Businesses Thriving In Community More Than A Century Later
Strong community connection and involvement is as important to a business as its financial success. As Talia Piloto reports, four businesses have been a part of Tallahassee’s community for more than a century.
Gramlings Country Store
Gramlings recently joined Tallahassee’s 100-club, and celebrated with a birthday party that drew hundreds.
Gramlings is a down to earth country store that’s built its success selling fertilizers, plants, pet feed, and seeds. It began in 1915, and today is run by Stan Gramling—the third generation of Gramlings to operate the store.
“My grandfather built it as a warehouse and he kept his business uptown," he says.
The south Adams Street structure where Gramlings is located today was once the store’s warehouse. Stan Gramling estimates his family built it in 1926.
“And used this as a warehouse ‘cause of the railroad side. Back then, there weren’t delivery trucks. They didn’t have delivery trucks and stuff, everything came by railroad,” he says.
Gramling says repeat customers have helped contribute to a successful business for one hundred years in Tallahassee.
The Tallahassee Democrat
The store has been featured dozens of times throughout the years in the Tallahassee Democrat—another local business that’s one hundred and ten years strong. Gerald Ensley is the senior writer at the newspaper. It’s gone through several owners over the years. But Ensley says its legacy began with its founder John Collins.
“The Democrat began in 1905 as a Weekly True Democrat. The founder, John Collins, named it that because he promised the newspaper would adhere to the tried and true principles of old time democracy,” he says.
The Tallahassee Democrat’s Magnolia Drive home is the business’ fourth location. It was built in 1968. Ensley says the paper moved to its current location to accommodate cold type.
But today those presses aren’t running as much. The digital era has impacted the Democrat’s print media.
“We had a circulation of about 70,000, we’re now in the 30,000 range. However, our digital circulation and our page views and our video views and all those have gone through the roof. We have several million of those a day," he says.
Still, the paper’s Tallahassee.com website has helped the paper stay constant with the community.
Proctor Car Dealerships
Another constant is the city’s Proctor car dealerships. They opened in 1910. Martin and Theo Proctor are third generation owners and the vice presidents of the corporation. Martin Proctor says the original owners, Theo and Earl Proctor, started with only two cars on their lot.
“Today we sell Hondas, Acuras, Subarus, all kinds of used cars. We’ve also broadened the business. We have an agency, Compass Marketing Consulting, that started out doing our in house advertising and now represents other clients," he says. "So the business has broadened.”
He says the business has survived because it takes care of its customers and changes with the times.
“We think we’re good about adapting, changing, adapting new technologies, new ways of being a business and new ways of doing business. But then some of the basics don’t change. The taking care of a customer, and following up after the sale and the service. Those are unchanging,” Proctor says.
Captial City Bank
Meanwhile, Capital City Bank is Tallahassee’s oldest business. It opened in 1895. Bill Smith is the chairman, president, and CEO of Capital City Bank Group. He says the company got its start as the only bank in town. Capital City began expanding in the 1970’s and ‘80s and now has offices in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.
And just how did this bank survive the Great Depression and two World Wars?
“You know, I would suggest to you that we’ve been headquartered in a wonderful town in Tallahassee. When you have two big champions in your town like the State of Florida and FSU, it sure is a nice base to operate from," he says. "This is really a wonderful, a wonderful town to have our headquarters in.”
So what has enabled these four businesses to keep their doors open over the past 100 years? The owners agree: community involvement.
“We’re lucky to have good, good people come in here,” says Gramling.
“The community is at all times if not a partner, then certainly one of the co-conspirators,” says Ensley.
“We’ve survived because we change with the times,” says Proctor.
“You have to have a great town in order to have a great bank and we really work hard on building a good town,” says Smith.