Join 3,551 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Corporate survivors
September 28, 2005 7:54 AM   Subscribe

The world's oldest family companies start with a 1,400 year old Japanese family business that has always built Buddhist temples. On the corporation side, only one of the great chartered companies survives, Canada's Hudson Bay Company, founded in 1670, and now a large retailer, though there may be much older corporations. There is even a club with an interesting web site, Les Hénokien, for companies that are over 300 years old. If companies aren't your thing, there is always the world's oldest restaurant in Spain.
posted by blahblahblah (24 comments total)

 
Huh. The HBC FAQ page is surprisingly interesting. I tend to forget that they weren't always such a dull retailer.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:01 AM on September 28, 2005


Wow, I live right near Shitennouji (the correct way to spell it) Temple in Osaka. I haven't been bothered seeing it yet but reading this article has given me something to do this weekend. Thanks!
posted by Jase_B at 8:06 AM on September 28, 2005


Hmmmm Guinness Book of Records clearly hasn't been to Austria as Salzburg's Stiftskeller St. Peter claims to have been around for nearly a millenia longer than Casa Botin!
Good food too.
posted by dickdotcom at 8:21 AM on September 28, 2005


The oldest bank in the world - since 1472.
posted by iviken at 8:49 AM on September 28, 2005


Yeah, there are a couple of sushi joints in Tokyo that have been around a good 150-200 years longer than Casa Botin. There are ryokan still open and greeting guests and serving meals that are even older than that. I think Guiness must be being a bit Latincentric here.
posted by luriete at 9:17 AM on September 28, 2005


I think its the oldest continuosly operating restaurant. Otherwise, I guess, I could re-open some tavern from the 17th century and say that now mine is the oldest.
posted by vacapinta at 10:33 AM on September 28, 2005


It's certainly weird to think that the Hudson's Bay Company once owned the vast majority of what is now Canada.

All these years later and (as jacquilynne pointed out above) it's now a boring retail store, much like Target or Sears.

In the town where I grew up, I was once falsely accused of shoplifting in our local Bay store by an overzealous security guard. I was only a little kid and the memory still stings. It was also the place where, according to our local rag, the 'homosexuals' met for 'clandestine activities'. This was due to the fact that the Bay had the only public washrooms in the mall at the time. Relevance to this thread = none whatsoever.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:49 AM on September 28, 2005


Oh, if only the HBC was half as good as Target. I can only assume you've never been to "Targ├ęt" as my now-living-in-the-USA sister likes to call it. I long for the day when Target snaps up Zellers and it finally becomes a reasonable choice instead of a slightly warmed-over Wal-Mart.

Even the venerable Bay has fallen on hard times. Who shops there anymore?
posted by GuyZero at 11:01 AM on September 28, 2005


Oh, I've been to Target GuyZero. My only recollection was that those signs sure were funny, and weren't they afraid people would shoot at them?

In its defense, The Bay does go for a more up-scale look than Zellers, Target, Wal-Mart, whatever. I feel sick now that I've typed that last sentence and read it back. I think I need to go lie down for awhile.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:17 AM on September 28, 2005


I believe the HBC is pretty much up for grabs to the highest bidder these days.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:43 AM on September 28, 2005


And I sure wish Eatons was still around.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:44 AM on September 28, 2005


In May 2002 Hbc's coat of arms was updated and the Latin motto eliminated from the new version.

Bastards.
posted by languagehat at 11:45 AM on September 28, 2005


Don't forget about the world's oldest Salad Dressing.
posted by grateful at 11:52 AM on September 28, 2005


Incidentally, I like that "English Merchants Adventurers" was one of the first pseudo-companies' names, much like the Hanseatic League. Both are so much better than Microsoft, entrepreneurs take note!
posted by blahblahblah at 12:02 PM on September 28, 2005


Fake heritage is a huge marketing ploy: I'm sure there are people in offices right now fabricating back-stories for all manner of products. And yet, there's also a long history of homogenising well-known and much-loved local companies that have been taken over or merged into larger corporations.

That might be changing: a number of large companies have revived old names, such as Mercedes with its Maybach luxury brand. But it's not the same as continuous existence.

Two of my favourite (relatively) old companies: Hoare's bank (1672) and Smith's umbrella shop (1830), both in London.
posted by holgate at 12:10 PM on September 28, 2005


It's certainly weird to think that the Hudson's Bay Company once owned the vast majority of what is now Canada.

Not really, from a historical perspective: the great chartered companies of the 17th and 18th centuries truly were the precursors to the European empires of the 19th century. The British East India Company was more or less in charge of the subcontinent until the so-called 'Indian Mutiny'.

Makes you wonder whether it's a cyclical thing, and the great multinationals of the current era might be the precursor to a second age of empire.
posted by holgate at 12:16 PM on September 28, 2005


holgate: That's a fair point, but people in India can't run down to the British East India Company to buy some underwear in the year 2005. If you see what I mean.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:32 PM on September 28, 2005


GuyZero & Stinkycheese - you guys do realize that HBC owns Zellers, right?
posted by Jupiter Jones at 12:45 PM on September 28, 2005


After merging with the North West Company, the Hudson's Bay Company controlled 3,000,000 acres of land by 1821.

Which company in the world controls the largest tracts of land, in 2005?
posted by seawallrunner at 1:25 PM on September 28, 2005


Well, Ted Turner owns the most land in the United States. Really.
posted by blahblahblah at 1:29 PM on September 28, 2005


Jupiter, yup, I know. Which is why I brought Zellers into the discussion in the first place. Thanks goodness most other stately old companies haven't decided that their best bet is to move their image downmarket. It's like BMW buying Kia or something.

Apologies to Kia owners for comparing Kia to Zellers.
posted by GuyZero at 1:35 PM on September 28, 2005


Personally, I'd rather go to Zellers than Walmart. Kind of choosing between crappy options though.
posted by Jupiter Jones at 2:42 PM on September 28, 2005


Which company in the world controls the largest tracts of land, in 2005?

The Roman Catholic Church, I'll wager.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:17 PM on September 28, 2005


I thought Zildjian was pretty old... and it is (1623, continuously run by the same family). But the "oldest" title it holds is "oldest continually family-owned business in America".
posted by Doohickie at 5:47 PM on September 28, 2005


« Older THE ULTIMATE SELF LINK: MY BRAIN. Use this excelle...  |  Tennis, anyone...?... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments