8 Historic Retail Sites That Are Still Operating

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Long before they became major corporations, companies such as Macy’s, McDonald’s and WalMart had very humble roots, beginning with a single location. In most instances, those first stores from the 19th or early 20th centuries have long since been demolished, usually without any thought given to historic preservation. However, a number of landmark retail locations have not only been preserved as historic sites, but are still open for business. Here are eight famous retailers still operating at one of their earliest locations, if not their very first site.


8. The First Starbucks

Starbucks still operates in its first location in Seattle, Washington.

The first Starbucks, established in 1971; Seattle.gov

Before it became a worldwide sensation, with more than 17,000 locations in almost 60 different countries, Starbucks was just another coffee shop. Teachers Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegel and writer Gordon Bowker opened the first Starbucks coffee shop in 1971 in Seattle. That store, which was relocated a couple of years later, is still in operation, at 1912 Pike Place in the Pike Place Market, the oldest continuously operating farmers market in the U.S. Strict regulations in this historic district have preserved this Starbucks much as it looked in 1971.


7. Oldest Operating McDonald’s

The oldest operating McDonald's was built in 1953 in Downey, California.

The oldest operating McDonald’s opened in 1953 in Downey, Calif.; Bryan Hong

Only a few McDonald’s restaurants remain from the franchise’s beginning days in the 1950s and early 1960s. The most notable remaining example of the chain’s earliest restaurants is now a popular tourist destination in Downey, California. Located at the intersection of Lakewood Boulevard and Florence Avenue, the restaurant opened in 1953, the third McDonald’s ever built, and the oldest still in operation. However, it was not part of the franchise package famously sold by the McDonald brothers to Ray Kroc, so it remained independent for almost 40 years, The McDonald’s Corp. purchased the restaurant in 1990 and planned to demolish the structure, but after it landed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s endangered list in 1994 — along with such famous structures as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin and the USS Constellation — McDonald’s remodeled and reopened the restaurant. Note the character, Speedee, on top of the sign; the ubiquitous Ronald McDonald would not debut until the 1960s.


6. The First Dick’s Sporting Goods

The first Dick's Sporting Goods ever built is still open.

The first Dick’s Sporting Goods, in Binghamton, New York; Kal Brinker

Richard “Dick” Stack did not have the most auspicious beginning in retail. As a teenager working at an Army/Navy Surplus Store, Stack suggested the owner sell fishing and camping equipment; the owner told Stack that was a bad idea, and that he had no future in the merchandising business. So Stack borrowed a few hundred dollars from a relative in 1948 and opened a bait and tackle shop. In 1962, he opened a store he called Dick’s Sporting Goods at Oliver and Court streets in Binghamton, New York. That is one of the company’s more than 500 U.S. stores today.


5. Sam Walton’s First Store

Sam Walton's first Walton's Five and Dime is today the WalMart Visitor Center in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Sam Walton’s original Walton’s Five and Dime in Bentonville, Arkansas; Bobak Ha’Eri.

Back in 1950, Army veteran Sam Walton opened the first Walton’s Five and Dime store in the rural Ozark Mountains community of Bentonville, Arkansas. A dozen years later, Walton opened the first Wal-Mart, in Rogers, Arkansas. Today, that original Walton’s Five and Dime location serves as the Walmart Visitors Center in Bentonville, where the world’s largest private employer maintains its headquarters.


4. Barnes & Noble’s Flagship Store

A Barne's & Noble Store opened in 1932 in New York is still in operation.

Barnes & Noble’s flagship store in Manhattan; Credit: Beyond My Ken

Barnes & Noble got its start as a book publisher in Illinois in 1873. It did not open its first true bookstore until World War I, in New York City. That store relocated to the corner of Fifth Avenue and E. 18th Street in 1932 and still serves as the company’s flagship store.


3. Neiman Marcus’ Flagship Store

The Neiman Marcus flagship store in Dallas opened in 1914.

Neiman Marcus flagship location in Dallas; credit: Dfwcre8tive

After fire destroyed the original Neiman Marcus store in Dallas, Texas, in 1914, Herbert Marcus Sr. and A.L. and Carrie Neiman opened a sparkling new store at the corner of Main and Ervay streets in downtown Dallas. That facility still stands today, as both the company’s corporate headquarters and flagship store.


2. First J.C. Penney Store

J.C. Penney opened his first store in Wyoming.

J.C. Penney Motherstore in Kemmerer, Wyoming; credit: Bernd00

The tiny town of Kemmerer, in remote southwest Wyoming, might seem an unlikely starting spot for a corporate empire, yet this is where the J.C. Penney Co. got its start. James Cash Penney opened an establishment known as the Golden Rule Store in Kemmerer in 1902, and a second one nearby a couple of years later. The Golden Rule stores were incorporated as J.C. Penney Co. in 1913. That second location, known in company parlance as the J.C. Penney Motherstore, is still in operation today in this town of 2,656 people. Believe it or not, it’s not the town’s leading claim to fame, as it’s best known as the “Fossil Fish Capital of the World.”


1. Macy’s Flagship Store

Macy's opened its flagship store in New York City in 1902.

Macy’s flagship store on Herald Square in New York City; Mike Strand

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Macy’s did not begin in New York City, but in Haverhill, Massachusetts, in 1851. A few years later, founder Rowland Macy opened a store on Sixth Avenue in New York City. But Macy’s boom years began after the Macy family sold the business in 1895 to the Straus brothers. In 1902, the Strauses opened a Macy’s in New York City’s Herald Square, at the corner of 34th Street and Broadway. That store was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1978. Although it has been refurbished and expanded many times through the years, some of its features — such as wooden escalators — showcase its age and history.


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