Oldest Businesses Still in Business
Incredibly, there are a handful of businesses that helped build the City of Oaks that remain open and are successful even today! Of these landmark companies ITB, three are retailers with the youngest a ripe 98 years of age.
The oldest in the group? That would be Briggs Hardware. It was founded by Thomas Briggs and partner James Dodd, and established in 1865 on the first block of Fayetteville Street (more lovingly called Raleigh’s “Main Street”). In 1874, Briggs moved the hardware store to a four-story red brick building, Raleigh’s first skyscraper— holding the title of tallest building for 33 years. Those wishing to take a walk down memory lane can stop in and review the original records maintained by Briggs.
In 2015, the store was forced to close its doors due to the rising pressure of big box hardware stores and a changing economy. However, a month after closing the doors, 6th generation Briggs family member Evelyn Murray opened it once again and brought the store back to its original roots downtown. It now sits only a few blocks from its founding location. What can you get at Briggs Hardware? Just about anything from toys to honey, and even repair services they’ve got you covered. They are such an important resource that they remained open during Hurricane Florence— stocking batteries, flashlights and tarps. Much like the general stores of yesteryear, you can get almost anything here, with an added bonus of heritage.
Side note: The original Briggs Hardware skyscraper is now the City of Raleigh Museum.
Next on the list is Person Street Pharmacy, serving downtown Raleigh since 1910. Though it has had several owners over the years, it remains located on the corner of Pace and Person streets. This isn’t just a drugstore to get prescriptions, it’s a place to be social. That’s right! A nod to its 50s-era soda shop where friends would come to meet and get a milkshake, sandwich, and fries. The current owner, Trey Waters, took over the place four years ago and updated the cafe to a top-quality breakfast and lunch spot.
The Pharmacy Cafe is a lunch counter with a fresh approach. What once was the social center is once more a place for guests to enjoy each other’s company, whether at the 18-foot communal table or one of the sidewalk patio tables. Did we mention they have an espresso machine, beer and wine on tap, and classic games? While delighting in their superb crab cake sandwich, beat your friend or even new acquaintances at a game of Uno. This is a drugstore that you won’t mind waiting for the compounding lab to finish your order or for your prescription to be filled.
Fallon’s Flowers — established in 1920 and the oldest florist in the state — once maintained greenhouses where it grew the majority of the plants and flowers it sold. In the 1970s, a second store was opened at 700 St. Mary’s Street, and the original downtown location in the Haywood building was closed. Now Fallen’s Flowers enjoys several branch locations throughout the City.
In the mood for some Raleigh history? Take a walk down to the St. Mary’s Street location, where you will find original employees eager and proud to talk about the good ol’ days. Some of these employees have been with the company since the 70s.
There are plenty of places for residents and visitors alike to get lost in the history of the City, but more fun than simply visiting landmarks is getting to shop at the stores that helped make Raleigh what it is today.
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