Milestones 2023: Corporate Anniversaries

Since we launched the Milestones feature in January 2015, it’s been an exercise in celebration: Each year, we see new company names thrust into the ranks of sesquicentennial survivors, centenarians and those lighting the candles on a diamond or golden anniversary.

Because we mark their longevity in five-year increments, we can actually see how the roster is changing by the half-decade. Sad to say, the changes aren’t always uplifting. 

Occasionally, whether through acquisition, merger or just plain lack of momentum after decades of in business, some names drop from the line-up forever. This time around, that includes Western Roofing and First State Bank of Missouri, both of which were acquired since we last published this cohort of business enterprises in 2018.

The ranks may thin out a bit, but the top-line numbers continue to inch up—tributes to the managerial acumen, flexibility and adaptability of leadership within those organizations. 

Think about it: The Uhlmann Co., topping this year’s list, owns two brands of flour whose origins predate the Civil War. Even if you started that firm’s timeline on the date of the Kansas City company’s acquisition, that would still be a history of more than 70 years. That takes some doing.

All told, more than 80 companies show up as at least 100 years old, as identified through business archives compiled by the states of Kansas and Missouri and by Ingram’s. Nearly 140 more are at least half a century in business, including 19 hitting a nice, round 100 years, and 21 coming in at 75 in 2023.

Working their way to golden anniversary status this year are nearly 50 more. Given that the average age of a Standard and Poor’s 500 company is just 21, and that more than half of small businesses fail before their 10th anniversary, what this year’s Milestones companies have done is more than admirable—it’s standard-setting. Congratulations to each of them, and  to the employees who keep them going.

180 years (founded 1843)
The Uhlmann Co. (Hecker’s Baking Flour)
Hecker’s All-Purpose Flour was milled and sold to American bakers for more than a century before Kansas City’s Uhlmann family acquired it 70 years ago. Ceresota Flour, with roots of its own dating to 1891, is the other brand the company flies. Both produce baking and pizza flour—generally available in the greater Chicago and Philadelphia markets—that prides itself for its high protein content and chemical-free production, with no bleaching agents. The company today is led by Wesley Fehsenfeld, who represents the fourth generation of family ownership for the company. That started in 1951, when Paul Uhlmann, Sr. and R. Hugh “Pat” Uhlmann acquired controlling interest in Standard Milling Co. and the two flour brands.

165 years (founded 1858)
Baker University
When Baker University talks about being No. 1, it’s not an idle boast: For one thing, the private college based in Baldwin City is the longest continually operating university in Kansas. It cites a 99 percent career and graduate school placement, and its graduates have higher average earnings than those of any other university in the state. Even its athletic program has produced a national champion: Mike McCarthy, now head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, whose Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl in 2011. It has a total enrollment of about 2,300 students in more than 50 degree programs—at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels—along with certification programs on main campus and satellite locations.

160 years (founded 1863)
Maur Hill-Mount Academy
The Benedictine order is well-known for being woven into the fabric of life in Atchison through the presence of Benedictine College, but nearly a decade before that institution opened its doors, the nuns who settled there established Mt. St. Scholastica as a high school for girls. More than half a century would pass before its boys’ counterpart, Maur Hill Prep, opened its doors. This year marks another milestone for the combined institution; the two schools were merged in 2003 to form the current Catholic, international, college-prep boarding and day school.

150 years (founded 1873)
Lathrop GPM
The oldest continuously operating law firm west of the Mississippi River took on a new brand in 2020, when Kansas City’s Lathrop & Gage merged with Minneapolis-based Gray Plant Moody to form Lathrop GPM. It was a strategic alliance that added depth to services in the Midwestern core and created a robust national profile. It is a business law firm in the truest sense, with nearly 325 lawyers operating in 13 offices nationwide and serving a client base the firm calls “the backbone of our economy.” “Our clients run factories, build skylines, cure diseases, create jobs and power our world,” the firm declares. 

Stuppy Greenhouse
No, you can’t buy your greenhouse-fresh plants and shrubs there, but because of the work they do at Stuppy Greenhouse, you can get your flora fix at locations across the nation: The North Kansas City company makes commercial, educational and research greenhouses. Five generations deep in its ownership, Stuppy has a corporate history that tracks with the rise of American horticulture. It produces heating solutions and growing systems that serve large-scale wholesale growers, commercial garden centers, schools, universities, botanical gardens and others.

145 years (founded 1878)
Walker Medical Linen Supply
How’s this for brand strength? The shirt-and-flatwork cleaners founded by the Walker family in 1878 operated under the Walker Laundry brand for 68 years, until it sold to Rubin and Jack Shapiro in 1946. More than 75 years later, the Walker name still resonates in this market. That’s because the Shapiro’s kept it as part of the rebrand to Walker Towel and Uniform in the 1950s, then Walker Medical Linen Services in 2011 as the focus sharpened on health-care linen services. The secrets of that longevity? The company cites its continuing investments in state-of-the-art equipment, more than 100 dedicated employees who average 19 years of service, and consistent service that has evolved to match changing customer needs.

135 years (founded 1888)
Mutual Savings Association
Checking. Savings. Credit cards. Loans. The formula is just that simple for Mutual Savings Association, which, as it happens, lives by a motto: “Banking has never been simpler.” From its inception, the goal was to enable people in the Leavenworth region to become homeowners, accrue savings, and secure their futures—a goal that hasn’t changed, the bank says. “The most significant factor to our ability to sustain strong financial performance and maintain our independence is our mutual ownership,” says president and CEO Josh Hoppes. “Being owned by our depositors eliminates the need to meet the demands of shareholders. This allows our board and management team to take a more long-term approach to running our company. At times forgoing short-term benefits for the sake of greater long-term success. Our mutuality has also allowed us to build significant capital, which has us well-positioned to take advantage of growth opportunities in the years ahead.”

125 years (founded 1898)
Burns & McDonnell
Clinton Burns and Robert McDonnell planted the seeds before the turn of the 20th century; 125 years later, more than 10,000 employees in offices across the nation and world have created an engineering, design and construction legacy. Now the biggest engineering-services firm in a region known as a center of design excellence, Burns & McDonnell continues to evolve with additional service lines, including business consulting. One example of that evolution: Formation of the 1898 & Co. business consulting enterprise, helping clients harvest and analyze data in new ways to provide powerful business-growth insights.

115 years (founded 1908)
Massman Construction Co.
Marine construction services—from the middle of the country? Not as far-fetched as it sounds. After all, where Massman Construction was founded, a river runs through it. The Missouri River, to be precise. Founder Harry Massman drew on his experience dredging sand from the river to launch this contractor specializing in projects where land-based transportation is tested by rivers, lakes and other waterways. Bank stabilization, channelization, spillways and other projects became the life’s blood of the company, now in its fourth generation of Massman ownership.

110 years (founded 1913)
UMB Bank
The past few years have been big ones for UMB, which staked its claim to being the largest bank in the Kansas City market, measured by assets, in 2019. Founded as a branch in the Kemper family banking tree, it’s a powerhouse today with $32 billion in assets as it continues to assert that market dominance and create $5 billion in separation from its closest competitor. Originally formed as City Center Bank, it offers the full megillah of financial services: checking and savings accounts, credit services that include home mortgages, auto loans, business loans and credit cards, and services to guide clients in investing and wealth management for individuals, corporate andnon-profit clients alike.

100 years (founded 1923)
Balls Food Stores
In its centennial year, says CEO David Ball, “our philosophy is very simple: We have always put our 2,700 plus teammates first” at 26 stores flying the flags of Hen House Market, Price Chopper and Sun Fresh Markets. “We truly believe that if we take care of our teammates and treat them like family, with respect, appreciation and love, our teammates will take care of our customers and treat them with the same respect, appreciation and love,” Ball says. “Then the customers will take care of our company by continuing to shop with us in clean, well-organized stores where our teammates are passionate about providing excellent customer service with great quality products in first-class facilities. This philosophy has served us well for the past 100 years … we are confident that it will continue to produce successful results for our teammates, customers and our company.”

John A. Marshall Co.
Four generations deep into family ownership after a century in business, Lenexa-based John A. Marshall Co. serves the office market with furnishings, flooring, and architectural products. In addition to corporations, the company serves clients in health care, government, and educational markets in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. The ability to form relationships—long-lasting ones—are the key to its longevity, the company says, and current success flows from an experienced team and additional services, from space planning to flooring solutions and furniture applications. 

Kaw Valley Roofing and Sheet Metal
They’ll tell you at Kaw Roofing & Sheet Metal that they do it all. They are not exaggerating: Flat, steep or no-slope roofing, historical rebuilds, architectural sheet metal, slate or tile, new construction or renovation/reroofing, the Daly family and Kaw Roofing have had the Kansas City region covered—quite literally—for a century. The firm’s fingerprints are all over some of the most prominent structures in the region: the former Sprint headquarters campus, American Century’s iconic towers overlooking the Country Club Plaza, Cabela’s, Overland Park Convention Center and many others.

Russell Stover Candies
A century of “Yummm.” It’s been that long since Clara and Russell Stover put the kitchen of their Denver bungalow to his highest and best use, pulling together a staff of seven to produce Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow Candies. Within a few years, factory production was moved to Kansas City, then the whole shooting match by 1934, including an ice-cream factory. Nearly a decade after the Ward family sold the enterprise to Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Sprungli, Russell Stover remains a key corporate citizen of Kansas City. 

University of Saint Mary
Liberal arts instruction in the Catholic tradition lives strong in Leavenworth, where the Sisters of Charity opened a post-secondary institution for young women 100 years ago. Today, the fully co-ed University of St. Mary serves roughly 1,200 students, undergrad, and graduate, with a wide range of degree programs, including an MBA track to support the regional business community. “Saint Mary remains essential because the institution has adapted with the times and the needs of our students,” says Sister Diane Steele, USM’s president, and is positioned for its next century. “Over the past few years, the university has grown its focus on health care education—meeting a key need of society, and providing excellent opportunity for its students, she says. “An ever-growing portion of the USM student body is first-generation, and the university continues to grow its impactful First Generation Scholars program to ensure that these students succeed. Saint Mary continues to add options for students—growing its cyber-security program; expanding online offerings—to continue to meet their needs.”

Vance Brothers
Most of us bleed red. At Vance Brothers, “asphalt is our lifeblood,” and has been for a century. “After putting it down for nearly a century, you could also say it’s in our blood,” the company declares. “Each year teaches us new ways to build a better surface and do more for our customers. We work at every layer, with professionals whose skills and experience go above and beyond.” The specialty contractor traces its success to a proven strategy of investing in the technology, materials, equipment and training it takes to do every job right the first time. It’s motto: “Expect the Best. Every Time.”

95 years (founded 1928)
Jack Cooper Transport Co.
CEO Michael Riggs and his daughter, Chairman Sarah Riggs Amico, have spent years turning around this long-time vehicle-hauling company since he acquired it in 2009. In November 2019, Jack Cooper Transport exited bankruptcy proceedings—just in time for the auto industry’s supply chain to get snarled by a global pandemic. So the work goes on, but there’s no denying the success in rebuilding it, tripling the employees count to more than 3,000 nationally, and ranking among Transport Topics’ Top 100 trucking firms.

90 years (founded 1933)
Shaw Electric Co.
Four generations deep into family ownership, Shaw Electric says the success that has kept it going for 90 years is grounded in the same commitment to good service and hard work that founder Frank Shaw brought to his fledgling enterprise in 1933.  It has grown from small service electrical work to a team of 175 that includes electrical engineers, technicians, project managers, and estimators, with a service portfolio that covers more than 25 states. It’s client roster includes companies from health care, industrial, government and commercial/residential settings, as well as schools, retail and hospitality/entertainment venues. 

75 years (founded 1948)
Lift Truck Sales & Service
Lift Truck Sales & Service provides material handling and aerial solutions, including forklifts, material-handling equipment, scissor lifts, heavy-duty battery charging equipment and other devices that provide muscle to manufacturing and construction operations. With offices in Kansas City and Springfield, it serves eastern Kansas and western Missouri dealing in new and used equipment sales, rentals, parts and service, and it’s a past winner of Clark Material Handling’s Dealer of Excellence and Dealer of Distinction awards.  

It started in 1948 with the commitment of one man and a handful of volunteers who refused to let society cast off half a dozen abused an abandoned boys. Through the years, what began as the Ozanam Home for Boys has grown into a non-profit co-ed treatment center in south Kansas City has educated thousands of children with behavioral and emotional problems and learning disabilities. It provides residential treatment, group home living, independent living services and behavior-consultation services for schools.

Smiley’s Golf Complex
Many long-time residents of Johnson County swatted their first golf balls at Smiley’s Sportsland in Lenexa, long before the company pulled up pins and relocated further west, not far from where K-7 meets I-435. Now branded as Smiley’s Golf Complex, it features a highly challenging mini-golf course, a driving range that for 18 years has been ranked among the nation’s top 100, and an 18-hole executive course. For schedule-challenged executives,  the latter is key: Smiley’s doesn’t require tee times: “Just show and go!” it says.

60 years (founded 1963)
BRR Architecture
BRR Architecture was founded in 1963 by the original partners, Bill Franklin and C.I. Frieze. The firm began as a grocery architecture firm and, over the years, grew into additional sectors, including retail, corporate environments, hospitality, multi-family, and mixed-use projects. How? Responsiveness to clients, a focus on continual improvement, and an emphasis on quality are core principles that drove the firm’s success. Mariah Meyer took the helm of BRR in January 2022 as its first female CEO, and is the driving force behind a 2025 strategic plan. “I understand the tremendous responsibility I have to my 300+ teammates at BRR; I come to work each day motivated by what we will accomplish together. We intend to expand on this legacy of excellence and deliver inspiring architecture for our clients.”

Kansas City Chiefs
One could get super technical and argue that the Dallas Texans came into being three years before the team moved to Kansas City, but as an equally technical counter-point, the Kansas City Chiefs didn’t exist in 1960, ’61 or ’62. So yes, the team we know today came into being in 1963, and this year marks 60 years since that happy transformation. The sixth decade was even more successful than the first, when the Chiefs were the terror of the old American Football League—they won 71.88 percent of their games the past decade (Thanks, Andy! Thanks, Patrick!), compared to 62.14 percent in the Hank Stram/Len Dawson epoch.

55 years (founded 1968)
Kansas City Royals
At times, the years have been lean and the victories few, but that only makes it sweeter for Royals fans when the wins do stack up. Not long after the club’s inaugural season in 1969, the team was banging heads year after year with baseball’s elite—the damn Yankees—for the American League championship. Four World Series later (two as champs, in 1985 and 2015) Kansas City fans find some comfort in not being one of the seven teams with the worse all-time winning percentages, including bigger-market teams from Seattle, Dallas, Philadelphia, San Diego, Denver and Miami. All time, the Royals have won 47.8 percent of their games, with a cumulative win-loss record of 4,057-4,427.

50 years (founded 1973)
Cates Service Co. Heating & Air Conditioning
Success? It’s all in the QTPES at Cates Heating & Cooling. If you need to brush up on your acronyms, that’s Quality Technicians Providing Exceptional Service. That’s not just a corporate value, it’s a mind-set at this family-owned HVAC specialist founded half a century ago. Those quality techs bring more than 400 years of combined industry experience, along with a get-it-done attitude of “yes” when customers ask if this Lenexa-based company can fix their issues.

Golden Boy Pies
Terry Hunt had a passion for pies when he founded his own commercial bakery in 1973, and the quality of the product has helped Golden Boy Pies withstand consolidation and contraction in that restaurant-services niche. Longevity is easier to achieve if you commit to making your products, from scratch, with quality, natural ingredients. At Golden Boy, that means pies, brownies, cakes and cupcakes and cheesecakes, all destined for tables at restaurants, hospitals and other organizations in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, and western Illinois.

Jayhawk Plastics
From cutting sticks to paper knives and other tools for manufacturers, Jayhawk Plastics has been on the cutting edge (nyuk, nyuk) for 50 years. One reason for that endurance is the 90-day guarantee that its products are free from manufacturing defects and workmanship—under normal operating use and service, of course. Based in Olathe, the company also turns out jogger blocks, knife pads and clamp pads used in production of paper-based products.

Olathe Ford Lincoln
The Olathe Ford Lincoln dealership we know today began with the purchase of a dealership by Dee Bradley and Don Maddux before ownership transitioned to long-time employees Marc McEver and Sam Mansker. McEver took the reins on his own with his partner’s 2021 retirement, and he oversees a staff that has grown to more than 300, selling roughly 25,000 units each year and earning recognition as Ford’s No. 1 dealer in Kansas City. That growth has come by adding new departments selling RVs, fleet and commercial vehicles, the Lincoln model line and other options for customers.

Worlds of Fun
This one needs no introduction: If you grew up in Kansas City, chances are you spent some of your youth double-dog-daring your friends to take on the Schussboomer, the Finnish Fling or the late, great Zambezi Zinger. And when you heard those terms, you knew someone was talking about Worlds of Fun, Kansas City’s answer to amusement parks that came into vogue after Disneyland opened in 1955. Those rides are long gone, replaced by newer, bigger thrills that still keep ’em coming to the Northland Park.

45 years (founded 1978)
It operates within a niche as a specialist in environmental engineering, but Olathe-based Terracon is no niche company: It’s a national powerhouse with more than 5,000 employees at 175 locations in every U.S. state. They’re not just employees, they’re employee-owners, as the firm is 100 percent ESOP. One of the region’s most-active companies with acquisitions of practices nationwide, Terracon offers services in environmental, facilities, geotechnical, and materials design. It posted revenues of more than $900 million in 2021.

Ingram’s 2023 edition of Milestones-Corporate Anniversaries is a data dive that requires deep and intensive research by our team. But we can only work with data as it exists, and frankly, the states of Missouri and Kansas have business databases shot through with inaccuracies. Even after years of refinement, there’s still a chance we’ve missed some companies celebrating a milestone anniversary this year. If yours is one of them, please let us know by emailing Editorial@Ingrams.com or call us at 816.842.9994. 

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