Observing history through an old sepia photograph or on the pages of a book is one thing, but walking into it is a different experience entirely. Huntsville’s history includes snapshots of space exploration, talented artists, and a landscape that’s in a constant state of change. However, change sometimes forgets a few corners of the city and it’s there you will find some of the oldest operating retail businesses in town.
When it comes to longevity, there are a few businesses in Huntsville that seem to have cracked the code. We’re proud to have a sizeable list of retail that has been around for generations and still operating today.
It would take a much longer article to name them all, but we wanted to highlight a few within the community. Are there other historic businesses still in operation that need to be included? Let us know in the comments. We will continue to update.
Harrison Brothers Hardware
In today’s hustle and bustle, many long for a simpler time when troubles were solved with a piece of candy and a game of marbles. They want a day when people knew the names of local merchants and struck up conversations about the unseasonably cold weather while their parcels were rung up.
On the historic square in downtown, an echo of the past is alive and well in Harrison Brothers Hardware. Open since 1897, this family-owned hardware store is a living fragment of history. Founded by James B. and Daniel T. Harrison, the store has been passed down from generation to generation to ensure lasting integrity and excellent service.
In 1983, John Harrison passed away and the Historic Huntsville Foundation took over and decided to preserve the business with its original look and fixtures. Even the National Cash Register from 1907 remains intact. They have also stuck with a few of the original hardware offerings and guests can purchase nails by the pound, among other things.
Visitors today can choose from a wide selection of seasonal items, local arts and crafts, vintage toys, books, jams, sauces, cookware, candy, paintings, home décor, accessories, and much more. Historical trinkets line the walls among the merchandise and Harrison family mementos are on full display.
This is one time machine you don’t want to miss on your visit to Huntsville.
Lewter Hardware Company
Since 1928, Lewter Hardware has served the city with everything from faucets to garden supplies and paint—anything you might need to keep your household in tip-top shape.
Of course, the business has updated its inventory to include more modern brands and appliances, but the ambiance and service have remained the same. Its large space is filled from floor to ceiling with every piece of hardware imaginable.
Located on Washington Street in downtown, Lewter is family-owned and has withstood the many growth spurts of the community—even lasting through The Great Depression. Another interesting fact is that Lewter once sold dynamite! (The last case was sold in the 1950s.)
This is actually a great place to shop for one-of-a-kind vintage toys. They have Radio Flyer tricycles and little red wagons, toy airplanes, marbles, wooden cars, and more.
Star Super Market
Thanksgiving is upon us and most people are thinking about what to cook. In November 1945, Star Market was busy advertising its “Best Meat On Earth” and encouraging customers to “place their order NOW for Thanksgiving turkey.”
Star Super Market’s original location is in the Five Points neighborhood and it opened its doors in 1944. As a locally owned and operated business, they are proud to be serving the Huntsville community today. (They are still ready to help you order the perfect turkey or ham for your Thanksgiving table.)
Star Market is considered the “Jewel of Five Points” for many of Huntsville’s residents.
These days, the market sells freshly baked items like butter croissants, rolls, and sweet desserts. They also have an excellent deli and produce selection with a variety of seasonal options. To top it off, the shop’s “StarVino” market has white wines, red wines, and champagnes to choose from.
Lawren*s on Madison Street is a “specialty store for the home” filled with unique gifts, clothing, bath accessories, dinnerware, seasonal décor, drinkware, cleaning supplies, books, stationery, flatware—this list goes on and on. It’s impossible to visit this store and walk away empty-handed.
Open since 1963, Lawren*s has a mission of bringing “beauty and comfort to the modern home” and they operate on the principles of happiness and hygge. For anyone unfamiliar with hygge, it’s a Danish word that describes a quality of coziness and wellbeing.
Lawren*s is a well-known favorite among locals and it features a wealth of designers and artists. The staff is extremely knowledgeable and can help you find a gift for any occasion in a flash. They also handle online registries and make shopping easy.
How did this gift store achieve such longevity in the community? Lawren*s chalks it up to stellar customer service and creating personal connections with clientele.
This is an excellent spot to find what you’re looking for next time you need a party gift.
W.L. Halsey Grocery Company
More than 140 years ago, in 1879, Halsey brothers William Leroy and Charles Henry founded W.L. Halsey Company—a retail grocery store delivery business. It began as a retail shop and slowly turned into a foodservice in the 1960s. But what many people associate with the name is the company’s historic location on Jefferson Street near The Avenue apartments.
In 1972, the company outgrew its home and moved to a larger one in Madison. Since then, they have expanded their facilities and added more modern technology for day-to-day operations. They even went through an official name change in 2005 and became “Halsey Foodservice”.
But the importance of history has never been lost, and in 2014 the old Cash & Carry on Jefferson was renovated. They still do business there today.
These days, Halsey Foodservice distributes high-quality fresh and frozen meats, produce, canned goods, kitchen supplies, and more.
- Historic photos provided by the Huntsville Public Library archives.
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