Thursday, September 18, 2014

Companies Turning 100 in 2014


Businesses "living" long enough to celebrate their 100th anniversary are rare and apparently getting ever more scarce.  Yale lecturer Richard Foster says the average lifespan of companies on the S&P 500 has decreased by more than 50 years in the last century: while successful companies lasted an average of 67 years in the 1920s, they typically exist for only 15 years today. So we should celebrate those firms who do make it to their 100th anniversary.  They have survived world wars, economic depression, huge advances in technology, globalization, and major social/cultural change to continue to serve their customers, provide a living for their employees, and contribute to their communities.

Here is my list of U.S. companies that reached the century milestone in 2014.  If you know of others, I would love to hear from you.

American Licorice Company
American Pop Corn Company
California Casulty
George P. Johnson
Johnson Smith Co.
Mechanical Devices Co.
Mine Safety Appliances
RS Lewis Funeral Home
Russ & Daughters
Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co.
Vogue Tyre & Rubber Co.

Friday, September 12, 2014

New Michigan 100 and Corporate Century Club Member: George P. Johnson (GJP)


George P. Johnson may have invented the field of experiential marketing. Though starting out in 1914 as a flag-making and sail-repair business in Detroit, it quickly established itself as a trade show and events management firm for Detroit's automobile industry. In the last few decades it has expanded to become a private multinational firm specializing in experiential marketing and brand management. Headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan it now operates 29 locations throughout the world.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New Corporate Century Club Member: American Pop Corn Company

When buyers offered Cloid H. Smith less than he wanted for the corn he grew on his farm land in Sac County, Iowa he decided to cut out the middlemen and in 1914 the American Pop Corn Co. was born in Sioux City where they have been for the last 100 years.  Sold under the brand name Jolly Time, the company is still in the Smith family, with 4th generation cousins running things.

The word "innovation" may not quickly come to mind when thinking about popcorn, but American Pop Corn Co. exhibits the dedication to protecting and developing unique technology seen in many companies that have survived over a century.  Beginning with the patented popcorn cribs Cloid designed that "put Jolly Time Pop Corn above the rest in terms of popability" (moisture content is essential to popping performance) and continuing to their patented cleaning, drying, and sorting process called "volumization," their technology focuses on obtaining a "guaranteed pop."  The company also reports innovations in packaging from the tin popcorn can to a pail (which they claim sparked the idea for the beer can), and was the first ever food brand to receive the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.  Whether you are a classic "BlastOButter" fan or prefer one of the other versions of their popcorn, chances are you have tasted this company's product.

The company reports having contracts with several multi-generational growers, exhibiting another characteristic of the Corporate Century Club: long-term relationships with suppliers.

Welcome to the Corporate Century Club!

Monday, September 8, 2014

French Paper Company



Established in 1871, French Paper is a 6th generation family-owned company in Niles, Michigan. One of the last small, independent mills in the country, French Paper exhibits the qualities adhered to by many of the "Corporate Century Club" - including a commitment to the environment.  It has been 100% hydro-electric powered since 1922, using power from a small hydro-electric power plant at the Niles dam.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Michigan's Century Club

I've been working at updating the list of Michigan's companies over 100 years old. Below is the most accurate data base I can put together at this time. The good news is that there are over 130 companies on the list. However, I may still be missing many small businesses, so if you know of a company that should be in Michigan's Business Century Club, please let me know.  Here's the list:

Acme Mfg.                                        1910                            Auburn Hills
American Seating                              1886                            Grand Rapids
Armstrong Int’l                                  1901                            Three Rivers                 5th gen
Atkins Hardware & Furniture       1905                            Vassar
Bahle’s (dept. store)                          1876                            Suttons Bay                             
Bauer’s Jewelry                                 1891                            Saginaw
Bissel                                                 1889                            Grand Rapids
Bond Decorating                                 1891                            Iron Mtn.
BorgWarner*                                       1880                            Auburn Hills
Brammal Industrial Supply                  1873                            Benton Harbor
Buckley’s Shoes                                  1894                            Bad Axe                       4th gen
Buis Mattress                                      1913                            Holland
Bulman Products                                 1905                            Grand Rapids              
Butzel Long                                        1854                            Detroit
Carhartt*                                            1889                            Dearborn
Carlson’s Jewelry & Gifts             1894                            Cadillac
Cascarellis Restaurant                         1909                            Albion                          4th gen
Central Michigan Paper                        1885                            Ada
Chelsea Lumber Co.                             1908                            Chelsea
Chelsea Milling                                    1901                            Chelsea
Chelsea State Bank                              1897                             Chelsea
Chris Engel’s Greenhouse                     1883                             Detroit
CMS Energy*                                        1890                             Jackson
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                                  1882   (in NL)                Zeeland
Detroit Store Fixture Co.                       1898                             Detroit
DeVries Jewelers                                   1901                             Grand Rapids
DeWitt Barrels                                       1893                             Marne
Dickenson’s Hardware                            1876                             Fennville
Diltrich Furs                                           1893                             Detroit
Doncker’s Candies & Gifts                1896                             Marquette
Dow Chemical*                                       1897                             Midland
Dykstra Funeral                                      1900                             Holland
Ebonex Corp.                                          1878                             Detroit Area
Edge-Sweets (ESCO)                                1887                             Grand Rapids
Eikenhout, Inc.                                       1894                             Grand Rapids
Federal Mogul*                                        1889                             Southfield
Feigi’s Interiors                                       1854                             Saginaw
Ford Motor Co.*                                       1903                             Dearborn
Frankenmuth  Brewery                             1912                            Frankenmuth
Frankenmuth News                                  1906                            Frankenmuth
French Paper Co.                                     1871                             Niles                             6th gen
Fris Office Outfitters                                1900                            Holland                          5th gen
Fritz Family Restaurant                            1902                             Richville                        5th gen
GB Russo & Son                                 1905                             Grand Rapids  
General Motors Co.                                  1908                             Detroit
George Jerome & Co.                        1828                             Roseville
George P. Johnson                                    1914                             Auburn Hills
Getz Dept. Store                                      1880’s                           Marquette
Gilbert Chocolates                                    1900                             Jackson
Golden Shoes                                            1905                             Traverse City
Gordon Food Service                                 1897                             Grand Rapids  
Graafscap Hardware                                  1860                             Holland           
Groskopf’s Luggage                                   1881                             Grand Rapids
Harley Ellis Devereaux                               1908                             Southfield                    
Heidi’s Old Village Flowers & Gifts     1905                             Plymouth
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
Independent Bank Corp                               1864                             Ionia
Irwin Seating                                              1908                             Grand Rapids
Jesperson’s Restaurant & Pie Shoppe   1903                             Petoskey
Johnson’s Studio Camera                            1892                             Cheboygan                   4th gen
Keep & Martinson Lumber                    1905                             Tekonsha
Kelloggs*                                                    1906                             Battle Creek
Kindel Furniture                                         1901                             Grand Rapids
Koeze Co.                                                  1910                             Grand Rapids
Kositchek’s                                                1865                             Lansing
Krzyske Bros Co.                                         1890                             Monroe, Waltz
Langeland- Sterenberg Funeral                   1860                              Holland
Lokers Shoes                                              1913                             Holland
Lovewell’s Corner Store                              1905                             Lupton
Mapes Furniture                                         1892                             St. Ignace
Martins Shoe House                                    1846                             Monroe                                   
Masters LaLonde Shoes                               1879                             Alpena
MBT Financial Corp                                     1859                             Monroe
McClellan’s Frankenmuth Woolen Mill          1894                             Frankenmuth
McKee Monument & Mercantile            1901                             Marshall
Metcaff & Gonkhoff Funeral                1894                             Grand Rapids               5th gen
Michigan Ladder                                         1901                             Ypsilanti
Milkins Jewelers                                         1905                             Wyandotte                   4th gen
Model Drug & Apothecary Shop            1908                             Holland
Moore & Carter Lumber                      1904                             Sandusky,  Croswell
Mosher’s Jewelers                                     1898                             Port Huron                   4th gen 
Murphy & Caris (Law Firm)                 1905                             Fremont                                  
Oliver Products                                         1890                             Grand Rapids              
Padnos                                                      1905                             Holland                        4th gen
Palmer Auto Svc.                                       1912                             Frankenmuth
Perrigo                                                     1887                              Allegan
Pewabic Pottery (non-profit)                      1903                             Detroit
Pomeroy Funeral Home                              1890                             Croswell
Power’s Clothing                                        1892                            Jonesville
Raymond Hardware                                   1850                             Port Sanilac
Reusch Jewelers                                        1885                            Cheboygan                   4th gen
Rogers Sterling Jewelers?                           1910                            Chegoygan
Schaefer Bierleen Cars                               1852                            Frankenmuth              6th gen
Sempliner’s Bride & Formal                 1873                            Bay City
Sieb Plumbing, Heating & A/C             1868                            Monroe            
Siegel Jewelers                                          1889                            Grand Rapids
Skaff Carpet & Furniture                     1911                            Flint
Smith Floral & Greenhouse                  1903                            Lansing
Staffan-Mitchell Funeral Homes                  1853                            Chelsea
Star of the West Milling Co.                        1848                            Frankenmuth
Steelcase*                                                  1912                            Grand Rapids
Steven’s Van Lines                                     1905                             Saginaw          4th & 5th gen
Sunnyside Florist                                        1894                            Owosso
Superior Sports Store                                  1909                            Holland                   4th gen 
Standard Supply & Lumber                   1904                           West Michigan            
The Yale Expositor                                      1882                            Yale
Vail Rubber Company                                  1904                            St. Joseph
VanPoppelen Bros. Inc.                               1904                             Bay City
Varnum                                                      1888                             Grand Rapids        
Vortuba Leather Goods                               1876                             Traverse City
Vredeveld Shoes                                         1909?                             Fremont
W.B. Hayden & Sons Hardware             1886                             Cassopolis
Webber’s Floral & Gift                         1905                             Sault Ste. Marie
West Branch Flour Mill                                1892                             West Branch   
West Michigan Printing (?)                           1886                             Ada
Westbrook True Value Hardware                 1888                              Croswell
Whirlpool*                                                  1911                              St. Joseph                         
White Insurance Agency                              1873                             Fremont
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
Yale Expositor                                            1882                              Yale
Zeeland Print Shop                                     1908                              Zeeland                       4th gen

Another Michigan Century Club Member

Not sure how I missed this company earlier, but DeWitt Barrels certainly belongs on the list of Michigan companies over 100 years old.  Founded in 1893 making and reconditioning wooden barrels, the company now sells, reconditions,  and disposes of steel barrels and plastic drums.  Still in the DeWitt family, the company is run by three DeWitt brothers in Marne, Michigan and is another old company committed to environmental issues.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Way to Invest in the "Corporate Century Club"

Do not take this as investment advice.  I am not a financial analyst, stock broker, or other investment professional.  However, as an academic researcher of old companies I find it very interesting that the president and CEO of Invesco Martin L. Flanagan uses these words to recommend a new ETF of century-old firms:  "We believe the PowerShares NYSE Century Portfolio (NYCC) offers investors targeted exposure to companies that have demonstrated the ability to innovate, transform, and grow through decades of varying economic cycles, political conditions, and social change" - the very argument I use at the beginning of all my papers to explain why I study old companies.

This fund is comprised of nearly 375 companies, all over 100 years old.  Reflective of observations I have made previously in this blog (that companies don't need to grow large in order to survive over the long term), just 30% of the portfolio is in large caps.  The composition of the fund also reflects statistics I have reported in my data base: financial and industrial firms comprise a large percentage of the stocks, and utilities are also represented at a higher rate than in the overall market.

One analyst (Eric Dutram, Zachs Investment Research) concludes his review of this fund by saying: "The fund could be an interesting choice for investors who want broad U.S. market exposure with a tilt towards safety....(however) NYCC might not be the best choice for those seeking a low cost option.  Additionally, the fund might not be a great pick in high growth environments (due to its tilt towards safer sectors), though the underlying index did outperform the S&P 500 in 2013."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Oldest Jeweler in the United States


Established in 1785, Bixler's claims to be the oldest continuously operating jeweler in the U.S. - and I believe them, since my data base also shows them as the oldest.  A sixth generation Bixler family member is still actively involved in the business in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

The next oldest jeweler in my data base was founded in 1836 - Bromberg's in Birmingham, Alabama.

                                                         Birmingham Jewelers Bold Logo Image - Bromberg & Co Inc.

If you know of older jewelry stores, please let me know!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Taking Employee Relations to a Whole New Level: Cranston Print Works

Cranston Print Works Company

Cranston Print Works (or CPW) had been in operation since 1807 when the governor of Rhode Island established a cotton printing plant in Cranston.  Surviving various owners over the centuries, the company became employee-owned in 1987 and is now a leader in the ESOP community.  Readers of this blog will recall that dedication to long-term relationships with employees is one of the common factors seen in many members of the "Corporate Century Club." Though many of these old companies are still family-owned, I have only found a few that are employee-owned and Cranston Print Works - at over 200 years - may be the oldest.

                                 Cranston Village Painting