Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Three 175th Anniversary Celebrations in 2020

A public manufacturing company, a law firm, and a mutual insurance company all celebrate 175 years of continuous operation this year. Century Club congratulations!
Brunswick is a public (NYSE:BC) manufacturer of a variety of products and brands in the recreational marine market. Though they had expanded into other areas over the years (bowling, cycling, billiards) their primary focus today is boating.

Based in Newark, McCarter & English is among the oldest law firms in the U.S. Founded in 1845 it now has over 400 lawyers with offices in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Washington DC in addition to New Jersey.

New York Life is the third largest insurance company in the United States and the 6th oldest insurance carrier by my records. It is a mutual insurance company, which means it is owned by its policy holders. As a "customer-owned" company, profits earned in are either retained within the company or returned to policyholders in the form of dividends or reduced future premiums. Interestingly, many agricultural cooperatives, another form of a customer owned company, have also thrived for over 100 years.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Three Businesses Celebrate 180 Years

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: 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Two 6th Generation Companies Celebrate 185 Years in Business

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

Customers Help Rescue 190-Year-Old Clore Furniture

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

Three Businesses Celebrate 195 Years in 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

Small Generational Companies Celebrate Over 200 Years Business

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

Rose Law Firm Celebrates 200th Anniversary

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

Rhode Island's Washington Trust Celebrates 220 Years

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. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Employee-Owned King Arthur Flour Turns 230

"Try it once, trust it always"  
"Shaped by hand, powered by heart"  
"Baking with joy since 1790"

These are just a few of the sayings King Arthur Flour posts on the website.They are an employee-owned company whose stated mission is "to be the ultimate resource and inspiration in the kitchen, to inspire connections and community through baking, and to use our business as a force for good." 

In 2007 they became a B Corp, saying this reflects their commitment to all stakeholders - customers, business partners, community and the natural environment. "After all, healthy relationships with all of these stakeholders will enable our centuries-old business to continue toward our mission for another 200 years."  You would be hard-pressed to find a company more reflective of the longevity factors uncovered in my research on 100-year-old companies. 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

U.S. Oldest Jeweler and Second Oldest Law Firm Celebrate 235 Year Anniversaries

1785 saw the beginning of two of America's oldest continuously-operating firms: Bixler's Jewelers in Allentown, PA and Cooper, Erving & Savage legal services in Albany, NY. 

In 2006 the 6th generation Bixler to own the jewelry store sold the business to another jeweler; in 2016 it was sold once again to Perry Sporn who changed the name of his company (Sporn Co.) to Bixler's. Once a Century Club company leaves the family, that is often the beginning of the end. However, in the case of Bixler's it looks like Sporn intends to celebrate all that enabled Bixler's longevity as a retail jeweler and do what is necessary to ensure its operation into the future by establishing Bixler's as a wholesale brand. 

The "Cooper" in the Albany, NY law firm Cooper Erving & Savage comes from the son and grandson of author James Fenimore Cooper. Paul joined the firm in 1850 and his son James became a partner in 1882. The firm was founded, however, by Abraham Van Vechten in 1785 when he became the first lawyer admitted to practice in New York after the adoption of the state constitution. He has since been referred to as the "Father of the New York Bar." Today's lawyers with the firm are still providing legal services to individuals and businesses in upstate New York.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

America's Oldest Distiller Celebrates 240 Years in Business

My economist colleagues tell me the oldest business in many countries is a distillery or brewery. Though Laird & Company may not by America's oldest business it certainly holds a position of distinction (it's #12 on my list of oldest continuously operating U.S. companies). The founding Laird (Alexander) immigrated to the New Jersey area from Scotland in 1698 and there are records of Laird providing applejack to colonial troops and even of George Washington asking for his recipe. So - though there were likely earlier sales of Laird applejack - since the first recorded commercial sale was in 1780, that is considered the founding date of the company.

The 6th generation Laird to run the company (Joseph) faced prohibition and kept the company in business by producing non-alcoholic apple products such as sweet cider and applesauce. During WWII Laird converted a portion of their distillery into the dehydration of apple pomace to produce pectin, which was used as a preservative for war food rations. These are just a few examples of how Laird exhibits longevity factor #2 from my research: Unique Core Strengths + Change Management.

Today the company is run by 8th generation Larrie Laird. Congratulations on 240 years in business!

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

John Stevens Shop Celebrates 315 Year Anniversary

One of the oldest continuously operating businesses in the United States is Newport, Rhode Island's stone carver John Stevens Shop. John Stevens immigrated from England in 1698 and later set up shop in Newport in 1705. For more than 220 years three generations of Stevens produced some of colonial America's most beautiful gravestones, many of which can still be seen in the Common Burying Ground near the carving shop. The business was purchased by John Benson in 1927 and is now run by third generation Nicholas Benson. Profiled by the History Channel and studied by Google, "this olde shop" exemplifies what it takes for a business to survive over the centuries. Nicholas Benson has been awarded both the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship. Stone carving is a craft and Benson says each job requires personal, painstaking execution, one chisel stroke at a time. "The minute you try to turn this into a growth business, you lose all sight of what the product is, what you have devoted years and years to getting good at. You don't get rich doing it. So unless you really love it and you have a great legacy like this one, why bother?"

Monday, January 6, 2020

42 Companies Celebrated 100th Anniversaries in 2019

Before we begin to celebrate those firms joining the Century Club in 2020, I need to update the list of those who achieved that milestone in 2019. Less than 1/2 of 1% of U.S. companies last 100 years or more - survival over the long term is truly one of the best (if not THE best) success measure for a business. Of these companies, 29 are generational family-owned businesses and three are employee-owned; only two are publicly traded. These companies represent many industry categories and 24 states. (As always, please let me know if I have missed a company that should be on this list.)

Baird, Milwaukee WI
Balise Motor Sales, West Springfield MA
Community Coffee, Baton Rouge LA
Crescent Electric, East Dubuque IL
Cummins, Columbus IN
C.W. Driver, Pasadena CA
D-A Lubricant, Lebanon IN
Deering Construction, Norwalk CT
Don Moore Automotive, Owensboro KY
Doyle Security Systems, Rochester NY
Durkee-Mower, Lynn MA
Elebash Jewelry, Pensacola FL
Elverson Supply Company, Elverson PA
Famers Elevator & Exchange, Monroe City MO
First National Community Bank, New Richmond WI
Garris Evans Lumber, Greenville NC
Gordon Auto Parts, Racine WI
Halliburton, Houston TX
Hayden Corporation, West Springfield MA
Hy-Point Dairy, Wilmington DE
Jefferson Lines, Minneapolis MN
Kuhnhausen's Furniture Showcase, Portland OR
Lake Union Dry Dock, Seattle WA
Lamour Printing, Monroe MI
Markstein Sales, Antioch CA
Meadowlark Dairy, Pleasanton CA
Michuda Construction, Tinley Park IL
Mill-Rose, Mentor OH
Palmetto Brick Company, Wallace SC
Reno Agency, Wayland MI
Rosendin, San Jose CA
Rowerdink, Grand Rapids MI
Scully-Monroe Agency, Monroe City MI
Serrano's, Chandler AZ
Servco, Honolulu HI
Standard Electric Supply, Milwaukee WI
Stockwell Elastomerics, Upper Holmesburg PA
Wahl Clipper, Sterling IL
Walter's Hot Dogs, Mamaroneck NY
Whipple & Company, Moorestown MI
Wimmer's Diamonds, Fargo ND
Woodman's Market, Janesville WI