Historic businesses in every state
Historic businesses in every state
Take a look down any Main Street in America and you’re bound to see storefronts of relatively new businesses. Around one-third of the country's small businesses, defined as those with fewer than 500 employees, are less than 5 years old, while more than half of all small businesses have been around less than a decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Business Dynamic Statistics.
Unfortunately, statistics show that most businesses fail not long after they open. One in five companies go out of business within their first year and only around 33% of them survive at least a decade. Companies disappear all the time—so what’s the secret to creating a business that lasts for decades or even centuries to come?
To find out, Stacker took a look at some of the oldest businesses in America. We looked at news reports, roundups, historical records, and company websites to see which companies have been around the longest in every state. The youngest of the oldest businesses turned out to be a youthful 128 years old, while the most senior of the bunch has been around for more than four centuries—longer than the United States itself.
The research uncovered interesting clues about what gives a business staying power, despite major fires, economic disruptions, natural disasters, and technological advancements. Many companies on this list serve basic wants and needs that never change—like a funeral home in Tennessee, which started off as a cabinet shop that also crafted caskets, before fully transitioning into the death care industry. Several of the oldest businesses have stayed in the same family for centuries—Connecticut’s oldest business is now in the hands of its 12th generation. And some maintain that distinctive character of yesteryear, giving new customers a chance to travel back in time with a visit—just take a look up at the ceiling of Arizona’s oldest business to see bullet holes from what was perhaps a night of drunken cowboy revelry.
These businesses have bucked less-than-optimistic survival trends through a mix of hard work, innovation, and dumb luck. Click through to discover some of the oldest businesses in the United States, and how the historic business we featured from your state compares with others on the list.
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Bromberg’s, a jewelry store with locations in Birmingham and Mountain Brook, Alabama, has been open since 1836. It’s considered to be among the oldest family-owned companies in the U.S. Its first store, which was located in Mobile, was burned down in the Great Fire of 1839.
The Alaska Commercial Company can trace its roots back to 1776, when Catherine the Great gave the Russian American Trading Company the right to exchange goods and services for valuables, like fur and gold, in trading posts in the area. A couple of San Francisco merchants bought the company and gave the business its current name in 1867, after the U.S. bought Alaska. It now runs a chain of grocery and general stores throughout the state.
The Palace Restaurant and Saloon has been around longer than Arizona has been a state. The cowboy bar in Prescott first opened in 1877. If you visit, be sure to look up at the pressed tin ceiling, where you can spot real bullet holes that probably resulted from a drunken celebration, according to Scott Craven of The Republic.
Other historic businesses: Arizona Daily Star Newspaper (1877), Wells Fargo & Co. Financial services (1877)
When Robert Crittenden and Chester Ashley formed a partnership to practice law in 1820, they likely had no idea they’d be founding what would become the oldest business in Arkansas, Rose Law Firm. The law firm once counted former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a member.
The year 1849 marked the founding of three of California’s oldest businesses: Ducommun, a general store that’s now an aerospace and defense manufacturer; Tadich Grill, the oldest continuously-run restaurant in the state; and Boudin French Bakery, which produces sourdough bread in San Francisco.
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San Luis, Colorado, is home to the state’s oldest business: R&R Market. The store, which offers general merchandise and groceries, has been run out of the same adobe brick building since 1857.
Established in Orange, Connecticut, in 1639, the family-run Field View Farm is still going strong in its 12th generation. The roadside stand offers farm-fresh dairy products, veggies, ice cream, and heavy farm equipment.
DuPont, one of the world’s largest chemical companies, is also one of Delaware’s most historic businesses, at 218 years old. The company, which was founded in 1802, is known for its polymers (including Teflon and Lycra), refrigerants, and synthetic pigments.
Another historic business: Jessop's Tavern (1724)
The Pirates' House started as an inn for seafarers in Savannah, Georgia, in 1753. It quickly became the go-to spot for pirates and sailors to socialize. Now, it’s a family-friendly restaurant that serves Southern favorites like fried green tomatoes, crab dip, and corn fritters.
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There have been a lot of twists and turns during Amfac, Inc.’s 171 years in operation. The oldest business in Hawaii, which now operates under the name Kaanapali Land Management Corp., began as a dry good store and sugar company in 1849 and has since evolved into a coffee farm and land developer.
Joyce Livestock Co. has been raising cattle and pigs in Idaho since 1865. The 11,000-acre ranch has been in the same family for five generations.
Chicago’s elite have turned to C.D. Peacock for their jewelry needs since 1837. The oldest business in Illinois, it has counted Mick Jagger, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Marshall Field among its glitzy clientele.
If you find yourself craving comfort food and homemade pie on a trip to Balltown, Iowa, head to Breitbach’s Country Dining. The restaurant has been serving country-fried culinary delights since 1852, making it the oldest business in the state. It’s still in its original location, albeit in a new building after two fires burned the original structure to the ground in the late 2000s.
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Davis Funeral Chapel has been serving Kansas families since 1855. Located in Leavenworth, the family-run funeral chapel contains the town’s only on-site crematory operated by licensed professionals.
Kentucky’s oldest business has made its way into bars around the world. Jim Beam has distilled fine Kentucky bourbon in Clermont since 1795. While the company initially required customers to bring their own jugs if they wanted whiskey, it started bottling its booze for national sale under the brand Old Tub in 1880.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is not just the oldest business in Louisiana—it’s also the oldest building used as a bar in the country. The historic watering hole in New Orleans started serving pirates in 1772 and has since become a hangout for the local gay community.
Considered one of the oldest hotels in America, the Seaside Inn has been a vacation destination in Kennebunk Beach, Maine, since 1667. It’s been owned by the Gooch family throughout its history.
Visitors to Annapolis, Maryland, can drink in the same bar as the founding fathers at Middleton Tavern, which was founded in 1750. The walls of the Georgian building are lined with historic treasures, like Civil War muskets, classic paintings of local landscapes, and antique Naval Academy uniforms.
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Barker’s Farm Stand in North Andover, Massachusetts, has been harvesting and selling locally-grown fruits and vegetables since 1642. The Barker family has kept the farm running since it was founded.
Over the years since it was built in Natchez, Mississippi, around 1789, King’s Tavern has been a tavern, an inn, and even a post office, before reverting back to its restaurant roots in recent years. Rumor has it that the building is haunted by the spirit of the founder’s mistress.
Open since 1863, Bale of Hay Saloon started as a grocery and liquor store before converting into an Old West saloon around 1890. Rum and whiskey aren’t the only spirits at this bar in Virginia City, Montana—it’s also supposedly haunted by ghosts.
Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Florence Mill was founded in Omaha, Nebraska in 1846. The historic gristmill is now a museum and local art gallery.
The Genoa Bar and Saloon bills itself as “Nevada’s Oldest Thirst Parlor,” tracing its roots back to 1853. The establishment contains tons of original treasures from the 19th century, including half the bar, medallions on the ceiling, and a red oil lamp that is traditionally lit every New Year’s Eve.
Tuttle’s Red Barn was established in Dover, New Hampshire, in 1632. The farm became the subject of the children’s book, “Tuttle’s Red Barn: The Story of America’s Oldest Family Farm,” in 2007.
Opened in 1692, A. W. Van Winkle & Co. is both the oldest business in New Jersey and the nation’s oldest real estate firm. The company is based in Rutherford.
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It should come as little surprise that the oldest business in New Mexico is a Spanish restaurant. Established as La Cantina del Canon in 1835, the restaurant now operates under the name El Farol and hosts dinner shows featuring dancers from the National Institute of Flamenco.
Open since 1680, Saunderskill Farms in Accord, New York, is one of the few recipients of the Department of Agriculture’s rare Tricentennial Awards. The farm, which includes a market and bakery, has been run by the Schoonmaker family for 11 generations.
North Carolina residents have turned to Lakeside Mills near Kinston for stone-ground cornmeal products since 1736. While it changed hands during the first half of its time in business, the company has been run by the King family since 1929.
In print since 1873, The Bismarck Tribune is considered the oldest business in North Dakota. The newspaper became famous when it broke the news on George Custer’s Last Stand in 1876.
With startup costs of just $4 in 1803, the Golden Lamb has been serving food and providing lodging to travelers in Lebanon, Ohio, ever since. The hotel and restaurant got its name from a golden lamb sign outside the building—a helpful marker for the many people who did not know how to read at that time.
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Fifteen years before Oklahoma was a state, BC Clark Jewelers opened up shop as a five and dime store in Chickasha, Indian Territory in 1892. It’s now a jewelry store with three locations in Oklahoma City.
Founded in 1849, Van Dusen Beverages is a bottler of Aquafina, Dr. Pepper, and Pepsi in Astoria, Oregon. The business was originally Van Dusen Mercantile, but it transitioned into beverages in 1947.
The Rowland Company in Philadelphia has been helping keep giant machines running since 1732. The company was created by Benjamin Rowland, a relative of a man who came to America with Pennsylvania founder William Penn five decades earlier.
Rhode Island’s Kenyon’s Grist Mill in Usquepaugh has been grinding grain and corn into flour and meal since 1696. It still uses its vintage grist mill from 1886, complete with its original granite millstones quarried from nearby Westerly, to create its products the old-fashioned way.
Another historic company: The White Horse Tavern (1683)
McCrady’s Tavern and Long Room, opened in 1778, has a storied history as the go-to spot for socializing in Charleston, South Carolina. President George Washington supposedly savored a 30-course meal at the long-standing restaurant, according to Wil Fulton and Joe McGauley of Thrillist.
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Families have counted on Look’s Marketplace in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for fresh meat since 1883. Over the years, the business has expanded from a butcher to a well-rounded marketplace with a café, bakery, brewery, and full-service restaurant.
Once a cabinet shop that also produced caskets and offered burial services, Austin & Bell Funeral Home is the oldest business in Tennessee. It has expanded into five locations since it opened in 1842 in Turnersville.
One of the original 100 families brought to Texas ended up establishing the state’s now-oldest business, Imperial Sugar, in 1843. The brand’s sweeteners can now be found at grocery stores across the southeastern U.S.
The Deseret News, Utah’s oldest business, has been reporting the news continuously since 1850. The publication is owned by the Deseret Management Corporation, a for-profit company affiliated with the Mormon Church.
Shirley Plantation takes the title of Virginia’s oldest business. It was founded in 1613 and still operates as a working plantation, as well as a private residence, a National Historic Landmark, and a state landmark.
Founded in 1845, Minhas Craft Brewery is the oldest business in Wisconsin and one of the most historic breweries in the country. The brewery produces old-fashioned sodas in addition to craft beer.