we have historically relied on materials like timber, agave, coco and palm fibre, iron, alloy and wire as a staple for construction of our brushware. All the usual ecological standards apply with materials originating from managed resources.”

The blend of heritage authenticity and environmental responsibility is a winning combination according to Liz. 

“We are delighted to be able to celebrate the rich history of this company by stocking some of their line of quality products at the Stone Store,” she says.  

John O'Hare