A Century of Business in St. Joseph

January 14, 2020

Written by Emily Baumann | Photography submitted and the Uncommon Character archive


DEFINITION: Diligent and hard-working.

St. Joseph is known for its friendly and welcoming nature to entrepreneurs and small businesses. It seems like there is always something new and exciting happening anywhere from downtown to the southside and to the agriculture that brackets our river town. Every entrepreneur has the spark in their eye that their business might become a legacy, that this just might become a business that their family and friends know and love for generations to come…in St. Joseph there are many businesses over 100 years old that are still with us today. Join us as we celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit that established them and the hard work and grit that has kept each one going for over a century.

Our city was founded on the hard work and enterprising spirit of Joseph Robidoux, and many businesses carry the torch with their work that can be seen throughout our community. Lawhon Construction (1910) built many iconic buildings including the home of the St. Joseph News-Press and the “castle” at Krug Park. Lehr Construction (1890) helped to build much of the manufacturing and industry in St. Joseph throughout the 20th century, including packing plants, grain mills, and Goetz Brewery. Seaman & Schuske Metal Works (1870) started as a company with three employees and has continued through the years to supply major construction projects with custom fabricated metals, laser cutting, and welding services. Originally a machine shop and foundry Jamieson Machine Industrial Supply Co has been in business over 100 years, in downtown St. Joseph, and is now operating as a strong supply company. Shamrad Metal Fabricators (1871) has focused on custom metal fabrication of boilers and many other products through the years. Hillyard (1907) has been dedicated to not only cleaning products but wood sports floor care that helped to pioneer the game of basketball. The roots of internationally known Gray Manufacturing (1916) go back to the original Gray Brothers Tire and Battery, which evolved over time into the company we know today. Family owned Ellison-Auxier Architects have been in continuous operation in St. Joseph for 110 years.

St. Joseph has also been built on the dedication to progress of many organizations that have continued to have lasting impacts on our city and its residents. Missouri Western State University (1915) was founded as the St. Joseph Junior College and has evolved since then to the expansive university campus that it is today. Established in 1882, the St. Joseph YMCA began its service to our city at its first location at Seventh and Felix streets. Soon after the YMCA was established the YWCA St. Joseph (1888) was founded to provide housing and support for young women moving to St. Joseph. The historic libraries of St. Joseph have all been an educational hub bringing access to literature and programs for all for over a century at the Downtown Library, Washington Park, and Carnegie Library. “The Home for Little Wanderers,” was a mission started in 1894 by Charles and Sarepta Noyes to care for St. Joseph’s orphans; and they continue to serve the community by providing a safe haven for children in crisis as the Noyes Home for Children today. Serving the community since 1913 the Social Welfare Board is committed to improving the health of St. Joseph through their mission to provide free and affordable health care to those in need.

Started in 1862 as the Board of Trade of St. Joseph, the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce has pretty much been there for it all. As witness to all of the companies listed and their dedication to the growth and evolution of their businesses, as well as their dedication to the economic growth of St. Joseph. While planning the Chamber’s 100th Annual Banquet for January 2020, Kristi Bailey (Director of Communications & Marketing St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce) remarked on the determination shown by local businesses that have stood the test of time…

Businesses that reach the 100-year mark show incredible drive generation after generation. We’re happy to help promote these companies and help them keep succeeding today and in the future

An eclectic mix of industries have stayed true to St. Joseph, and you may be surprised that some of your local favorites – and maybe a few new discoveries – have been here for a few generations now. Artcrafts Engraving (1913) has served the graphic arts community with innovative printing, plate engraving, and photographic techniques; many talented individuals have passed through their doors including celebrated cartoonist Fred Harman. Giving St. Joseph the perfect sparkle for every occasion since 1908 is Creviston and Son Jewelry, who halted jewelry production during WWII to make precision instrument panels for warplanes. Chase Candy Company began its sweet journey in 1876 (the same year that the telephone was invented), even the beloved Cherry Mash (invented in 1918) is over 100 years old. Western Robidoux and Wing Printing have been serving St. Joseph’s printing needs since as far back as the late 1800s, over the years seeing many advances and adapting to ever-changing customer needs. Dressing St. Joseph in the most dapper of attire since 1912, Leibowitz has clothed generations of men with their one-on-one approach and attention to detail. Butchart Flowers has been adding the touch of floral beauty to over a century of proms, weddings, holidays, celebrations, and more.

One business in particular has been BOOMING since 1895, when Schneitter Fireworks had its first SPARK of business. We caught up with Stacy Schneitter to learn that you never know what business might be “the one” that creates your legacy…

“You hear of businesses starting in garages, basements… well Schneitter Fireworks and Importing company got its start in the trunk of a car, literally. Serial Entrepreneur H.E. Schneitter (Henry) was busy with endeavors like Schneitter Radio Company, Schneitter Sporting Goods here in St. Joseph, and Schneitter Lumber when he received samples of fireworks with the sporting goods he would import. Not one to waste a good opportunity, Henry sold these samples out of the back of his car…and this beginning in 1895…proved to be his most successful, and now his longest-lasting venture.”

Beginning its 125th year in operation in 2020, Schneitter Fireworks feels that St. Joseph is and always will be the perfect place to call home.

“Our family has been rooted here for four generations in this community and love that we are part of that rich tradition of the history of this town. On the business side of things, being centrally located in the US is great for distributing to stores, stands and shooters nationwide.”

Any guesses on what the oldest business in St. Joseph might be?

Locally owned and operated since 1842 Heaton-Bowman-Smith & Sidenfaden Chapel is the oldest business in St. Joseph, and the oldest funeral home in the State of Missouri. This business is so historic that it was actually founded when this area was known as Blacksnake Hills…BEFORE St. Joseph was incorporated as a city by Joseph Robidoux. Delivering the news to your doorstep daily since 1845, the St. Joseph News Press is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. Established in 1917 by W. True Davis, Anchor Serum was an animal vaccine innovator with its creation of the first hog cholera vaccine. The company is now known internationally as Boehringer Ingelheim . In the paper supply business for over four generations is a name you likely see daily in your office: Clayton Paper & Distribution (1884). Kranitz, Sadoun & Carpenter PC (1919) located in a historic building downtown – that houses a legal library – uses its combined years of experience to provide legal services to St. Joseph and our surrounding communities. The St. Joseph Country Club (1898) hasn’t always been located in its current home…the original club located where the Moila Country Club stands today actually burnt to the ground in 1921 to be rebuilt one year later. A private club like the Benton Club (1887) was created as a respite from the day-to-day stress of the business world, and continues to do just that in the modern day.

Local long-standing businesses take their commitment to St. Joseph seriously, just like Meierhoffer Funeral Home, founded on August 1, 1894, five generations of the Meierhoffer family have served the community.

It is an overwhelming feeling to think about the countless families that we have served since 1894. Both Scott and Todd Meierhoffer are the beneficiaries of outstanding examples and leadership from the previous generations of our family and staff. Our commitment to families and the community is as strong today as it was when our great-great grandfather founded our firm.

You never know what spark of imagination, might just be a remarkable business journey that leads you, your family, and generations to come on a path for success and service to their community like the businesses highlighted here.

Note: Did we miss someone who has been in business over 100 years, or is your 100th anniversary coming up? Let us know at uncommoncharacter@gmail.com


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