The history of the building at 516 North Trade Street actually begins in 1880 when Thomas Jethro Brown, Mitchell Rogers, and William Carter saw the needs of a growing trade center in Winston. Brown and Carter were involved in the tobacco industry, so Rogers managed the growing business. Brown-Rogers & Co. had its first building at the corner of Fourth and Main Streets.
Their business instincts were right. Hardware was in great need for the burgeoning tobacco industry. In the early 1900s, Brown-Rogers & Co. occupied most of the block between Liberty, Fourth, and Main Streets. A second building was built on North Liberty Street to handle the growing business. It opened in 1905. That building came in handy when a fire destroyed the Main and Fourth location in 1913.
In 1915, W. N. Dixson joined the company as vice-president and general manager. With the passing of Carter in 1924, Dixson purchased his shares and became the president. The company became known as Brown-Rogers-Dixson.
Winston-Salem’s population was growing by leaps and bounds, so a new, larger building was commissioned to be designed by Northup & O’Brien, an architectural firm that designed several prominent buildings in the city. When the B-R-D building opened in March of 1928, it was Winston-Salem’s largest businesses. With 70,000 square feet of space, it was also one of the largest retail/wholesale spaces in the South.
The original flooring in the fashion and mercantile departments was harvested from the Pisgah Forest by the Carr Lumber Company. George Vanderbilt, of Biltmore Estate fame, sold acreage to the Carr Lumber Company for $12 per acre. He could have made much more per acre, but he insisted that the weak trees be taken first and then the rest of the forest would be selectively harvested and new trees planted to replace those that were taken.
B-R-D dominated the retail scene in Winston-Salem through World War II and lived up to its slogan as the best place to get it. Its stock included everything from nuts and bolts to sporting goods, like metal roller skates. They even manufactured their own wooden wagons for children to enjoy when steel wasn’t available during the war. Warehouses throughout the Carolinas were added to service its wholesale customers. With locations in Raleigh, Charlotte, and Columbia, many customers could have their orders the next day.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, it became evident that B-R-D could better serve its clients through the wholesale side of their business, rather than maintaining both a retail and wholesale presence. The retail side was discontinued in the 1970s. Unlike other stores that become Mast Store locations, B-R-D is still in business with a location on Cloverleaf Drive here in Winston-Salem. It services independent dealers in appliances, bedding, etc. and helps them remain competitive in a “big-box” world.
When B-R-D left this building, it went through a series of owners and housed offices and a satellite police department.
It is now listed as a contributing property for the Arts District Historic District and became a part of the Mast Store Family in May of 2015.