Brunswick Review Issue 12

Redefining old

What does it take for a business to survive for a thousand years? Brunswick’s Mallory Merge looks at the world’s oldest enterprises

705 AD

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, Japan

After Japanese company Kongō Gumi closed in 2006 at the age of about 1,400, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan became the oldest continuously running company in the world. This hot spring hotel was established in 705 and has been managed by the same family for 52 generations. The secret to their success is “inter-generational pride.” Many staff positions have also been held by the same family for several generations.

803 AD

Stiftskeller St. Peter, Austria

The Stiftskeller St. Peter, located within the monastery walls of St. Peter’s Abbey, was first written about by the scholar Alcuin in 803. While this restaurant has had to briefly close throughout history, notably during Napoleon’s invasion in 1809 when French troops were housed at the location, it is believed to be the oldest restaurant in the world and has served kings, cardinals and more recently former U.S. President Bill Clinton. The oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world is Sobrino de Botín, in Madrid, founded in 1725.

885 AD

Tanaka Iga, Japan

Founded in 885 as a religious goods company, Tanaka Iga still manufacturesand sells quality Buddhist objects such as the ornament shown above. Adding a modern twist to their creation process, Tanaka Iga develops 3-D computer mock-ups for some of their larger projects in the beginning stages of production, like altars and elaborate pieces of furniture.

862 AD

Staffelter Hof Winery, Germany

Staffelter Hof Winery is a family-run business established in 862. The winery specializes in creating Riesling – roughly 75 percent of their total yield – but also produces other white, red, sparkling and rosé wines. Originally part of a wine-producing abbey, Staffelter Hof now cultivates over seven hectares of vines and boasts a guest house and a distillery. A close rival in longevity is Château de Goulaine, France’s oldest winery, established in 1000. The French site boasts a castle, museum and butterfly aviary.

900 AD

Sean’s Bar, Ireland

Sean’s Bar, located on the banks of the River Shannon in the town of Athlone, claims to be the oldest bar in the world. According to the bar’s website, a wall was discovered in the establishment during a renovation in the early 1970s
that was made of “wattle and wicker” dating back to the ninth century. This wall is still on display today. The town of Athlone is named after an innkeeper at the bar who guided people across the water of the ford. The bar remained the focal point of a town that grew up around the establishment.

1000 AD

Ichimonjiya Wasuke, Japan

Ichimonjiya Wasuke, also known as Ichiwa, was founded in the year 1000 and is thought to be the world’s oldest confectioner. Located next to the Imamiya Shrine in Kyoto, Ichiwa claims to have been run by the same family for 25 generations. Their specialty treat is aburi-mochi, a sweet pounded rice grilled over charcoal, which was first sold at the Yasurai Matsuri festival over a thousand years ago. Eating the aburi-mochi was believed to prevent illness from entering the body of the consumer and is still associated with good health today.     

1000 AD

Pontifical Marinelli Foundry, Italy

Although the oldest record of a bell produced by the Pontifical Marinelli Foundry is from 1339, the company is said to have been making bells since around the year 1000. According to a 2013 article from Bloomberg, during World War II the Italian fascist regime ordered the seizure of half of Italy’s church bells to be repurposed as cannons. However, the owner, who is the grandfather of the current owners, alerted the local priests ahead of time so that they could hide their bells. Marinelli bells can be found all over the world including at the Leaning Tower of Pisa and The Vatican. 

 

Mallory Merge is Project Manager of the Brunswick Review team and is its longest-serving member. She is based in New York.

Photographs: Plinio Lepri, AFP, Imagno, Hulton Archive, Getty / Meg Sing / Courtesy of Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, Staffelter Hof Winery, Sean’s Bar, Tanaka Iga

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