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Test of time: Charlotte’s longest surviving companies on making it work for decades at a time
By Sam Boykin CHARLOTTE — Charlotte’s retail industry dates back to 1771, when Jeremiah McCafferty opened the city’s first store. According to “Hornet’s Nest: The Story of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County,” McCafferty carried such staples as whiskey, salt, molasses, cheese and farming tools. McCafferty didn’t have a monopoly for long. By 1800, the city had several general stores, a rifle factory, blacksmith shop, saw mill and a number of taverns, all serving a population of less than 300. Quite a bit has changed since then. Charlotte is now home to about 935,000 people and 3,500 retail locations, according to the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. While none of the retailers dates back to McCafferty’s time, several have been around the Queen City in one form or another for more than 100 years. We spoke with the owners of some of Charlotte’s longest surviving companies, asking owners how their companies have changed, lessons they’ve learned and what they’ve had to overcome to survive.