Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer


10 of the Oldest Continuously Operated Stores From Around the World
By Anna Green,
Mental Floss, 13 September 2016.

These days, businesses seem to open and close in the blink of an eye. In some areas, it’s rare to see a store that’s been open for more than a few years - let alone a few decades. But despite the instability of running a business, some stores have managed to stick around for a seriously long time. In some places, shoppers buy books or bicycles from the same store their grandparents and great-grandparents frequented - or eat at restaurants that once fed ancient soldiers and explorers. These stores are some of the oldest continuously operating stores in the world - all have broken some kind of record for longevity, whether they’re the oldest store of their kind in the world or their country, and all are still in their original locations.

1. Moravian Book Shop: The oldest bookstore in America

Image credit: Sarahtarno/Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Founded in 1745, the Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is the oldest continuously operating bookstore in America (the Bertrand Bookstore in Portugal opened 13 years earlier, and is generally considered the oldest in the world). While the Moravian started out as a place to buy and print religious texts, it changed with the times, and now sells every book under the sun out of its (significantly expanded) 15,000 square foot shop. Bookstore employees say the shop sometimes feels haunted by its lengthy past - literally. Rumor has it, a friendly ghost haunts the shop, occasionally reminding employees to turn off appliances they’ve left running.

2. St. Peter’s Stiftskeller: The oldest restaurant in Austria

Image credit: Andrew Bossi/Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.5

St. Peter’s Stiftskeller claims to have been mentioned in a document published all the way back in 803 CE. If that's true, it's most definitely the oldest continuously operated restaurant in Austria - and may even be the oldest restaurant in the world. Located within the walls of St. Peter’s Abbey in Salzburg, the restaurant and inn hosted French troops during the Napoleonic wars and is rumored to have served everyone from Christopher Columbus and Charlemagne to Bill Clinton and Clint Eastwood.

3. Pearson Cycles: The oldest bike shop in the world

Image credit: A P Monblat/Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Located in Sutton, London, UK, Pearson Cycles was established in 1860 and has been in the Pearson family for five generations. Founded by Thomas Pearson - who originally opened a blacksmiths, but quickly switched to selling bicycles - the shop is now run by Pearson’s great-great-grandsons Will and Guy Pearson. In 2011, when the historic bike shop opened its second location, Will Pearson told The Telegraph, “We have a slow roll-out program; one store every 150 years.” The shop holds the Guinness World Record for oldest bicycle shop in the world.

4. Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan: The oldest hotel in the world

Image credit: 663highland/Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Founded in 705 CE in Japan’s Yamanashi Prefecture, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan has been run by the same family for 52 generations. The hot spring inn, which is located at the foot of the South Japanese Alps, has served everyone from ancient samurai to modern vacationers for more than a millennium. Known for its luxurious rooms and warm mountain streams, the hotel holds the Guinness World Record for world’s oldest hotel.

5. Temple Slug: The oldest waterbed store in the world

Image credit: Temple Slug

Temple Slug can't compete with the other stores on this list for longevity, but it has spent an impressive amount of time selling a product that's largely considered a passé fad. The futon and waterbed store in Kansas City, Missouri claims to be "the oldest waterbed retailer in continuous business." They've operated out of the same shop under the same management since 1970, and now proudly serve the grandchildren of their original customers. (The other candidate for oldest waterbed store is Odds ’N’ Ends in Richmond, California, which opened in 1969, but that store recently became an online-only company.)

6. Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba: The oldest pizzeria in the world

Image credit: Alexandra Hamer/Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Originally founded as a food stall in 1738, Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba opened its Naples, Italy restaurant in 1830. Widely credited as the oldest pizzeria in the world, the historic restaurant used lava rocks from Mount Vesuvius to line its ovens. Though Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba by no means invented the pizza, its founders helped transform the cheap street food into a fine dining experience.

7. Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy: The oldest pharmacy in the world

Image credit: Sailko/Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Established by Dominican monks in 1221, Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy has been providing the city of Florence, Italy with homemade medicines, soaps, and colognes for almost 800 years. Still situated in its original building, the pharmacy features vast painted ceilings, a museum, and of course, plenty of products to sample and purchase. Its most famous product, according to Atlas Obscura, is a smelling salt called Aceto dei Sette Ladri (Seven Thieves Vinegar), which was, according to legend, used by grave robbers to protect themselves from infection during the plague.

8. C.O. Bigelow: The oldest pharmacy in America

Image credit: Elisa.rolle/Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

There are two stores that claim the title of oldest pharmacy in the United States: Carl’s Drug in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, and C.O. Bigelow in New York City. Carl’s Drug claims to have opened its doors in 1825, and, despite a few ownership and location changes on the way, it still sells to the people of Greencastle. The other contender, C.O. Bigelow, sold medicines and salves from its storefront in New York City’s Greenwich village since 1838. Though it’s not nearly as old as Santa Maria Novella, its nearly 200 years in the heart of the bustling Big Apple mean that plenty of important people have passed through its doors: Over the years, the shop has served the likes of Thomas Edison (who allegedly nursed an injured finger there), Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain), filmmaker John Waters, and the glam rocking New York Dolls.

9. R J Balson & Son: The oldest butcher shop in the UK

Image credit: Oliverbalson/Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The Balson family of Bridport, England has been in the meat business since 1515, when John Balson started selling meat at a local market. The family set up their permanent location in 1880, and is still selling meats and specialty sausages from the same shop. The owner writes on the website, “The family joke is that we've just never made enough money to be able to retire.” The shop was featured on a 2014 BBC program on Britain's oldest family businesses.

10. The Oldest Sweet Shop: The oldest candy store in the world

Image credit: Tom Blackwell/Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The appropriately named Oldest Sweet Shop (originally called “The Old Sweet Shop”) was founded in 1827 in the town of Pateley Bridge in England. Today, it’s owned by former bank manager Keith Tordoff, who’s been running the business for a mere two decades. “To me, sweets are all about the memories. You remember sweets from your childhood just like you remember a song. You remember the sweets your grandparents gave you, or giving a packet of Lovehearts to a girl you liked,” Tordoff told The Telegraph in an interview. “We had a 97-year-old woman come in to the shop and say the last time she was here she was 5 years old. She said apart from the position of the counter, it hasn't changed.”

Top image: Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, the world’s oldest hotel. Credit: 663highland/Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0.

[Source: Mental Floss. Edited. Some images added.]