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Red, White, and 248-Years-Old

David Cameron

Managing Partner

July 2, 2024

Entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), around 66% of all new businesses make it to the two-year mark, and only half of all companies survive past five years. 

So for a brand to be OLDER than the first Independence Day – July 4, 1776 – deserves a nod. 

Few American brands have stood the test of time since that moment in our country’s history, but here’s a sampling that have maintained their mojo a few hundred years hence: 

Buffalo Trace Distillery – founded 1775 (249 years old)
The Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, dates back to 1775. The distillery was named for the buffalo trails that frontiersmen followed near the Kentucky River before the Revolutionary War. Brothers Hancock and Willis Lee found the area's fertile soil ideal for growing corn and the limestone-filtered water perfect for distilling whiskey. One year later, our nascent nation declared independence, and 16 years after that, Kentucky became the 15th state in the Union.

Why whiskey aficionados still love Buffalo Trace: Beyond the original formulation, the distillery has upheld its leadership and premium through extraordinary craftsmanship and well maintained scarcity, inspiring fanatical followings for their smaller-batch, longer-aged formulations like Eagle Rare and Pappy Van Winkle. 

Avedis Zildjian Company (Zildjian) – founded in 1623 (401 years old)
Like many great Americans, the Avedis Zildjian Company was “born elsewhere.” The musical instrument manufacturer was founded by the ethnic Armenian Zildjian family in the 17th-century Ottoman Empire, when the capital was still named Constantinople. For centuries, they specialized in manufacturing high-quality cymbals and other percussion instruments for classical music. In 1929, the company relocated from Istanbul to the United States, and the heir of the business, Avedis III, sought out Gene Krupa and other jazz musicians to adapt the company’s products to their needs.

Why drummers still love Zildjian: Now based in Norwell, MA, Zildjian is the largest cymbal and drumstick maker in the world. While musicians have always loved to debate over the virtues of their respective gear, Zildjian cymbals have reverberated through the American popular and classical music canons. Ringo Starr was playing Zildjians when the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl swears by them (even while dodging mail from Swifties), and percussionists from John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) to John Fishman (Phish) to the London Symphony Orchestra have counted Zildjian cymbals in their kits.

Baker's Chocolate – founded in 1764 (260 years old)
Originally founded in 1764 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Baker’s Chocolate was not initially designed primarily for baking, but as a drinking chocolate. But having taken its name from one of its founders, Dr. James Baker, its moniker became a self-fulfilling differentiator for the brand and led to centuries of purpose-driven product development. 260 years later, the brand remains one of the leaders in all forms of baking chocolates, from unsweetened to semi-sweet to dipping chocolates. 

Why bakers still love Baker's: While there are a handful of more premium competitors, Baker's laser-focused purpose – i.e. serving the baking audience – has allowed them to lead on availability, affordability, and specialized options, like a 100% cacao bar which is entirely unsweetened and contains only chocolate. 

*BONUS* Crane & Co Stationery – founded in 1801 (223 years old)
Although Crane & Co was officially founded fourteen years AFTER the signing of the Declaration of Independence, this brand has its roots firmly in the American Revolution. The company’s founder, Stephen Crane, participated in the Boston Tea Party, and his famously expressive compatriot Paul Revere used Crane’s paper for his engraved banknotes, which helped fund the Revolution. 

Why expressive types still love Crane: In a world of fleeting and impersonal digital missives, Crane fills a hole in today's culture. The brand represents an uncommonly tangible, and beautiful, canvas for their more lasting and indelible thoughts, ideas, and expressions.

There's not one formula for ensuring a brand will last through economic cycles, policy changes (worth reading about how Buffalo Trace made it through prohibition) and cultural shifts. The common thread, though, is that lasting brands balance their timeless strengths with timely adaptations to the market, and inspire enduring relevance.

So, to these 248+ year-old brands, and to the nation that's enabled their continued growth and our collective entrepreneurship, Happy Fourth.

#happyfourth #heritagebrands #timelessandtimely

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