Tuesday, January 28, 2020
26 states took part in the 1840 census, including the new states of Michigan and Arkansas; Florida, Iowa and Wisconsin were still territories. William Henry Harrison was elected president. And a restaurant, a general store, and a coffee company were founded and are still operating today. Congratulations on 180 years in business:
Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans is still owned and operated by 5th generation relatives of the founder, Antoine Alciatore. Well-known for their French-Creole cuisine, Antoine's is the birthplace of such dishes as Oysters Rockefeller, Eggs Sardou, and Pommes de Terre Souffles. Begun in the days when New Orleans was the queen city of the Mississippi River and cotton was king, the long line of the Alciatore family has guided Antoine's through the Civil War, two World Wars, Prohibition, the Great Depression, and Hurricane Katrina to continue to prosper today.
Not nearly as well know as Antoine's, but just as old, End of the Commons General Store is located in Mesopotamia, Ohio - an Amish community west of Cleveland. Though no longer in the founding family, it is still a family business run by Ken and Margaret Schaden and their 11 children. Today the store sells products in bulk at reasonable prices (to help large families such as their own) as well as old-fashioned candy, Amish meats and cheeses, home-made fudge, and over 150 varieties of glass bottle sodas. Bakers can find unusual flours and grocery shoppers can also grab lunch and dinner daily.
Gillies Coffee Company is a New York City wholesale coffee merchant. A young 19-year-old Wright Gillies began working for a New York tea store in 1838 and branched out on his own in 1840. Gillies received two patents in the 19th century for coffee roasting and later innovated coffee roasting with natural gas. In the early 20th century, the Schoenholt family joined forces with Gillies and today a third generation Schoenholt runs the company along with two generations of the Chabbott family "directing the future of America's oldest coffee roaster." Though a coffee wholesaler, consumers can also enjoy Gillies Coffee: www.gilliescoffee4home.com
Monday, January 20, 2020
Two remarkable companies will celebrate their 185th anniversaries in 2020: they have both been in the same family for six generations, both are manufacturing companies that have evolved over the years, both driven by core values which have sustained them.
Hussey Seating in North Berwick, Maine started in 1835 by making plows. When asked the secret to staying in business so long they answer "we are an innovation center." Today Hussey produces spectator seating (over the years they also made fire escapes and ski lifts), but says their real business is listening to, understanding, and solving customer problems. Today you will find Hussey Seating in high school gymnasiums, track and football fields, professional arenas and performing arts centers around the world. Though their products have changed over the decades, they say their goals haven't: They are a family business in it for the long run, operate with honesty and integrity, and care about the people they work with.
McLanahan in Holidaysburg, Pennsylvania also started in 1835 and now bills themselves as a company providing "engineered process solutions for the aggregate, mineral and agricultural industries." Today's company began when, along with two partners, ancestor James McLanahan bought majority ownership in a foundry. Over the years, with the help of various investors the McClanahan family has been able to lead the company in developing new technologies and enter new markets. Today McClanahan, with its core values of safety, family, and integrity, helps customers by providing machinery to solve a variety of problems throughout the world.
Friday, January 17, 2020
One Century Club company celebrating their 190th anniversary this year almost didn't make it. Faced with competition from low-priced, mass-produced furniture the 6th generation Clore to run the company announced they would be closing: he couldn't see the point in letting the nearly 200-year-old Virginia company wither and die. Then it happened: The company's tradition of craftsmanship had developed a loyal following and before the company actually closed, longtime customers returned to order another chair or table before furniture-making ended. Then new customers started appearing. The company suddenly had a 6-month backlog of orders and no reason to close. "We're going to hang on as long as we can," says the current president. "We believe sustainable, lasting purchases help make our community and the world a better place to live" and are hoping a new generation of young homeowners agree.
Thursday, January 16, 2020
Though there are some industries over-represented in companies that survive for over 100 years, every category is represented. The firms surviving to celebrate their 195th anniversary this year, however, all have something to do with agriculture, farming and food.
John Baer's Sons of Lancaster PA has just published the 195th edition of their "farmers" almanac. Before there was weather radar and predictions from meteorologists, America's farmers relied on the agricultural almanac as a source for information crucial to their operations. John Baer's 2020 edition contains the usual information: planting times, activities of the sun and moon, the fishing calendar, and weather predictions for the entire year along with details on stars, planets and eclipses. You will also find stories on historical subjects, owning a terrarium or growing pumpkins, recipes. The almanac is now published by Linda Weidman, whose newspaperman father purchased Baer's in 1948 to save it from extinction. Today it is enjoyed by farmers, gardeners and lovers of Americana. For just $8.50 you, too, can enjoy this piece of Americana. (John Baer's Sons, PO Box 328, Lancaster PA 17608)
Growing apples has been a way of life for Erie, Michigan's Keeney-Miller family since 1825. The large orchard of today was planned when one family member returned from WWII; they harvest over 4,000 bushels a year and sell a variety of apples and other fresh fruit and vegetables at their farm stand. The business is now run by 5th generation Marilyn Miller and her daughter Lynette Frost.
M.A. Patout & Son is a 6th-generation Louisiana sugar mill. Founded in 1825 by Simeon and Appoline Patout, the original sugar plantation and sugar refinery was added to over the years with the acquisition of Sterling and Raceland Raw Sugars. At two points in Patout's early history, the husband died and the wife took over running the business. One of them (Mary Ann) expanded the business and developed a railroad system and later a pipeline for more efficient transport of cane and juice for refining. Louisiana takes pride in its sugar industry and M.A. Patout & Sons takes pride in contributing to this part of the state's economy.
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Most Century Club companies (over 85%) are small, privately owned businesses. Many of these (over 60%) are generational family-owned. Today's post highlights two families who have sustained their businesses for over 200 years, though they did so in different ways.
G. Krug & Son, established 1810 in Baltimore, is our nation's oldest continuously operating blacksmith. Today, 5th generation Peter Krug continues to oversee production of a wide range of custom metalwork and restoration products. (The Krug family took over the business in 1871.) As their business has withstood the test of time, so states their mission: "to provide customers with ironwork that is beautiful, durable and represents a value that will stand the test of time." Currently, the company also runs the G. Krug & Son Ironworks Museum on the same property as the blacksmith business, committed to preserve and interpret the history of a functioning ironworks.
Another Maryland company, Loane Brothers, is a 6th generation business that began in 1815 as a sailmaker but has adapted over time. Today's Loane brothers (Bryan and Scott) make large tents and custom awnings and are party rental company, providing everything from chairs to china. They celebrate 205 years in business in 2020.
It takes a deliberate commitment by a family to maintain a business over such a stretch of time, balancing staying true to who you are while also adapting with the times.
Tuesday, January 14, 2020
Though this Arkansas law firm may be best know because of one of its former lawyers, Hillary Rodham Clinton, it is also one of the oldest continuously operating legal services firms in the country. Founded in 1820, before Arkansas was a state, it is the 7th oldest law firm in the U.S. and the oldest west of the Mississippi River.
Several other law firms celebrate milestones this year. Here is my list of those in business for 200 years or more - please comment if you know of a continuously operating law firm I have missed.
U.S. Oldest Law Firms
Rose Law Firm, Little Rock AR, founded 1820
Cravath, Swaine & Moore, New York City, founded 1819
Emmet, Marvin & Martin, New York City, founded 1805
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, New York City, founded 1792
Howard, Kohn, Sprague & FitzGerald, Hartford CT, founded 1786
Cooper, Erving & Savage, Albany NY, founded 1785
Rawle & Henderson, Philadelphia, founded 1783
Monday, January 13, 2020
What does it take for a company to survive for over 100 years? Take a look at Washington Trust, founded in 1800. Most financial institutions say their mission is to help customers achieve their financial goals and serve their local communities to help them thrive. That's what a bank needs to do if it wants to stay in business. But saying and doing are two different things. If survival is the ultimate performance measure of a business, then we have something to learn from Washington Trust. Their website claims they are the nation's oldest community bank. According to my records, this Washington Trust* is the oldest continuously operating financial institution in the U.S. All indications are that they have survived by implementing the longevity factors of CenturyClub companies.
Washington Trust has been recognized by Forbes magazine as one of America's "50 Most Trustworthy Financial Companies" and has been named one of Rhode Island's "Best Places to Work" for many years. They recognize that the success of a financial institution depends on the health of their communities as a whole and the company is known for its community involvement, including volunteerism by their employees.
Less than 15% of Century Club companies are public. It is often difficult to balance shareholders' needs with those of customers, employees, business partners, and community. Leaders can lose sight of the long-term if they are too focused on producing short-term results for an often impatient financial market. Washington Trust Bancorp is public (NASDAQ: WASH) and they have survived for 220 years. Such stability gives people the peace of mind they want in a financial institution and gives confidence that it will be there to help them into the future. Congratulations on 220 years in business and best wishes for many, many more.
*There is also a Washington Trust Bank in Spokane, Washington founded in 1902.