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 from 2014 (the most recent data available).
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.
Other historic businesses: 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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