Top 5 Oldest Family Businesses Part 2
Growth and economic diversification have been continuing themes in Macon's history and PART II of our TOP 5 list focuses on the longevity of some of that growth with Macon's longest running locally owned family businesses in the area.
1. L.E. Schwartz and Son - 1910
In 1910 a Hungarian metal worker named Louis Ervin Schwartz started a company in Macon, Georgia that today is one of the largest and most respected commercial and industrial roofing and sheet metal contractors in the country. The company prospered during its early years, and when the founder’s son, Harry, joined the firm in 1929, the company expanded its services to include heating, ventilation and air conditioning. The company grew even more after a devastating tornado ripped through Warner Robins, Georgia, creating a tremendous amount of roofing and sheet metal work during subsequent rebuilding. In 1994, The Precision Products Division became Schwartz Precision Manufacturing, a subsidiary of the corporation, and moved into a second manufacturing facility. That same year L.E. Schwartz & Son, Inc. was named the Georgia Family Business of the Year by Kennesaw State College and Atlanta Business Chronicle. In 2010, L. E. Schwartz celebrated their centennial as the doors have been open for business for 100 years.
4. Coke's Camera - 1934
Joe and Cecil Coke opened a photography studio on Cotton Avenue in 1934. A year later, Cecil was hired as the Macon Telegraph’s first press photographer and engraver. His job was to run the paper’s one-man engraving department, which was located in an upstairs room at the offices on Cherry Street. Coke’s knowledge of the engraving process came from a book he had checked out from Washington Memorial Library. The Coke brothers expanded their studio to include a camera dealership and were the first in Macon to handle Kodak film processing. After a fire in 1944 destroyed the studios, Coke’s moved to its current location on Cherry Street, located next door to Hart’s Mortuary.
2. Hutchings Funeral Home - 1895
Hutchings Funeral Home, Inc. was founded in 1895 when a partnership was formed between C. H. Hubbard, C. H. Hutchings Sr., and several other men. In 1910, C. H. Hutchings, Sr. left the partnership and was joined in the funeral business by two of his sons, Charles H. Hutchings, Jr. and Willie Pope Hutchings. The business was named C. H. Hutchings and Sons. By 1927, Charles Hutchings, Sr. and his sons moved to a newly constructed building at the firm's present 536 New Street location. Hutchings Funeral Home was the receiving firm of the late Otis Redding and later went on to conduct the funeral at the end of the next week. Over 10,000 people signed the guest book that week. Bill Hutchings remembers the event: “It was the largest and most elaborate funeral it was ever my honor to serve at.” After the death of William F. Hutchings, four generations later, Sharon Hutchings and Starr Hutchings are running the family business along with their mother, Bette O. Hutchings, who is the owner. Hutchings Funeral Home is currently among the most successful businesses in Macon and Middle Georgia.
5. Karsten & Denson - 1920
The Lee Building built in 1917 was the home to Karsten-Denson Hardware Store for more than 70 years. The building contains more than 35,000 square feet on three floors and was once filled with bulbs, seeds and plantings. By definition, Karsten and Denson is a working hardware store, which once was located in the heart of downtown Macon that dates back to 1920. Mr. Karsten, a native of Chicago, moved down to Macon and opened the store from scratch. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Denson came on board and was made a junior partner. Denson ended up taking over and running the store. The store was later purchased and ran by Johnny Davis who moved Karsten and Denson to Ingleside Village.
3. Capital Cycle - 1918
Capitol Cycle Company was started in 1918 by Lloyd Newbern. Located on 2nd St. in downtown Macon, Georgia, Capitol Cycle was originally a bicycle shop selling Iver Johnson and Schwinn bicycles. In 1946 Lloyd Newbern agreed to sell Capitol Cycle Company to a good friend named Jack Banks who was a Delta Airline's pilot. Concurrent careers are impossibility difficult for most people, but not for Jack Banks. Without ever taking a salary he dedicated 50 years of his life to Capitol Cycle Company, establishing the foundation for what would become a multi-million dollar business. If Jack was the force behind Capitol Cycle, then his wife Betha Banks was the heart. For over 50 years, when a customer walked through the door they could be sure Betha would be there to take care of them. In 1948 Capitol Cycle began to expand; The Company was introduced to the motorcycle industry by becoming a Whizzer Motor Bike Dealer.