If you are ever at the intersection of Harry Street and East Second Avenue (perhaps on your way to the Great American Pub for an “adult beverage”) you probably have seen a white building surrounded by a large number of cars parked in a seemingly random fashion. During warm weather the garage doors of this building will be open and from within the very distinctive sound of tools using compressed air will be heard. What you may not know is that the family operating this car repair and sales business is celebrating their centennial year this year (2017). That’s right “John Brothers” has been in Conshohocken providing all manner of car care and other services to all members of the local community for the past one hundred years using the same Pennsylvania state inspection station number (“671”) and at least part of their original telephone number (“639”) during this entire time. Quite the accomplishment given that the vast majority of businesses are only in operation for no more than 5 years.
John Brothers opened its doors to the public as the “Conshohocken Motor Service” company during the very early days of the “horseless buggy” in 1917 at a store front located at 110-114 East Hector Street (currently the site of a set of “nearly twin” houses with garages at street level). The first and maybe most forward thinking owners of this business were brothers George W John Sr. and Nicholas John. As the business expanded, George and Nicholas opened a second store for replacement parts on Fayette Street just below Second Avenue in what is now the building occupied by the Great American Pub. This second storefront remained in operation thru the 1940s.
In 1922 the rapidly expanding business moved from East Hector Street to the ground floor of the Rambo and Regar factory building which stood on 116 West Hector Street at the corner of Robinson Alley and West Hector Street (This area is the current site of a parking lot across from the old section of Washie’s Firehouse). For the next 19 years John Brothers prospered at this site.
The above picture was taken in front of John Brothers 116 West Hector facility which they occupied from 1922 until 1941. Note the original name of the business on the two trucks pictured (“Conshohocken Motor Service”). Also note that the inspection station number of “671” painted on the door of the truck on the right is the same inspection station number used by the current business. This picture can be seen hanging in John Brothers’ current waiting area.
The above advertisement was published in the Conshohocken Recorder on September 8, 1931. Note the phone number of “639”. This is part of the same phone number, after various “reincarnations” because of the expanding phone system, currently used by John Brothers today. Number 639 became CO 6-0639 , which became TA8-0639, which became 215-828-0639, which became the current 610-828-0639.
In 1941 John Brothers outgrew their quarters on 116 West Hector Street and erected a modern purposed built building located 8 East Second Avenue between Harry and Fayette Streets. This building is currently the site of Piermani’s Beer Distributers.
Above photo appeared in the Conshohocken Recorder on February 4, 1941. This building was sold to the Piermani family and is currently the home of Al Piermani and Son Beer distributor.
In 1946 John Brothers acquired a mansion diagonally across from their 8 East Second Avenue location at Harry Street and Second Avenue. This mansion was owned by the Garrett Family and was sold to John Brothers after the last Garrett family member living at the mansion passed away.
In the foreground of the above picture the John Brothers replacement parts storefront can be seen. This storefront operated from almost the beginning of their business in 1917 into the 1940s. In the left background, the Garett Mansion can be seen. This is the site of the current John Brothers building. This picture can be seen hanging in John Brothers’ current waiting area.
A new building was erected on this site. The front of this building became the “John Bros. Firestone Store” selling all manor of garden and lawn equipment. The back of this building and an adjacent building were used for car repair and as a gas station. The basement of Garrett Mansion is still being used to house building infrastructure systems (heating, hot water, etc.).
Above picture shows John Brothers circa 1950 at East Second Avenue and Harry Streets. This building is the site of current John Brothers business. The Firestone Store at the front of the building is now part of the current garage facility. This picture can be seen hanging in John Brothers’ current waiting area.
Above John Brothers Firestone Store advertisement appeared in Conshohocken Recorder on March 20, 1952. Note that phone number in 1952 expanded from its original 1917 version of “603” to “CO 6-0603”. Children’s toys were also sold at this store.
After 1962 the Firestone Store ceased to exist and the automobile repair business expanded into what was the Firestone Store area of the building.
So if you are ever in the neighborhood of East Second Avenue and Harry Streets stop by and congratulate the 3rd generation of John Brothers. The current crew consists of George W John III (aka “Billy”), Mike, and Stephen, along with their father George W John Jr (aka “Big Bill”) who is a son of original founder George W John Sr. John Brothers is a business that has thrived for 100 years in the small tight knit community of Conshohocken. They must be doing something right!!
Mike Poniatowicz – Conshohocken Historical Society – September 19, 2017
Photos: Provided by Conshohocken Historical Society