Saturday, April 12, 2014

Do Old Companies Tend to Exist in Geographic Clusters?

Recently I've been communicating with a woman from Philadelphia who has an interest in the unique concentration of old companies in the Italian Market area of South Philadelphia.  I have noticed a similar clustering in both Grand Rapids and the Holland/Zeeland area of West Michigan. This observation raises the question of whether it is the community that supports these companies leading to their long lives, or if there is some sort of mutual support system going on among the businesses themselves, or if there is something else leading to these clusters.  My research on 100-year-old companies does indicate that these firms feel a deep connection to their local communities, so perhaps this focus on relationships translates into a support system that keeps the businesses going.

Last week I saw the documentary film "Spinning Plates" which profiled a family restaurant (Brietbach's) in Iowa that was founded in 1861.  It had burned to the ground twice in recent years and both times the community and customers rallied to support the rebuilding.  It seems that many of these old businesses - particularly the generational family businesses - become treasured members of the community that everyone wants to see survive.  I can remember walking with my young children in downtown Holland (Michigan) one weekend when my daughter remarked "we are so lucky to live here."  When asked why she felt that way, she replied "because we have the Peanut Store!"  One of several 'century' businesses located on a three-block long main street, this candy store is one of our community's treasured  businesses, so associated with downtown Holland that if it were ever to close it would feel like losing a dear friend - not just for my family but for many, many others.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

100 Year Old Company Profiles

Rather than duplicate entries, if you want to see the profiles of 100-year-old companies I'm posting this year, check out my tweets @vtenhaken on Twitter.  Today's was AmeriPride Services, one of the largest uniform rental and linen supply companies in North America, headquartered in Minnetonka, MN, still private and family-owned after 125 years.  I am in the middle of a list of companies founded in 1889 to highlight their 125th anniversary.  On the list so far:  Pendleton Woolen Mills in Portland, Oregon; McCormick & Company (spices) in Maryland; Modell's sporting goods stores in NY; and Varnum, a law firm in Grand Rapids, MI.  Though there are many financial institutions celebrating 125 years in 2014, you might be surprised at some of the others, so stay tuned!

150-year-old firms I profiled earlier include Renault Winery in Egg Harbor, New Jersey; First Horizon bank in Memphis; and Glatfelter - a global leader in specialty papers and fibers headquartered in York, PA.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Additions to Michigan's 100 Over 100

Last year I published a list of Michigan companies over 100 years old.  Since my list at the time came to exactly 100 firms I titled it "100 Over 100."  Two more old companies have come to my attention - both from Grand Rapids, making it a real 'hotbed' of companies that have thrived for over a century. The additions:

Varnum, established 1888; legal services
Koeze Company, established 1910; peanut butter, nuts & chocolate

I would love for my list of companies over 100 to grow even further, so please let me know when you find one.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Working for Old Companies

I just returned from visiting my parents (who are in their 80s and living in Florida).  Though my father has been retired for many years, the visit reminded me that my work background must have subconsciously influenced my research on old companies.  For all but two years of his life, my father worked for and then owned a small, country bank.  I worked there during high school - the beginning of what turned out to be a career of working for 100-year old companies: they were proud of the fact that - despite an armed bank robbery and the great depression - this little bank had always been open for their customers.   It was only when I was preparing a presentation for the Forbes/IBM conference a few years ago that I realized every organization I had worked for during my 45-year career is over 100 years old:  The Bank of Birnamwood (now Banner Banks but still independently owned); The Bank of Madison (subsequently M&I Bank, unfortunately a casualty of the recent financial crisis); Bunte's Pharmacy (a college gig - great fun working the soda fountain); General Electric; Herman Miller, Inc.; and now Hope College.  Given my research that has shown how the organizations that have survived for over 100 years tend to exhibit behaviors focused on building relationships with employees, customers, suppliers, and their communities, I feel privileged to have had such positive work experiences.  As we prepare to enter a new year, my wish is for more organizations to understand and begin to model the behaviors the old companies embody.  These companies are national treasures I feel we should honor - they deserve more attention and appreciation than our country gives them (as compared to Japan, where old companies are such treasured institutions they even have a name for them: shinise.)  So next year I will dedicate this blog and my twitter entrees (@vtenhaken) to profiles of our 100-year-old companies.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Michigan 100

Over the summer I posted on Twitter 100 companies in Michigan that are over 100 years old.  My hope is that we can convince Governor Snyder to start a "Century Club" honoring these businesses that have helped keep our state's economy running through good times and bad.  Here, in alphabetical order, is my list of the Michigan 100 over 100.  Let's celebrate them!

Acme Mfg.                             1910                            Auburn Hills
American Seating                     1886                           Grand Rapids
Armstrong Int’l                                                          Three Rivers                 5th gen
Bahle’s (dept. store)                1876                             Suttons Bay                             
Bauer’s Jewelry                      1891                             Saginaw
Bissel                                     1889                             Grand Rapids
Bond Decorating                     1891                             Iron Mtn.
Brammal Industrial Supply       1873                              Benton Harbor
Buchley’s Shoes                     1894                              Bad Axe                       4th gen
Buis Mattress                         1913                              Holland
Bulman Products                    1905                              Grand Rapids              
Cascarellis Restaurant              1909                             Albion                          4th gen
Central Michigan Paper            1885                             Ada
Chelsea Lumber Co.                1908                             Chelsea
Chelsea Milling                                                           Chelsea
Chris Engel’s Greenhouse        1883                             Detroit
Corbishley’s Clothing              1876                             Bad Axe                       4th gen
Crandill Funeral Homes            1902                            Fremont, White Cloud
Daniel Orr Sons Hardware       1875                             North Branch
Dekker’s Jewelry                                                       Zeeland
Detroit Store Fixture Co.          1898                            Detroit
DeVries Jewelers                     1901                           Grand Rapids
Dickenson’s Hardware             1876                            Fennville
Diltrich Furs                            1893                            Detroit
Doncker’s Candies & Gifts       1896                            Marquette
Dykstra Funeral                                                          Holland
Ebonex Corp.                          1878                            Detroit Area
Edge- Sweets (ESCO)              1887                            Grand Rapids
Ford Motor Co.                       1903                            Dearborn
Frankenmuth News                  1906                            Frankenmuth
Fris Office Outfitters                1900                            Holland                        5th gen
Fritz Family Restaurant             1902                            Richville                        5th gen
GB Russo & Son                       1905                            Grand Rapids  
Getz Dept. Store                       1880’s                         Marquette
Gilbert Chocolates                                                        Jackson
Golden Shoes                                                               Traverse City
Gordon Food Service                 1897                            Grand Rapids  
Graafscap Hardware                  1869                            Holland           
Groskopf’s Luggage                                                      Grand Rapids
Harley Ellis Devereaux                1908                            Southfield                    
Henry the Hatter                         1893                            Detroit
Herman’s Boy (Coffee Roaster)   1901                            Rockford
Herman Miller Inc.                      1905                            Zeeland                       
Herter Music                              1903                            Bay City
Hoekstra’s Hardware                  1867                            Kalamazoo
Homer Monumental Works          1889                            Homer
Holland Peanut Store                   1902                            Holland                        5th gen
Irwin Sealing                                                                  Grand Rapids
Jesperson’s Restaurant & Pie Shoppe  1903                       Petoskey
Johnson’s Studio Camera                1892                           Cheboygan                   4th gen
Kelloggs                                        1906                            Battle Creek
Kindel Furniture                             1901                           Grand Rapids
Kositchek’s                                   1865                            Lansing
Krzyske Bros Co.                           1890                            Monroe, Waltz
Langeland- Sterenlseng Funeral                                          Holland
Lokers Shoes                                1913                            Holland
Mapes Furniture                            1892                            St. Ignace
Martins Shoe House                       1846                            Monroe                                   
Masters LaLonde Shoes                  1879                            Alpena
McClillan’s Frankenmuth Woolen Mill  1894                        Frankenmuth
Metcaef&Gonkhoff Funeral            1894                            Grand Rapids               5th gen
Michigan Ladder                                                               Ypsilanti
Milkins Jewelers                            1905                            Wyandotte                   4th gen
Model Drug &Apothocary Shop                                         Holland
Moore & Carter Lumber                 1904                            Sandusky,  Croswell
Mosher’s Jewelers                         1898                            Port Huron                   4th gen 
Murphy &Caris (Law Firm)            1905                            Fremont                                  
Nouman Corp. Dist. Center                                                Bay City
Oliver Products                              1890                            Grand Rapids              
Padnos                                                                             Holland                        4th gen
Palmer Auto Svc.                                                              Frankenmuth
Perrigo                                          1887                            Allegan
Pomeroy Funeral Home                   1890                            Croswell
Power’s Clothing                            1892                            Jonesville
Raymond Hardware                        1850                            Port Sanilac
Reusch Jewelers                             1885                            Cheboygan                   4th gen
Schaefer Bierleen Cars                     1852                            Frankenmuth                6th gen
Sempliner’s Bride & Formal                                                Bay City
Sieb Plumbing, Heating, & A/C         1868                            Monroe                                   
Siegel Jewelers                                1889                            Grand Rapids
Skaff Carpet & Furniture                  1911                            Flint
Smith Floral & Greenhouse                                                  Lansing
Star of the West Milling Co.              1840’s                         Frankenmuth
Steelcase                                                                           Grand Rapids                          
Steven’s Van Lines                          1905                            Saginaw               4th &  5th gen
Sunnyside Florist                                                                Owosso
Superior Sports Store                       1909                            Holland                        4th gen 
The Standard Companies                                                     West Michigan            
The Yale Expositor                           1882                            Yale
Vail Rubber Company                       1904                            St. Joseph       
Vredeveld Shoes                                                                  Fremont
West Branch Flour Mill                     1892                            West Branch   
Whirlpool                                        1911                            St. Joe                         
Willis Sausage Co.                                                               Frankenmuth
Winglemire Furniture                        1858                            Holly
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing            1905                            Grand Rapids
Wolverine Worldwide                       1883                            Rockford         
WW Fairbairn & Sons                      1890’s                         Alanson
Yaeger’s Shoes                                1846                            Monroe                        5th gen
Zeeland Print Shop                           1908                            Zeeland                        4th gen

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Michigan 100

I am nearing the end of my Twitter entries of #100over100: Michigan companies over 100 years old.  Several furniture manufacturers, five funeral homes, five hardware stores, six jewelry stores and seven shoe stores!  I didn't realize it when I started, but there are exactly 100 Michigan companies on my list of  businesses over 100 years old that I can verify.  I do have several more names, but cannot find websites, newspaper articles or other confirmation that they are still in business.  So next week (after we hit the 100 mark) I will post the full list on my blog and if anyone knows of Michigan companies that have been in continuous operation for over 100 years and are not on the list, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

First Stage Research Paper to be Published!

Today I received notice that the first paper we wrote analyzing the comparative research on 100 year old Japanese and U.S. companies will be published in the Journal of Social Sciences in October.  Once I have the specifics I will post the link to the online version of the journal for those who are interested.

Next week my research partner, Makoto Kanda, will be coming to Holland, MI from Japan and we will work on our next paper, which will go into more detail regarding the statistically significant comparative results.  Excited to be at this stage of the research and look forward to sharing the results.  I believe they are very interesting:  it is clear that the leaders of these 'old' companies see their job as one of stewardship, making sure the company succeeds in order to pass it on to the next generation.  With this as the primary objective, their business decisions are somewhat different from generally accepted management theory.

Stay tuned!