Friday, August 22, 2014

Michigan's Oldest Companies

Following are the oldest businesses in Michigan based on my data base of 100-year-old companies. Michigan's oldest businesses all started prior to 1870 and have been in continuous operation since.  Three are located in Monroe and two in Frankenmuth. A few have changed their main line of business in order to survive and several are still in the same family - 5th, 6th and even 7th generation!

   Yaeger's Shoes

#1 (and 2): In an interesting tie for the oldest business, both Martin's Shoe House and Yaeger's Shoes are in Monroe and trace their roots back to 1846. Both are also generational family businesses - Martin's run by 5th and 6th generation and Yaeger's in the 5th generation. Both offer a full range of shoes in a retail store, with Martin's saying they "concentrate on corrective shoes for all ages" and they also have a shoe repair shop. Yaeger's says they specialize in custom shoe fitting and hard to find sizes.  Yaeger's has also expanded, opening a new store in Toledo, OH in 1995. Competition must be good for longevity!

#3. Next oldest is Star of the West Milling in Frankenmuth, which began in 1848 when two brothers built a dam and then erected a waterwheel powered flour mill. Over the years the mill has both changed ownership and expanded.  Today Star of the West operates five mills in four different states and is the 17th largest miller in the country.


#4. The fourth oldest Michigan business is one of three hardware stores on the list: Raymond Hardware has been doing business in Port Sanilac since 1850. Their description says "Whether you are a camper or boater, own a cottage, or live in the area year round, we have the products and advice to help you."  Open 7 days a week, with 6 delivery vehicles, they invite you to "stop in and ask for directions (they have free state and county maps) or get your fishing or hunting license."

#5. Another Frankenmuth business, Schaefer & Bierlein opened as a blacksmith and woodworking shop in 1852. In 1914 the already 62-year-old company began selling automobiles. Sixth generations later, Bierleins still run the business (new and used Chrysler, Jeep, RAM, and Dodge vehicles) "dedicated to progressive thinking and customer satisfaction."
#6. Next up is Winglemire Furniture, a family business in Holly since 1858. Fifth generation Winglemires now run the business with the slogan "Let Winglemire's feather your nest with a little down." They offer a variety of household furniture and are proud of their long and strong ties with the Holly community.


#7. Another hardware store is next - this one from my home town of Holland. Graafscap Hardware is a 7th generation family-owned business founded in 1860.  They distinguish themselves as "a small, local and friendly store that can help with questions and special orders." Their biggest sales are in bolts, nuts, screws and ammunition.  They say firearms is one of their niches - and window glass and screen repair.


#8. Proud to be "independent since 1864," Independent Bank Corp. is the first publicly-owned company on the list. Founded as First National Bank of Ionia, Independent Bank now operates 70 offices across Michigan's Lower Peninsula from its headquarters in Ionia.  .


#9. Kositchek's was started in 1865 in Easton Rapids and moved to its present location in downtown Lansing in the late 1800s.  Currently in the hands of the fourth generation family members, Kositchek's offers a collection of fine quality men's clothing, custom tailoring, and more.


#10. The oldest retail business in Kalamazoo, Hoekstra's Hardware has been in business since 1867. Though their web-site today is the typical one for True Value associate stores, an article by a reporter for the Kalamazoo Gazette ends with this quote from a long-term customer: "To me, there's no other place better than Hoekstra's.  If you can't find it anywhere else, you you can find it there. And if you can't find it there, they will order it for you."


#11. And last on the list is Sieb Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning that has been "proudly serving Monroe County since 1868." Claiming to be the oldest continuously family-owned plumbing and heating company in the U.S. they understand that "trust is a must" for their survival over nearly 150 years and many more to come.
So that's my list of Michigan's oldest companies. I am always looking for additions to my data base, so if you know of a Michigan business that has been in operation since before 1914, please let me know.  


  1. Woman's Life Insurance Society has been in business since 1892 in Port Huron, Michigan. It has also been doing business in its very own building that began construction in 1915 and opened in 1917. The company is a fraternal benefit society and was one of the first companies to provide life insurance for women. It has gone through a few name changes as it was originally named Woman's Benefit Association, then North American Benefit Association and now it's current name of Woman's Life Insurance Society.

  2. G.B. Russo & Son was started in Grand Rapids in 1905!

  3. General Contractor in Saginaw, MI that specializes in commercial construction projects - R.C. Hendrick & Son, Inc. Their website is for more information.

  4. Johnston Boiler in Ferrysburg, Michigan was created in 1864

  5. Hoekstra's Hardware is no longer an active business in Kalamazoo County. The oldest continuously operated business in Kalamazoo is now Kalamazoo Sportswear and Regalia, previously known as Ihling Bros. Everhard. We have been in operation since 1869. I hope you find this information valuable. Jim Bellinger, President of Kalamazoo Sportswear & Regalia, 728 W. Michigan, Kalamazoo, 49007, 269.344.4242.

  6. Young, Brothers and Daley is celebrating 125 years tomorrow, September 6, 2018

  7. Tecla Company, Inc., since 1897. Founded by Thomas E. Clark. Currently 4th generation. 5 divisions: Resco Pet Products (1937), Tecla Mainre (1972), Bert's Custom Tackle-purchased (2005), Walker Downriggers-purchased (2007) and Tecla Innovation. See

  8. The Frankenmuth Woolen Mill is has been continuous operating in the same building since 1894 making it Frankenmuth's oldest business to remain in its original location.

  9. Link to follow...

  10. Northville lumber is the oldest in the state of Michigan, it has been around since 1827.

  11. Originally established as a flour mill by John Miller in 1827 in what was then known as the "northernmost village of Plymouth Township," (later to become Northville), history buffs may be interested to learn that records on file with Oakland County validate Northville Lumber's claim to fame as the oldest business in Michigan.