The Century Club 2019

To thrive in business 100 years or more takes innovation, determination, and reinvention as shown by these companies and organizations focused on law, consumer protection, education, land development, and veterinary medicine.
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Patterson Dog & Cat Hospital // Clark Hill // Better Business Bureau // City Club Apartments // Kettering University


Patterson Dog & Cat Hospital

Located in: Detroit // Founded: 1844 // Employees: 9 // Revenue: NA

Patterson Dog and Cat Hospital
Established in 1844 by Dr. James W. Patterson, an English immigrant and the only practicing veterinarian in Detroit at that time, the Patterson Dog and Cat Hospital has the distinction of being the oldest continuously operating small business in Detroit, the oldest veterinary hospital in the state, and one of the oldest hospitals of any kind in Michigan. It’s also the oldest veterinary hospital in the U.S.

The people moving into the grand old refurbished apartments and homes in Detroit are bringing their pets with them.

“Five years ago, if you wanted a Saturday appointment you could have called on Friday or even Saturday morning and gotten one,” says Dr. Glynes Graham, a veterinarian and owner of the 175-year-old Patterson Dog and Cat Hospital in Detroit. “Nowadays, if you want to see me on a Saturday, it’s probably (a wait of) three weeks.”

In the summer, when all vet practices typically are busier, it may take 10 to 14 days to get an appointment, she adds.

Things sure have changed for the Detroit native. In 1985, when Graham acquired the business on Grand River Avenue in the Woodbridge neighborhood, she had to sell her car, move back in with her parents, and go without a paycheck at times. She still lives in the same southwest Detroit home her parents owned, but thanks to the resurgence in city residents and their furry companions, her finances have changed.

The business itself is changing, too. Patterson’s original structure is long gone, and Graham had the 1970s-era siding stripped off her 1909 building to expose its brick walls and mullioned windows. She also applied for funds from Motor City Re-Store, a matching grant program that helps business owners improve their commercial facades. If she receives a grant, Graham plans to have the brick tuckpointed, and she’ll also replace a light blue bus shelter-style vestibule with something that’s more in keeping with the old structure.

Patterson was established in 1844 as a large-animal veterinary practice, and even as recently as the early 1900s, the business had horse stalls to house its equine patients. Over the years, those stalls have been replaced by metal cages suitable for smaller patients.

Since Graham bought the business some 30 years ago, Patterson’s patient population has evolved, too. Today, popular pets include lots of pit bull-mixes, French bull dogs, and “little fuzzy dogs” like Shih Tzus and Yorkies.

Graham says the fact that Patterson has always been willing to adapt and go with the flow by doing things like reapportioning accommodations to cater to companion pets, rather than the large animals now seen more on farms than in cities like Detroit, is one reason why the business has existed for so long.

Sheep and swine clinic sign
The business is centered on caring for dogs and cats, which is a departure from its past of also caring for horses.

“A lot of it (has been) survival by reinventing itself,” she says. “And really, it’s been (attributable to having) somebody willing to practice here.”

Graham is willing, although her immune system disagrees. In the last year of veterinary school, she developed a pet dander allergy. The vet says she can keep her allergy in check if she restricts her practice to just dogs and cats.

Although Graham acquired Patterson in the mid-1980s (she’s the fifth owner), she started there as a volunteer, filing paperwork and cleaning cages when she was a 15-year-old Girl Scout and wanted to earn her animal first-aid badge. After completing her veterinary medicine degree in 1983 at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Graham married and moved to West Virginia with her husband.

One December, when she returned to Detroit for a Christmas visit, she learned that Patterson was to be sold to a veterinary hospital chain. Graham wasn’t going to let that happen.

Today, Patterson is the oldest veterinary hospital in the United States, according to the Registry of Heritage Veterinary Practices prepared by the American Veterinary Medical History Society. The nation’s second oldest practice was established in 1876 in Kentucky.

In Michigan, the next oldest veterinary practice, the Northside Animal Hospital, opened in 1935 in Owosso.

Graham likes to describe her hospital as “the oldest small business in the City of Detroit that is not either a cemetery or a church.”

“If you find one older, let me know,” she says.

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Clark Hill

Located in: Detroit // Founded: 1890 // Attorneys: 650+ // Revenue: NA

Clark Hill office lobby
Since its forming in 1890 under a previous firm, Clark Hill in Detroit has guided clients through a 20th century roller coaster ride that includes the 1929 stock market crash, two World Wars, the introduction of immigration laws, race riots, unions, the onset of the information age, and the explosion of technology. In addition to multiple U.S. offices, the firm has locations in Mexico City and Dublin, Ireland.

Like so many centennial Detroit-area businesses, the law firm Clark Hill links its early growth to the automotive industry.

Clark, Griffin and Klein — the early name of one of two firms that would merge late in the 20th century to form Clark Hill — practiced at a time when more than 3,500 automotive companies existed and Detroit’s population had exploded from 465,766 in 1910 to more than 1.6 million in 1930.

Joseph Clark and Levi Griffin started their practice in 1895. A third partner, George Klein, joined them in the early 1900s, when he returned to Detroit after the 1906 earthquake and resulting fire in San Francisco destroyed a reported 80 percent of the city, including his office.

Another Detroit firm, Shaw and Cady, had opened five years before Clark and Griffin, in 1890. Sherwin Hill became an assistant in the maritime practice in 1907. He earned his degree from the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor, and became a partner in the firm a few years later.

Visitors to the Greenmead Historical Park in Livonia can see the Simmons-Hill House that Hill and his wife, Jean, owned from 1920 until his death in 1961. At the time the Hills purchased the farmhouse, which marked its sesquicentennial in 2016, Livonia was a retreat from the heat and congestion of the city.

“A few years back, one of our partners arranged to have a visit and we had a gathering there,” says Maria Fracassa Dwyer, a labor and employment attorney who is managing partner of Clark Hill. “It was quite lovely, and it was beautiful to see some of that history.”

Shortly after Hill became a lawyer, he employed his business savvy to switch the firm’s focus when he noticed the improvement of navigational aids and the introduction of maritime insurance. To him, these were signs that maritime law was on the decline, so he reinvented the firm to become proficient in business law.

Maria Fracassa Dwyer
Maria Fracassa Dwyer, a labor and employment lawyer and managing partner of Clark Hill.

Hill established himself as one of the leading business lawyers in Detroit. He served on the boards of major banks and trade associations, and became an active member in the community. He eventually was named a director of Manufacturers National Bank, which merged with Comerica Bank in 1992.

In 1996, what had become Clark, Klein, and Beaumont merged with Hill Lewis to form Clark Hill. At the time, it was the largest merger of law firms in Michigan history.

In 2003, the new firm started growing through a series of mergers and acquisitions. “Our CEO, John Hern, Jr., had a vision of growth and wanted to very strategically expand our footprint across the U.S.,” Dwyer says. “Initially, we stayed focused on the Midwest.”

Eventually Hern set his sights on both coasts and the southern United States. Today, the full-service law firm has 25 offices nationwide, as well as locations in Mexico City and Dublin.

The firm isn’t focused just on adding offices and lawyers; it’s paying attention to community engagement and diversity, too. At its 125th anniversary, in 2015, the firm launched Clark Hill Thrive, where lawyers and support staff
do volunteer work on company time. It also implemented Clark Hill Bold, a program that emphasizes the professional growth and promotion of women, and Clark Hill Pride, to support attorneys and staff who identify as LGBTQ.

“As we grow, we’re very much focused
on diversity and growing those areas, as well,” Dwyer says.

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Better Business Bureau

Located in: Southfield // Founded: 1917 // Employees: 28 // Revenue: $2.5M

Better Business Bureau staff
The Better Business Bureau has its roots in 1912, and the office serving eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula is located in Southfield. Above is the BBB staff, including Melanie Duquesnel, president and CEO, second from left.

Before there were online reviews from Yelp or Angie’s List, there was the Better Business Bureau.

The BBB was formed in 1912 as the National Vigilance Committee by the Associated Advertising Clubs of the World to reinstill public trust in advertising, which made too many fraudulent claims.

“This action by the advertising industry was one of the first steps on the part of industry to police itself,” according to a 1931 article in the Harvard Business Review. “The results accomplished were so outstanding that it later secured the necessary finances to employ experienced personnel to conduct its affairs.”

Shortly after, it was renamed the BBB and has since expanded to include Canada and Mexico.

The local office serving eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula was established in 1917 and is now located in Southfield. It serves the eastern half of the Lower Peninsula, from Jackson County north through central Michigan to Alpena, and the entire Upper Peninsula. Among the charter board members were representatives from Absopure Water Co., J. Walter Thompson, Packard Motor Car Co., and the Detroit Free Press.

A 1962 account in The Detroit News credits H.I. McEldowney, a former longtime general manager of the local office, with helping to get bipartisan support, including that of Gov. G. Mennen Williams, for the Hittle Bill — legislation that targeted unscrupulous auto financers.

The Southfield office’s 2018 service statistics show it’s still relevant, with 1.3 million unique visitors to its website. It typically closes more than 12,000 complaints out of an estimated 25,000 received annually.

The organization’s website includes an interactive scam tracker where consumers can report shady activity and check out suspect deals others have reported, as well as a searchable database for services from AIDS clinics to zoological gardens.

Better Business Bureau Consumer Care bus
Over the years, the BBB has undertaken promotional activities, including a traveling Consumer Care bus located outside the Detroit Press Club, circa 1975.

The top 10 local business complaints include consumer finance companies; auto manufacturers, dealers, and rental and leasing deals; electric utilities; furniture stores; mortgage lenders; dentists; and online retailers.

Currently, there are about 4,000 businesses accredited through the local office. In 1919, a few of the accredited Detroit-area businesses were J.L. Hudson Co., Crowley Milner and Co., Grinnell Brothers Music House, E.J. Hickey Co., and Wright Kay and Co.

In the last 100 or so years, the BBB’s mission hasn’t changed radically, but it has been tweaked.

“I think it’s nuanced in its change,” says Melanie Duquesnel, president and CEO of the BBB in Southfield. “What it has changed into is, How do we make business better? How do we make sure that businesses are putting their best foot forward, in the sense that they advertise accurately (and) that they do what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it?

“(We also want to ensure) that their products are quality and, when Murphy’s Law does hit any of us — which it always does — that that business is going to do whatever it can do to try to rectify the situation.”

In addition to truth in advertising, the BBB offers a small business resource guide as well as savings on printing services at Office Depot for accredited businesses. It also focuses on cybersecurity, electronic retailing, auto warranties, dispute resolution, and potential scams against military personnel and veterans.

“Actually, it’s a very pervasive situation, and we’ve had a program called Military Line for many years,” Duquesnel says. “The main reason that scam artists will go after service personnel is that if there’s an event of nonpayment, that (military) person can be held accountable to their superior officer.”

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City Club Apartments

Located in: Farmington Hills // Founded: 1919 // Employees: 300 // Assets: $3B

Jonathan Holtzman and Alan Greenberg
City Club Apartments in Farmington Hills has its roots in Detroit when Joseph Holtzman started building homes in 1919. Today, the company is owned and managed by Jonathan Holtzman, president and CEO, and his business partner, Alan Greenberg, of Toronto.

When his suit got wrinkled from the drive to his office at the First National Building in downtown Detroit, Joseph Holtzman, a homebuilder, would visit the dry cleaners on the first level. There, he would trade his disheveled suit for the one he had worn the day before and had had pressed.

“That dressing sharp, I think, is a product of people coming from Ellis Island with nothing,” says Jonathan Holtzman, the third generation of his family to run the company his grandfather, a Russian immigrant, started in 1919.

While Joseph made his mark on Detroit with single-family homes, his sons Irwin “Toby” and David left their imprint on the suburbs with the Village Green apartments, starting with their first development in Southgate. Jonathan retains his ownership of 10,000 Village Green apartments in 30 communities, but sold his interest in their operating companies in 2016.

That’s when Jonathan, Toby’s son, decided to cater to those who embrace urban living, like his grandfather did, with what’s now known as City Club Apartments in Farmington Hills. City Club is touted as the country’s first international apartment brand, and Jonathan is co-owner, president, and CEO. He and his business partner, Alan Greenberg, of Toronto, oversee a portfolio of approximately 10,000 apartments in 30 urban and suburban-urban apartment communities, $2 billion in real estate assets, and $500 million in projects under development in Detroit, Cincinnati, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Louisville, and along the East Coast.

Moving vans should be pulling up to the City Club Apartments — Central Business District Detroit community in late summer, Jonathan says. The building will offer 287 apartments and approximately 12,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space. The complex sits on the site of the former Statler Hotel, at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Park Avenue, a short walk from the building where his grandfather had his office at Woodward and Cadillac Square.

Holtzman home
Over the years, the company evolved from building single-family homes to suburban, and now, urban apartments.

A few years ago, the company completed a multimillion-dollar renovation of a neighboring property, originally known as Trolley Apartments, and renamed it the Detroit City Club Apartments. The company also acquired and modernized the former Millender Center Apartments, now known as Renaissance City Club Apartments, and City Club Apartments Lafayette is under development just east of the central business district.

The mid-rise, high-rise, and historically preserved mixed-use communities Holtzman and Greenberg are developing integrate destination restaurants, specialty markets, cafes, pet services, and other amenities. The communities, which feature four distinct interior finish packages and as many as 50 diverse floor plans, are located in urban neighborhoods.

Jonathan joined the family business in 1977, when he was 23, after a short stint as a professional racecar driver. “I was free to make my own decision and (my family) would support me,” he says. “But for my father, my grandfather, and my uncle, (my entry into the business) was something they had wished would happen.”

Because he has no children, the question arises whether City Club Apartments will continue to be family-led. One possibility for a fourth generation leader is Solomon Kahn, 20, who is Jonathan’s second cousin. Kahn interned with the company last summer, and continues to work part-time while he attends the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

“It’ll be interesting,” Jonathan says. “I would like that, but I think it’ll be a combination of (his interest), his abilities, and the other people within the company — because if it’s nepotism, it’s not good for the company and it won’t be good for him. If it’s because he’s talented, that’ll be good for the company and for him, and I’ll do anything I can to encourage his success.”

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Kettering University

Located in: Flint // Founded: 1919 // Employees: 498 // Revenue: $69M (FY)

Kettering University
Founded in 1919 as The School of Automobile Trades in Flint, and later renamed General Motors Institute, today Kettering University offers academic programs in engineering, science, mathematics, business, and more. The university is named after Charles Kettering, who over a long career is credited with the invention of Freon, the electric starting motor, leaded gasoline, greater use of colored paints, the “Bug” aerial torpedo (missile), advancements in diesel engines, and efficiency efforts in the heavy equipment and locomotive sectors.

Kettering University was established to prepare workers and managers for employment in the automotive industry, but as the sector has evolved in the past century, so has the school.

Just as it did in 1919, when it was founded as The School of Automotive Trades, Kettering still focuses on providing a cooperative education for its undergraduate students, which currently number about 2,000. Today, though, those co-op undergrads may be employed in the aerospace, medical, or finance industries as well as at companies that make cars and trucks.

In fact, the polytechnic and business school has relationships with more than 600 companies worldwide, including the likes of Tesla, Bosch, and NASA. Not surprisingly, its grads have gone on to lead companies such as General Motors Co. (Mary Barra, chairman and CEO of GM, is an alum) and Delphi Technologies. Observers may be surprised to learn that the leaders of Old Navy and Gibson Brands, the guitar and musical instruments company, are Kettering grads, too, as are the founders of medical devices maker Zimmer Biomet and “The Weather Channel.”

Over the years, Kettering University has grown beyond its undergraduate offerings. There are currently about 500 graduate students in fields such as automotive systems, engineering, business administration, and operations management. Four years ago, the university started offering online learning for graduate programs; up to 1,000 e-learning students are enrolled at any one time.

Along with its growth and diversified program offerings, Kettering earned accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission in 1962. Its current accreditation runs through the 2023-24 school year.

New on the school’s Flint campus is the $7-million GM Mobility and Research Center, which includes a proving ground and research facilities for R&D on autonomous vehicles and mobility systems. The “GM” in the title is due to a significant gift the automaker made to fund the center, and not a reflection of its previous ownership of the school from 1926-1982, when it was known as General Motors Institute.

“That research center sits on the site of the original Chevrolet assembly factory, so there’s a nice symmetry, in a way, between the fact that it was one of the founding locations for the American auto industry and now it’s one of the founding locations for the next generation of mobility,” says Bob McMahan, who has been president of the university since 2011.

The center is helping to make Kettering and Michigan major players in the advancement of mobility solutions.

“If you want to talk about looking forward to the future of the institution, we were founded with the original automotive industry and we’re uniquely situated to be participants in the next generation of automotive technology,” McMahan says.

“Automotive News named us one of the four universities in the United States that you want to consider if you want to be in the future of the automotive industry. So, while I emphasize that we’re very broadly based, we still have strong ties to the future of automotive,” he adds.

A lot has changed, but some things remain the same.

“I was listening to a recording the Edison Society made of a speech that Charles Kettering (the famed GM engineer the school is named for) gave in 1957 on education and cooperative education, and the challenges of higher education in the United States and, quite honestly, you could give that speech today and people would think it was absolutely on point and incredibly insightful,” McMahan says.

“The same kind of things we talk about today, about STEM and science and engineering, they were talking about 100 years ago when this institution was founded.”

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