Milestones: a list of the oldest businesses in the Kootenays

Check out our list of the longest-running companies in the Kootenays, 50 years or older

Exterior view of the Leland Hotel, showing timber-framed building painted white, expanse of lawn and tree in foreground.

The Leland Hotel in Nakusp is known as one of the oldest continually-operating hotels in British Columbia. — Photo courtesy Leland Hotel

When it comes to longevity in business, marking 50 years of ownership is a well-earned accomplishment. A century or longer? Truly remarkable.

Here in the Kootenays, there are a number of long-lived businesses that have weaved their way into the fabric of our communities. Some of these ventures have fascinating and storied histories—from grandeur and luxury to the brink of condemnation and back again. Other companies have seen success from the very beginning and through hard work, determination  and innovation have managed to survive changing times.

What makes a venture successful over the long-term? It might be due to sharp business acumen, a clear vision for the future, superior management or a commitment to unbeatable customer service. Or maybe it just comes down to luck and plain old grit and tenacity on the part of the business owner.

Read on for a list of the oldest businesses in the Kootenays, companies that are still going strong after 50 years or more.  

Oldest businesses in the East Kootenay

Oldest businesses in Cranbrook

Cranbrook Hotel

Despite its 115-year history, not a lot has changed at the Cranbrook Hotel. Sure, the decor and the mores of the day have evolved over the years. The elegant furnishings and well-heeled gentlemen of old are gone, replaced with modern fixtures and a more casual crowd of patrons. But at its heart, the Cranbrook Hotel still holds true to its working-class railroad roots. Originally built in 1897—one year before the railway came through the region—the current Cranbrook Hotel structure as it stands today actually dates to 1907. The original building, known as the Cranbrook Hotel annex, was sadly lost to a devastating fire in 1936. Nowadays, the hotel and pub plays host to a range of fun events and fundraisers, including the hard-rock sounds of touring bands. Not to mention the pub is still one of the best places in downtown Cranbrook to grab a cheap and tasty meal.

Exterior of the Mount Baker Hotel, showing large brick building, street/streetlights in foreground.

The Mount Baker Hotel offers a luxury boutique hotel experience in downtown Cranbrook. — Photo courtesy mountbakerhotel/Instagram

Baker Hotel

A stately brick building located on Baker Street in downtown Cranbrook, the Baker Hotel was built in 1923. At the time, it proudly offered the most prestigious and luxurious accommodation in the city. A succession of owners came and went through the ensuing years, and by the early 2000s, the hotel had sadly fallen into disrepair. Thanks to the vision and passion of a local businessman and entrepreneur, the hotel has been given a second life and now boasts a revitalized decor that is reflective of the building’s Art Deco roots.

Cranbrook Golf and Country Club

Did you know the Cranbrook Golf and Country Club has been a valued part of the community for over 108 years? First opened in 1915, the golf course was originally located across the railroad tracks in Slaterville, before moving to an expansive 111 acre plot of land where Tamarack Mall is now. As the city expanded and the price of land became more valuable, it became clear that the golf course would need to find a new location. In 1948, the club moved to its current location. For well over a century, this Cranbrook institution has played host to golf and sports enthusiasts from all over the world.

Rocky Mountain Printers

The technology behind print-making sure has changed in the 55 years that Rocky Mountain Printers has been in business. Founded in 1968, the current owner, Don Wik, remembers the days when printing was done one letter at a time—a far cry from the sophisticated computers and software used these days. The company has seen many evolutions over the years, including merging with a rival printing company in 1985 and expanding their instant copy business into communities across the Kootenays. Innovation has always been at the heart of this forward-thinking company and is a large part of what has made them so successful. 

Sandor Rental Equipment Ltd.

Founded by Frank Sandor and his wife in 1970, Sandor Rental Equipment Ltd. still proudly serves the needs of the local community. The family-owned company provides a wide range of rental equipment and supplies—everything from crane trucks and heavy-duty construction vehicles to party supplies. 

Oldest businesses in Creston

Mawson Sports

Ask any long-term Creston resident if they recognize the name Mawson and you'll get an affirmative answer. The family business has been in existence in one form or another since 1915. First opened as Mawson Brothers General Merchants, the business was founded by Vic and George Mawson and operated as a combination grocery store and menswear store. By the 1930s, Vic had become the sole proprietor of the shop and had sold off the grocery side of the business, concentrating instead on an ever-evolving list of products and services. This knack for innovation and change helped the business to stay successful and relevant through the years. Vic's son Fred eventually took over the business and sporting goods became the core focus of the company. Now owned by Fred Mawson's sons Vern and Ron, the business is now proudly in the hands of the third-generation of the Mawson family and continues to be a home-grown success story. 

Oldest businesses in Fernie

Vogue Theatre

Originally built in 1908 as a live entertainment venue, Fernie’s Vogue Theatre has undergone a few transformations over the years. In the 1950s, it was renovated into a movie theatre and in the early 90s, the venue was split into two theatres. Owned by a local family since 2007, the theatre was completely refurbished and restored to reflect its original heritage charm. Read our story about this venue that is still happily in vogue.

Oldest businesses in the West Kootenay

Oldest businesses in Crawford Bay

Gray Creek Store

Exterior of the Gray Creek Store building, white entry door, equipment and shovels sitting on front porch.

Known as the "woodstove and fireplace capital of the Kootenays," the Gray Creek Store has been in business since 1913. — Photo courtesy Gray Creek Store/Facebook

The Gray Creek Store has been a fixture on Kootenay Lake since the long-ago days of sternwheelers plying their trade on the blue waters. Founded in 1913, the store is one of the oldest family-owned and operated businesses in British Columbia. Visitors to this charming and iconic store are greeted with three floors of merchandise to explore, encompassing everything from t-shirts and souvenirs to hardware and household goods.

Oldest businesses in Grand Forks

B&F Sales & Service

Since 1963, B&F Sales & Service has been the go-to-source for powersports enthusiasts in the region. An authorized Honda dealer, the company also sells snowmobiles, motorcycles, ATV’s and other vehicles. Originally founded by cousins, the dealership has been owned by the Tomilin family for most of the company’s existence. A commitment to fair prices and good service has served the company well over the years.

Oldest businesses in Nakusp

Leland Hotel

The Leland Hotel’s claim to fame is being one of the oldest continually-operating hotels in the province of British Columbia. Originally a simple false-fronted structure built in 1892, the building was significantly expanded in 1897 into the large timber-framed three-storey building it is now. The hotel offers 21 unique rooms, a restaurant, bar and patio with beautiful lakeviews. 

Oldest businesses in Nelson

Hume Hotel

Known as the Grand Old Dame of Nelson, the Hume Hotel has a storied history. Built in 1898 by the Hume family, the original building boasted a magnificent corner cupola, rooftop dormers and balconies—features that have long since been removed as the hotel underwent ownership and style changes over the years. For a period in the 1970s, the structure was in danger of demolition due to neglect. Thankfully, the building that stands at the corner of Ward Street was saved from that sad fate and still stands as a Nelson landmark, echoing her proud Victorian roots. 

Vince DeVito Shoes

No one else is stepping into the shoes of this fourth-generation family-owned business. Now in their 97th year of operation, Vince DeVito Shoes has been keeping Nelson and area residents well-heeled for generations. Along with retail footwear sales, the company offers a mail-in shoe repair service that serves the needs of Canadians from coast-to-coast. The store also specializes in custom foot assessments and orthotics.

Wait’s on Nelson

This iconic Nelson diner was opened back in 1937 by Walter W. Wait from Saskatchewan. Wait’s sold the business in 1960, but his name stuck. Formerly known as Wait’s News and located on Baker Street in downtown Nelson, the diner was forced to move to a new location on Nelson Avenue in 2019. The name was updated to reflect that change. Well-known in Nelson for its retro, nostalgic feel and contributions to the street community, the current owners of this much-loved diner look forward to serving the community for many years to come.

Justin Pelant, gemologist, stands beside display cases inside his store.

Justin Pelant, gemologist, owns and operates Ted Allen's Jewelers in Nelson, B.C. The store has been a part of the community of Nelson since 1896. — Photo courtesy Justin Pelant

Ted Allen’s Jewellery

Although the name has changed over the past 127 years, Nelson’s first jewelry store still stands in its original location on Baker Street. First opened in 1896 by John Jacob Walker and known as J.J. Walkers Jewelry, the store still boasts the beautiful curved glass display cases from back in the day.

The Adventure Hotel

Over its 110-year history, the aptly-named Adventure Hotel was known by several other labels, including the Grand Hotel, the New Grand Hotel and the Lord Nelson Hotel. Now beautifully renovated and restored by the present owners, the property offers modern and upscale European-style lodging in the heart of downtown Nelson.

Hipperson Home Hardware

Nelson’s Hipperson Hardware is a fifth-generation business, owned by the Hipperson-Horswill families. The company has been operating in the community since 1923. The original Baker Street location founded by Bill Hipperson is still in operation, and the company also owns the Home Hardware Building Centre in Nelson.

Oldest businesses in Trail

Ferraro Foods

Ferraro Foods was founded in 1943 and generations of the Ferraro family have worked and laboured to build the company into the success it is today. Ferraro Foods has two locations, in Trail and Rossland. In 2016, the company renovated their flagship location in Trail and gave the store a new contemporary look and feel. The company employs over 175 people and many employees have been with the business for decades, which speaks volumes to Ferraro Food's dedication to family and community. 

Now Advertising

Orginally founded as Trail Poster Service in the late 1930s, Now Advertising was bought from the original owners in 1982 and changed names at that point. The company specializes in outdoor billboard advertising and has 30 panels located in key areas along highway routes serving the West Kootenay and Boundary areas of the province. 

Parslow Lock & Safe Ltd

For Parslow Lock & Safe Ltd. in Trail, the key to longevity has been simple: helpful and honest service. Founded in 1947 by Alf Parslow, the business still remains in the same family to this day and is committed to the excellent customer care they were founded on. Aside from cutting traditional keys, Parslow’s licensed locksmiths can also cut and program automotive transponder and high-security keys, install powered handicap door openers and more.

Exterior of Ye Olde Flower Shoppe, showing plants displayed outside.

For 100 years, the Ye Olde Flower Shoppe in Trail has been serving the floral needs of customers. — Photo courtesy Ye Olde Flower Shoppe/Facebook

Ye Olde Flower Shoppe

This home-grown flower shop in downtown Trail is officially celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Opened in 1923, the Ye Olde Flower Shoppe was a success right from the start. According to a 1930s advertisement for the store, the shop even had a refrigerator—presumably to keep flowers cool. While that may not seem overly impressive by today’s standards, having such an appliance was a big deal at a time when most people didn’t own one. Providing beautiful and timeless floral arrangements for all occasions is still the hallmark of this well-loved store. 

Oldest businesses in Ymir

Hotel Ymir

You wouldn’t think that an aging, ramshackle hotel located in a small, backwoods British Columbia mining town would be home to an art collection reportedly worth over $2 million dollars, but you’d be wrong. Built in 1896, the Hotel Ymir has had a storied history over the years, including being known as a popular pitstop for bikers. The current owner is Hans Wilking, an eccentric character himself and avid collector of art and artifacts from around the world.

Do you know of a business that is 50 years or older that should be added to our list? Fill out our form and tell us the details. 

Julie Matchett

Julie Matchett is a writer and content coordinator for KPI Media. She ranks as a 7 on the Introversion vs. Extraversion scale out of 100, which might help to explain why she chose a career of quiet contemplation as opposed to public speaking. View all of Julie Matchett’s articles

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