The Oldest Business in Every Major U.S. City
After five years, a new small business has a 50 percent chance to survive, according to the Small Business Administration. Roughly 30 percent of all businesses will survive 10 years or more.
But how many can survive 50, 100, 150 or even 200 years? There’s no data on that, but we’re guessing it’s a very, very low number. Yet these businesses have thrived for generations. We’re taking a look at the longest-running, continually operating businesses in major U.S. cities. From restaurants to law firms, banks to moving companies, these long-standing businesses have beat the test of time.
To make this list of America’s oldest businesses, the business had to be continually operating within the city. Closures due to unpreventable things like natural disasters or shuttering to move or renovate are fine. Take a look — maybe you’ll find an historic business near you that you never even knew about.
Cities are listed in order from largest to smallest by population.
New York City: The Bank of New York Mellon
While it’s no longer known as simply the Bank of New York — the bank merged with Mellon Financial in 2007 — the Bank of New York Mellon is considered one of the oldest banks in the entire world. The bank was founded by Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr (before that whole conspiracy and treason thing); today, it manages $1.9 trillion assets.
Los Angeles: Ducommun
Type: Defense and aerospace manufacturing
What started as a simple watch repair shop grew into a $500 million defense and aerospace manufacturer over 170 years. Charles Louis Ducommun, a 29-year-old Swiss immigrant, founded his repair shop in Los Angeles a year before California became a state, during the Gold Rush. His shop grew with the city and the times. By the late 1920s, it had expanded into the newfound aviation space, while World War II provided an opportunity for defense contracting, according to LA Almanac.
Ducommun is also the oldest business in the entire state of California.
Chicago, Illinois: C.D. Peacock
Similar to Ducommun, C.D. Peacock started as a jewelry and watch repair service. Unlike Ducommun, CD Peacock stayed in the same space. C.D. Peacock opened the same year that Chicago became an incorporated city; the businesses’ website claims one historian — who may have been moonlighting as a PR person — said its opening marked Chicago passing “from semi-savage conditions to civilization and refinement.”
Houston, Texas: Baker Botts LLP
Type: Law firm
Baker Botts was founded three years after the founding of Houston. Founded by Peter Gray (pictured), the firm says it helped develop the city of Houston itself and hired its first female lawyers in the 1920s. In celebration for its 175th anniversary, the firm published a lengthy account of its long history.
Phoenix: Fennemore Craig
Type: Law firm
Richard Sloan founded this law firm in 1855, when only 5,000 people lived in Phoenix and the city took up just one-and-a-half square miles. Today the firm employs over 134 attorneys and is the 308th biggest law firm in the country.
Philadelphia: Rawle & Henderson LLP
Type: Law firm
Rawle & Henderson is the oldest law firm still in business in the United States. The company represents a wide range of industries in civil law defense and says its “aggressive attitude” is “a hallmark of our practice.”
San Antonio: C.H. Guenther and Son
Type: Flour, grains, baked goods, baking and cooking mixes
German immigrant Carl Hilmar Guenther built a flour mill in San Antonio in 1859 near the San Antonio River. His was the first flour mill in the city and it was a success; by 1875, the newly built railroads allowed him to export his flour elsewhere around the South.
Today, C.H. Guenther and Son owns White Lilly and Pioneer Flour Mills. However, it’s no longer a family business — after 166 years of staying in the Guenther family, Pritzker Group purchased the flour company in 2018 for a transaction valued as much as $1.4 billion, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Guenther’s original home is now a museum and gift shop.
San Diego: Tivoli Bar and Grill
Type: Restaurant and bar
Cheap drinks and burgers are the Tivoli Bar and Grill’s forte. Established in 1885 in the city’s Gaslamp district, the bar has a colorful history. It’s said to have been one of Wyatt Earp’s hangouts, and the apartments above the bar used to be its brothel, according to Thrillist.
Dallas, Texas: Triple/S Dynamics, Inc.
Type: Separating equipment
Originally known as Sutton & Steele, Triple/S Dynamics developed the first gravity separators for agricultural and mineral products. The first dry concentrators were made entirely out of wood; by 1919, the company’s machines were “installed in every state in the U.S. except Maine” as well as 13 countries, according to the company’s website.
San Jose, California: Chiaramonte’s Deli and Sausages
This Italian deli near Backesto Park has been a family business for over 110 years. Its sourdough sausage sandwich is the signature dish, to be enjoyed in a restaurant that hasn’t changed its look or feel since the 1950s.
Austin, Texas: Scholz Garten
Type: Restaurant and bar
German immigrant and Civil War veteran August Scholz bought the original building and the surrounding area for $2,400 in 1866. The restaurant serves pretzels, wurst, burgers and other Austrian and German foods — and of course, there’s a ton of beers to prost with.
Jacksonville, Florida: Jacobs’ Jewelers
Jacob’s Jewelers is famous for two things in Jacksonville: its jewelry and its clock. The Jewelry Store acquired the 15-foot timepiece in 1927; it represents the rebirth of Jacksonville after the Great Fire of 1901.
Fort Worth, Texas: Pendery’s Spices
According to Pendery family lore, when a well-dressed DeWitt Clinton Pendery arrived in the untamed lands of Fort Worth, a cowboy sent a bullet through his top hat. He calmly stooped down, picked it up, dusted it off, and went about his day — and in a while, those days would be filled with slinging spices, not bullets. DeWitt’s signature spice was “chiltomaline,” a “combination of ground select chile pods, cumin, oregano and other spices,” according to the company’s website.
Patrons can buy chiltomaline at the company’s main shop in Fort Worth, which is crowned with a bullet-holed top hat sign.
Columbus, Ohio: E.E. Ward Moving and Storage
E.E. Ward Moving and Storage is the oldest continually operating black-owned business in the United States. The company’s founder, John T. Ward, was a conductor for the Underground Railroad, using his two-horse wagon to transport slaves between safe houses, according to CNN. Today, the company generates over $5 million each year and employs 50 full-time workers.
San Francisco, California: Tadich Grill or Boudin Bakery
There’s no clear-cut winner here. Both Tadich Grill and Boudin Bakery claim to be the oldest, continually running business in San Francisco. Each was founded in 1849, although neither claims a specific date.
Tadich Grill (pictured) began as a coffee tent run by three immigrants from Croatia in 1849. Over the next 60 years it moved to several locations (one was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake) before the restaurant settled in on Clay Street in 1912.
Boudin Bakery bills itself as “the original San Francisco sourdough.” It was founded in 1849 by Isidore Boudin, and now has over 25 locations throughout California, including a bakery and café at the city’s famed Fisherman’s Wharf.
Charlotte, North Carolina: Hodges Family Farm
The Hodges Family Farm is one of the last surviving privately owned farms in North Carolina. Normally a farm that sold its produce to local shops and mills, Hodges Family Farm entered the agritourism business in 2014 to increase revenue. They own and operate a small seasonal shop, and will be selling farm-raised beef this spring.
Indianapolis, Indiana: Martin Fine Furniture
Perhaps better known in Indianapolis for its insane commercials, Martin Fine Furniture is also the city’s oldest business. The furniture company is currently headed by the great-grandson of Michael Clune, who created the company over 150 years ago.
Sadly, Marty McDermott, the previous owner who could be seen on local television killing Martian customers with a laser gun or karate-chopping prices, died in 2013.
Seattle, Washington: Bonney Watson
Type: Memorial services
When Mary Emeline Bonney and her husband, Oliver C. Shorey, arrived in Seattle in 1861, the town was populated by only 150 people. Shorey, a carpenter, partnered up with a man named A.P. Delin and set up a cabinet shop. In 1868 they added coffins to their list of wares — a smart move, because as Seattle’s population swelled, so did the need for caskets.
Denver, Colorado: The Oxford Hotel
In the 1870s, Denver was a bustling city; by 1890, its population grew to 106,713. Railroads brought an influx of people to and from the city, which meant they needed somewhere to stay. The Oxford Hotel was erected in 1891 and has been serving guests for over 100 years — and, possibly, illegally so. The hotel’s “cruise room” allegedly opened the day after Prohibition’s repeal (convenient!), although the lack of windows suggests that its unofficial opening happened quite a bit earlier.
Washington, D.C: Old Ebbitt Grill
Type: Restaurant and bar
There’s a philosophical case to be made that the longest-running business in D.C. is the Capitol Building, but the oldest, and more honest, continually operating business in the city is Old Ebbitt Grill. Recognized as the oldest saloon in Washington, this establishment first served as a boarding house and bar. Several presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt, are said to have drank at the bar. It has since moved to several locations and now serves seafood, sandwiches and burgers.
A special shout to the Round Robin Bar, located in what is now the Willard InterContinental Hotel, which didn’t make the cut even though it opened in 1847. The bar was closed for 18 years in the 1970s-1980s when the hotel closed for renovations.
Boston, Massachusetts: State Street
It was too “big to fail” during the Great Recession, and thanks to a slice of that $700-billion 2008 bailout, State Street is still the oldest business in Boston. Originally known as Union Bank, its charter was signed by Massachusetts’s first governor, John Hancock; today, it manages $2.95 trillion in assets.
El Paso, Texas: Price’s Creameries
Mary Price started her creamery with just one cow; her sons delivered the milk to customers. In 1918 the Prices bought a Model T and had two horse-drawn delivery wagons. In 1929, Price’s Dairy Company merged with several other dairy and ice cream companies, becoming Price’s Creameries.
Price’s Creameries is now a subsidiary of Dean Foods, but it still operates in El Paso.
Detroit, Michigan: R. Hirt Jr., Company
Type: Specialty foods
Swiss immigrant Rudolph Hirt, Jr. used all of his life savings to open up a food stall in Detroit’s central market in 1887. He expanded the business to include imported specialty foods in the early 1900s; eventually, R. Hirt Jr., Co. became an exclusive wholesale vendor of imported chocolates, olive oil, cheeses, jams and other tasty stuff. The business remains a Hirt family operation.
Nashville, Tennessee: Warren Brothers Sash & Door Co.
Type: Building products and custom millwork
For over 160 years, Warren Brothers Sash and Door has supplied doors, molding, windows and stair systems to the Nashville area. The company also does architectural millwork for both new construction and — fittingly — historic restoration.
Portland, Oregon: Huber’s
Type: Cocktail bar
Throughout its history as a saloon and Prohibition-era speakeasy, Huber’s has offered turkey sandwiches for nearly 140 years. It’s been at its current location on Third Avenue since 1910. Aside from the turkey, guests love the Spanish Coffee, which consists of Bacardi 151 rum (which is lit on fire), Bols Triple Sec, Kahlua, coffee, whipped cream and a touch of nutmeg.
Huber’s makes so many of these drinks that it uses more Kahlua than any other restaurant in America — and it has the plaques to prove it!
Memphis, Tennessee: Orgill
Type: Hardline distribution
Orgill — once known as Orgill Brothers — began in 1847, when Memphis had just 7,000 residents. Originally, the brothers sold hardware, cutlery and guns. Today, they ship hardware worldwide and have annual sales of $2.5 billion. The Orgill family still runs it.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: BC Clark Jewelers
Known for their holiday jingle — it even has its own webpage — shopping at BC Clark Jewelry is a time-honored tradition for Oklahomans.
Las Vegas, Nevada: The Golden Gate Hotel and Casino
Type: Hotel and casino
The lot for the Golden Gate cost just $1,750 when John F. Miller purchased it in 1905. Originally known as Hotel Nevada, room and board was just $1 a night, although that didn’t include drinking or gambling at the casino’s roulette and poker tables. The Rat Pack frequently hung at this hotel during the 1960s.
Louisville, Kentucky: Wyatt, Tarrant and Combs
Type: Law firm
This law firm is astonishingly old — 208 years, to be exact — so it must be doing something right. Wyatt, Tarrant and Combs has its roots in the frontier days, when William Marshall Bullitt opened his law firm in Louisville.
Baltimore, Maryland: G. Krug and Son
G. Krug and Son is the oldest, continually-operating blacksmiths in the United States. Not only that, but they’ve held the same shop on Saratoga Street since 1810. The business is now in the hands of the Krugs’ fifth and sixth generations.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Mader’s
For $0.23, you could get a porterhouse steak and a stein of beer at Mader’s when it first opened 118 years ago. Lunch was $0.04 — and it was free if you drank two $0.03 beers. This German restaurant is a bit pricier now — though not expensive —and there’s still plenty of beer. The same family still owns and operates it.
New Orleans, Louisiana: Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
Founded: Between 1722 and 1732
Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop might be the oldest bar in the United States. The bar is rumored to have been owned by the pirate Jean Lafitte and his brother and used as a base of operations for smuggling. It’s never been confirmed that Lafitte owned the place, but it’s a good story. The shop’s current treasure is its purple daiquiri, commonly ordered by asking for “that purple drank.”
Tucson, Arizona: Tanque Verde Ranch
Type: Dude ranch
The original owner of Tanque Verde — Spanish for “green tank” or “green pool” — did not have good luck. That man, Don Emilio Carrillo, was attacked and hanged by bandits after he started making money from the ranch.
Luckily, subsequent owners did have luck with Tanque Verde, which has been operating as a dude ranch for over 150 years.
Fresno, California: Cosmopolitan Tavern and Italian Grill
The Cosmopolitan Tavern and Italian Grill may not be at its original location — it moved in 2016 — but the establishment made sure to bring its 700-pound bar, built in the 1930s, with it.
Sacramento, California: Wells Fargo
According to the company’s website, Wells Fargo “earned a reputation of trust by dealing rapidly and responsibly with people’s money.” About 170 years later, Wells Fargo’s reputation would mostly be known for laundering billions of dollars for the Mexican cartel, illegally opening 3.5 million fake accounts for its unwitting customers, forcing 570,000 people into unneeded car insurance, charging illegal fees for its mortgage rate interest lock products and a bunch of other stuff that is the direct opposite of being responsible with other people’s money.
Wells Fargo opened in San Francisco in 1852, but its second office was in Sacramento in 1852. The bank operates one of its 12 Wells Fargo museums in the city.
Atlanta, Georgia: The Atlanta Gas Light Company
Type: Utility company
Industrialist William Helme of Pennsylvania started the Atlanta Gas Light Company, which was approved for construction in 1855 and completed by 1856. But being from the north wasn’t a good thing — when the Civil War broke out, the city took over the company because those dirty northerners were deemed “alien enemies” to the state, according to Georgia Encyclopedia. Then General Sherman burned the whole company to the ground in 1864.
The company was rebuilt, though, and by 1880 Atlanta Gas Light was up and powering all of Atlanta once again. Even with the interruption brought on by Sherman’s March, the Atlanta Gas Light Company is still the oldest, continually operating one in Atlanta.
Kansas City, Missouri: McCormick Distilling Company
McCormick says it’s “the oldest distillery west of the Mississippi River still operating in its original location.” The company offers tequila, gin, whiskey and vodka, but only distills vodka; the rest are imported. One familiar brand might be Vodka 360, the offspring of the company’s eco-friendly conservation efforts.
Colorado Springs: Sinton Dairy
Sinton Dairy hasn’t been in the Sinton family since 1980, but it has been operating in Colorado Springs for 140 years. However, like for many dairy operations over the last decade, business hasn’t been easy. Sinton Dairy laid off 120 workers in 2015 and ended its fresh milk production, shifting its focus to milk that stays on the shelf longer. In 2011, the Sinton name was removed and the milk re-branded under its parent company, Borden. Borden filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early January 2020; it owes between $100 and $500 million to creditors.
Miami, Florida: Miami Transfer Company
With over 120 years of service, the Miami Transfer Company is the longest-running business in Miami. It was established the same year that Miami was officially incorporated; the population was about 300.
Raleigh, North Carolina: Briggs Hardware
Type: Hardware store
Technically, Briggs Hardware hasn’t been continually operating for 155 years — in July 2015, the store shop closed but re-opened one month later with a new business plan under another Briggs family member. It’s smaller and sells things you might not expect a hardware store to, like hams, but with big box stores and online retailers taking more and more business away from mom and pop hardware shops, it’s a smart move. And in our opinion, operating for 1,859 months instead of 1,860 isn’t a disqualifier.