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Living legacies: Longtime Winston-Salem businesses defy the odds
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Living legacies: Longtime Winston-Salem businesses defy the odds

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Clockwise from top left, Alex and Amy Linville of McCullough Tile & Stone; John and Mosby Vogler of Salem Funeral and Cremation Service; Mary Jane and John Dewees of Pfaff's Inc.; McCullough Tile & Stone; the earlier iteration of Salem Funeral and Cremation.

Of the 5.5 million family controlled businesses in the United States, historically, fewer than 15% survive transfer to the third generation, according to government figures.

But some local businesses defy those odds, succeeding for 50, 100, even 150-plus years. Through recessions, depressions, expansions, technological advances and now, a pandemic, many area businesses have not only survived but grown, continuing to support their community’s changing needs.

What’s their secret?

We talked to four local companies with a combined 520 years of service to the community.

They say excellent staff, connecting with the community, focusing on customer service and adapting to change all play a role in their longevity.

The Moravians, who established the first European towns in what was then the backcountry of North Carolina, built mills, tanneries, and wagonworks. Their religious philosophy saw no division between home, business and church, each needing to be successful to support the others.

Salem, the oldest planned community in the state, became home to the funeral business begun by cabinet and coffin maker Alexander Vogler in 1858. The company provided the first horse-drawn ambulance to the community and the first motorized hearse in 1913 .

A sixth generation of Voglers operates Salem Funeral & Cremation Service from the same building today.

As church interests came into conflict with commercial interests, however, many businesses moved a mile north to establish the new town of Winston, which had fewer restrictions and, as time moved on, better access to transportation. Transportation in the form of the railroad attracted the brash young RJ Reynolds whose impact on Forsyth County cannot be overstated.

Burton Craige, third generation of what is today the oldest law firm in North Carolina, moved from Salisbury, where the firm was established in 1832, to Winston to become legal counsel for Reynolds Tobacco in 1911 and later opened an office of Craige & Craige here.

Craige’s son and nephew continued after him. Though the firm passed out of family hands in the 1960s, it retains the names of the founders to honor that uninterrupted history.

The law firm, which didn’t use newly-invented typewriters when it opened, bought its first computer in 1986.

As textile and tobacco businesses grew to become major employers, the city’s population expanded, driving demand for homes and community amenities.

Among the many small businesses established in the early 1900s, Sam Pfaff created a glass-glCrazing business that serviced the factories of Hanes Hosiery and Reynolds Tobacco as well as the schools, churches and businesses of the sprawling neighborhoods. That business has grown and is operated by the third generation.

As GIs returned from World War II and Korea, they started families, driving one of the strongest economic booms America has ever seen.

In Forsyth County, the population ballooned nearly 30% in the 1950s with wages that established a solid middle class.

As home ownership grew, families invested in real estate, and John McCullough was among the entrepreneurs who provided the services they needed when he opened his tile company in 1962. Today his daughter and grandson carry on the company’s dedication to quality workmanship.

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