What's New for 100-Year-Old Companies


1. R.L. Polk & Co. / Founded in 1870 / Southfield

R.L. Polk’s first publication was a directory of cities along the route of the Detroit and Milwaukee railway, featuring information on town populations and names of residents and professionals. In 1920, Polk began assembling automotive statistics with a compilation of vehicle registration data for Michigan; information on cars in other states soon followed. Today, the company provides detailed marketing analysis and other services to the automotive industry. The company also owns CARFAX, which offers vehicle history data to consumers.

2. Kirlin Lighting Co. / Founded in 1895 / Detroit

The oldest family-owned-and-operated lighting business in America, Kirlin Lighting was originally established in St. Paul, Minn., as a manufacturer of electric power plants. The company transitioned to producing higher-end architectural light fixtures in the early 1900s, and moved to Detroit in the 1910s to take advantage of the city’s skilled labor force. It was then that the company developed the first three-color-lens traffic signal. Today, Kirlin combines the latest technologies with advanced design and manufacturing techniques to generate new lighting products, including LED light fixtures.

3. Detroit Store Fixture Co. / Founded in 1898 / Detroit

Detroit Store Fixture has been selling retail-oriented display fixtures for 114 years. Although store fixtures have changed, the company has kept up with retail demands while also making display products available for non-retail buyers. Originally spread out across three locations, the company merged to form a single store and showroom at its Eight Mile location 50 years ago. Today, Detroit Store Fixture remains the area’s leading distributor of  store fixtures and accessories, including showcases, slatwall, gridwall, hangers, garment racks, and mannequins.

4. Detroit Testing Laboratory Inc. / Founded in 1903 / Warren

The nation’s first automotive testing laboratory, Detroit Testing, got its start providing quality-control testing for local foundries. In its first half-century, the company grew with the expanding auto industry, conducting metallurgy testing and fuel analysis for the Big Three. By the ’90s, the company was offering full-vehicle and environmental testing and had relocated from Detroit to Warren. In 2007, the company opened the first hybrid and electric vehicle battery testing facility in Detroit. The company currently provides testing and calibration services for various industries, including automotive and aerospace. In 2011, Detroit Testing was acquired by Element Materials Technology.

5. Awrey Bakeries LLC / Founded in 1910 / Livonia

Started by Canadian immigrants Fletcher and Elizabeth Awrey in 1910, Awrey Bakeries started selling baked goods door-to-door before it opened its first retail outlet on Tireman Avenue in 1914. It grew rapidly during the 1920s and, by 1933, the company had 55 outlets. After World War II, Awrey’s growth continued, thanks in large part to the increasing popularity of supermarkets. In 2005, the company filed for Chapter 11, and it was sold for $25 million. Today, Awrey Bakeries continues as a leading producer of fresh and frozen baked goods, and supplies these products to restaurants, hotels, schools, hospitals, and other customers. Last year, Awrey launched a line of mini-desserts and earned the 2011 Innovative Product of the Year Award from Baking Management magazine.


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