There’s a new oldest business in Richmond – at least for now.
About 30 more companies 40 years or older have been added to Workshop Digital’s work-in-progress list of the oldest for-profit businesses in metro Richmond.
And there’s a new company at the top of the list since it was first publicized last week: downtown law firm Sands Anderson, which – founded in 1842 as Sands & Sands – has eight more years than previous list-toppers Billups Funeral Home and the Richmond Daily Dispatch, a predecessor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The additions were made in response to as many as 60 inquiries Workshop Digital received since the agency unveiled its list on Richmond BizSense. The list was compiled at the request of local auto dealer Whitten Bros., which is preparing to celebrate its centennial in four years.
Within hours of last week’s story about the list, dozens of responses poured in from local companies and readers pointing out potential omissions. Some were glaring, such as legal giant Williams Mullen (1909), while others added new industries to the mix, such as sporting goods store Disco Sports (1970).
To make the cut, businesses have to meet certain criteria the agency set to keep the list from getting too long. They must be for-profit, at least 40 years old, started in Richmond and still doing what they’ve always done, and they must list “Richmond” in their company address.
That address stipulation cuts several areas of metro Richmond out of contention, as well as significant employment centers such as Innsbrook, which is located in Glen Allen. Katie Wolitarsky with Workshop Digital said such lines needed to be drawn somewhere to keep the list manageable, adding that the criteria could be revised as the list continues to evolve.
“In building it, we want it to be an ongoing conversation,” Wolitarsky said, noting the digital agency’s research has been primarily online. “I’m sure there are more out there that haven’t even seen it and don’t have websites and may never be included on it. It’s a work in progress.”
Notable additions include restaurants such as O’Toole’s (1966) and Sam Miller’s (1973); O.K. Foundry, founded in 1912; and communications firm Hello Inc., which dates back to 1923.
Sands Anderson, which is one year shy of celebrating its 175th anniversary, is one of six law firms on the list. Senior attorney Doug Rucker, who noted he lives a block from Billups Funeral Home in Church Hill, attributed the law firm’s longevity to teamwork, adaptability and a resistance to suggestions to grow the firm’s size – currently 50 attorneys and about 70 support staff.
“We’ve not agreed with the consultants that say that you need to grow, grow, grow to serve your clients well,” Rucker said. “Technology has helped us be on the same playing field as anyone we come up against.
“We like each other. That’s important,” he said. “We see what we do as a profession, not just a business, and I think our clients see that and appreciate that. And over the years, we’ve been adaptable. The practice of law has changed in many ways, including what types of laws are being practiced.”
Noting Richmond’s legal history dating back to John Marshall, Rucker said of the recognition: “I think it says a lot about the competency of this law firm over the years…particularly being an old firm that’s been around a long time, in this particular city with that history.”
Wolitarsky said the list would continue to be updated periodically, and she encouraged anyone who knows of other businesses that meet the criteria to reach out to the agency.
“We want to keep adding to it,” she said. “There’s nothing else like this out there, so we want to keep it going.”
The updated list can be viewed on this page on the Whitten Bros. website.