In 1995, entrepreneur Jeff Bezos founded an online bookselling company called Amazon. Today, his company is worth nearly $1 trillion. While Amazon’s skyrocketing success is astonishing, there’s something to be said for longevity. Located around the world are some companies that have withstood the test of time, lasting for not just decades but hundreds and even 1,000+ years. From small pubs in Ireland to apparel companies in Canada, these are some of the oldest companies that are still operating today. Our list is in no particular order.
The Hudson’s Bay Company Was Founded In 1670
The Hudson’s Bay Company started as a fur trading outfit in Toronto, Ontario in 1670. The company used money from its fur trade to start oil exploration and then financial services, all which helped the company move into its current business.
Today, Hudson’s Bay operates various different department stores throughout North America. You are most likely familiar with its two flagship options, Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor. Like others on our list, The Hudson’s Bay Company has proven that diversification is the best path to business longevity.
Kongo Gumi Is The Oldest Operational Business In The World
Kongo Gumi was established in 578 and is located in Osaka, Japan. The company was founded by an immigrant who was commissioned by Prince Shotoku to build the Shitennō-ji Buddhist temple. The business, which now employs about 100 people, still brings in $70 million each year. Amazingly, it continues to build Buddhist temples as its core business.
There is one caveat: in 2006, the company was struggling financially and ended up becoming a subsidiary of Takamatsu. While no longer independent, the business has managed to keep doing its job for more than 1,400 years!
Sotheby’s Has Been Around Since 1744
Unlike some businesses that transition from one product line to another, Sotheby’s has long been established as a leader in the auction of high-priced books. Samuel Baker started the business in 1744 with the goal of auctioning off various books. As the company grew it started to focus on wealthy customers who were looking for trendy items they could acquire at a high cost.
It’s not uncommon to see multi-million dollar items being sold by the auction house today. Selling other people’s goods means Sotheby’s doesn’t have product overhead to worry about, making it a very profitable business.
Gekkeikan Sake Started In Japan Way Back In 1637
One of the best ways to establish a long thriving business is establishing some type of competitive advantage that can’t be easily reproduced by your competitors. In 1637 Gekkeikan was created to produce sake.
Located in Kyoto, Japan, the company owes its longevity to a local climate that helps the product thrive in a natural environment. Today, Gekkeikan is responsible for selling 25 percent of all sake in the United States.
The Aga Hamami Turkish Bath Was Established In 1454
Aga Hamami isn’t the oldest Turkish bath in the country but it’s the oldest still in use as a bathhouse. The location also has an interesting back story. Aga Hamami was founded by Mehmed the Conqueror, a famous sultan for the Ottoman Empire.
Aga Hamami was built in a forested area and then a city was built around the bathhouse. As the bathhouse has aged, various renovations have kept it operational over the years. You can visit the bathhouse in Istanbul, Turkey.
Sean’s Bar in Athlone, Ireland, Was Founded In 900 (You Read That Right)
Forget 20th-century businesses and their longevity, Sean’s Bar was established in 900 and has maintained its prominence into the 21st-century. Sean’s Bar is the oldest operational bar in Ireland and all of Europe.
It probably doesn’t hurt that Sean’s Bar is on the banks of the River Shannon and is located right along a passageway that provided travelers with safe passage across Ireland’s bogs for thousands of years. It’s also located right next to the 12th century Athlone Castle. Cheers!
Stiftskeller St. Peter Was Founded In 803 And Has Hosted Many Historical Figures
Stiftskeller St. Peter is the oldest restaurant in Europe and was founded in 803 in the city of Salzburg, Austria. The restaurant business can be brutal but this famed spot, located within the monastery of St. Peter’s Archabbey, has managed to survive.
With such a long history and located in a beautiful location, it might not surprise you to learn of the restaurant’s famous guests. It’s claimed that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Christopher Columbus are among the restaurant’s former patrons.
Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan In Japan Was Established In 705
The Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is the world’s oldest hotel. If you haven’t noticed already, a lot of very old businesses have withstood the test of time in Japan. This location is a hot spring hotel located in Hayakawa, Japan. In 2011 the Guinness Book of Records named it the oldest hotel in the world.
It’s not a very big location, featuring only 37 rooms. Perhaps it owes its longevity to being owned by the same family for more than 1,300 years. The hotel’s hot water springs originate from the nearby Hakuho Springs.
The Château de Goulaine Winery Was Founded Around 1000
The exact founding date of the Château de Goulaine is not known but the business is believed to have been around since approximately 1000. It is regarded as one of the oldest operating winery-chateaus in the world. While the business is long-established, the current building, built on top of a medieval fortress, was established in 1480 in France.
In March 2019, the business was put on the open market with estimates ranging from $7 to $10 million. For that money, you get access to land just outside of Nantes, which happens to be one of the best Muscadet wine-producing regions in the world.
The Pontificia Fonderia Marinelli Foundry Was Started In 1040
In 1040 the Pontificia Fonderia Marinelli foundry was formed in Agnone, also known as the “town of bells.” It was here that the business forged bells and bronze sculptures produced entirely by hand. The company’s bells are located in some of the most well-known and respected churches in the world.
Today, the Roman Catholic Church keeps the business thriving by ordering 90 percent of all the company’s bells. Brothers Armando and Pasquale Marinelli produce about 50 bells a year with the help of just 12 employees.
Rathbornes Started In 1488 And Been Blossoming Ever Since
Rathborne Candles is located in Dublin, Ireland and was founded in 1488. The company is best-known today for its exquisite candles but that’s not where the company got its start. Rathborne Candles was originally contracted to provide street lighting for all of Dublin before the invention of electricity. The company fought against a Second Vatican Council decree that stripped elaborate candles from churches and the company won its battle.
All of the known Rathborne family died out but the company still has an open invitation for any surviving relatives to visit its facilities. The company has plans to open a museum that will exhibit old candle-making technology which it has used over the last 500+ years.
The Shirley Plantation In America Is Still Operational
The Shirley Plantation was founded in 1613 in Charles City County, Virginia. Located on the north bank of the James River, the residence and operating business have gone through a lot of changes over the years, chiefly, the removal of slaves.
Today, the “Great House” on the plantation is still owned and occupied by descendants of Edward Hill I. The business is still an operational plantation and is used for events such as weddings. The Shirley Plantation is also listed as a National Historic Landmark.
Post och Inrikes Tidningar Has Been Printing News Since 1645
The Post och Inrikes Tidningar has been providing news in Sweden since 1645 but it hasn’t been a smooth path to continued operations. Throughout the 17th and 18th century the business provided standard news to locals. The publication even presented serialized novels to readers.
Eventually, Post och Inrikes Tidningar started covering official notifications for the country’s governing body and is now known as the “government newspaper and gazette of Sweden, and the country’s official notification medium for announcements like bankruptcy declarations or auctions,” according to Wikipedia. The paper’s final print version served just 1,500 readers before closing down on January 1, 2007. Today, the business offers an internet-only version of its publication.
The Bingley Arms In England Has Been Around Since 953
If you visit England and you don’t stop by the Bingley Arms you’re missing out on the opportunity to visit the oldest pub in Britain. Founded in 953, a time when Alfred the Great was fighting off invading Vikings, the pub has withstood the test of time.
Located in Bardsey, Leeds, the pub, formerly known as the Priests Inn, was originally established to protect persecuted Catholic priests. It also served for a short period as a courthouse. Be sure to check out the old priest holes which are hidden in the lounge’s chimney.
The Shore Porters’ Society Has Been Hanging Around Aberdeen, Scotland Since 1498
If you’re moving items around the world, specifically from Aberdeen, Scotland, you’ll likely contact someone at The Shore Porters’ Society. The company is an international shipper, removal hauler, and storage company that has been serving customers since 1498.
Unlike some other businesses on our list, The Shore Porters’ Society hasn’t attempted to diversify very much, focusing on their core strength while delivering customer service that has left them in business for more than 500 years!
The Cambridge University Press Has Been Around Since 1534
The Cambridge University Press has been around since 1534 and the business is responsible for publishing some of the most important non-fiction works in human history. It was Henry the VIII who gave the operation permission to start publishing “all manner of books.”
Since its founding, the Cambridge University Press has published Sir Isaac Newton’s “Principia Mathematica,” John Milton’s “Lycidas,” and Noam Chomsky’s “Language and Mind,” among many other scholarly works.
Bushmills Was Founded In 1608. Cheers!
The next time you’re enjoying an Old Fashioned made with Bushmills you can rest easy knowing you’re sipping down a little bit of history. Founded on April 20, 1608, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, the company was the work of Sir Thomas Philip. He was given explicit permission to distill the whiskey at the behest of King James I.
James Joyce was a huge fan of Bushmills and mentioned it by name in “Ulysses.” Today, Bushmills has a worldwide presence.
Zildjian Has Been Rocking Out In Istanbul, Turkey Since 1623
Zildjian started manufacturing its symbols during the Ottoman Empire and since that time its musical masterpieces have been used by the world’s most famous and well-respected drummers. The company was founded by Avedis Zildjian in Istanbul way back in 1623 and he eventually brought his business to America.
The company was so important to music in the United States that the US government gave it permission to keep manufacturing its cymbals during rationing for World War II.
Royal Delft Earthenware In Delft Has Been Around Since Founded 1653
We have to admire a company that can stick around for 400+ years on the financial backing of pottery: Royal Delft. The pottery company is synonymous with quality and luxury and is the only company in Holland to have a seal of approval from the Dutch Royal Family.
The company’s blue and white pottery is considered a cultural part of Holland’s identity and the Dutch people, making it a mainstay in the country. Royal Delft has remained relevant by hand-painting every piece while simultaneously focusing on using only the highest quality of resources available.
Beretta Was Founded In 1526 In Italy
Beretta started making “hand cannons” in Italy in 1526. The Arsenal of Venice requested 185 barrels and Beretta answered the call. Beretta has also been helped by its very convenient location.
The company, which has been owned by the same family for more than 400 years, is located near iron-rich mountains which provide for the company’s manufacturing needs. Beretta’s weapons are now sold to buyers all over the world, including in the United States. Beretta USA was founded in 1972 when the company started supplying weapons to the U.S. military. The U.S. government required the guns to be made in America.