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Some Michigan businesses have defied the odds to last more than a century

Mar 16, 2015

Murdicks longevity may be due to the continual use of their original recipe.
Credit Flickr user Julie Weatherbee / Flickr

There's a lot of attention and talk directed at start-ups about attracting new business to Michigan.

But writer Ilene Wolff pays tribute to some venerable long-time Michigan businesses. Her story, The Century Club: Michigan firms and businesses that have truly withstood the test of time, is in the current March/April print edition of DBusiness.

One such business is Armaly Brands, which was founded in the Bahamas in 1908 and eventually moved to Detroit to continue their sale of natural sponges. But as the use of natural sponges died out, the company invested in new, synthetic sponge technology that allowed them to continue.

Another member of the century club is Hubbel, Roth and Clark. The company pioneered the water treatment plant in Detroit. And Wolff says it has stayed in the family, with the current president being Jeb Hubbel, Clarence Hubbel's great-great grandson.

"Every time you take a drink of delicious Detroit water, or flush your toilet you can thank Clarence Hubbel," Wolff says.

Wollff says the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club has also defied the odds. They were met with many challenges and close to closure during the Great Depression.

And she says the Engineering Society of Detroit has looked to help connect and develop those interested in engineering for over 100 years. Wolff says the Society is currently "active in a program for upper elementary students to become involved in those kinds of fields," along with looking to establish student chapters at local universities.

Finally, Murdick's Fudge has stuck to their old recipes from the original Sarah Murdick, continuing a century of tradition.

It's Wolff's fifth time writing about businesses who have been in Detroit for a century or more, and she's noticed some trends.

She says businesses have to be ready to change, invest in intangibles, like supporting employee’s growth and development, in order to stay around. She says many of these time-tested businesses are family owned.