Answered: Oldest family-owned businesses in Richmond

Billups Funeral Home in Church Hill - Richmond, VA

Billups Funeral Home in Church Hill. | Photo by Paul Sableman via Flickr

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Reader Charmaine E. asked us to investigate some of the oldest family-owned businesses in Richmond, so we got to researching. Many River City storefronts have been serving customers for over a century.

A quick note: foodies might worry at the lack of restaurants on this list — never fear. We already published a conversation on the oldest restaurants in the city.

Billups Funeral Home | Opened 1850

This Church Hill funeral home was founded by Lafayette Washington Billups in 1850. His son moved the business to 2500 E. Marshall St. in the 1890s. The building became the first fully air conditioned funeral home in VA after its 1928 expansion. Today, the home is still owned and operated by Billups family members.

Cowardin’s Jewelers | Opened 1865

The legacy of Cowardin’s Jewelers is five generations deep. William H. Cowardin opened his watch and jewelry shop in Shockoe Bottom in 1865. The jewelers have set up shop in several locations in their 150+ year history. They are currently located at 4909 W. Broad St. near Willow Lawn.

Siewers Lumber & Millwork | Opened 1884

A German immigrant, Richard Alvin Siewers started a building company and lumber yard at Canal + Belvidere Streets in 1884. He passed the business to his wife, Sabine, who then left it to their sons. Their grandsons moved the business to 1901 Ellen Rd. near The Diamond in 1974.

Waller & Company Jewelers | Opened 1900

Marcellus Carrington “M.C.” Waller taught himself the business of jewelry and watch repair in the late 1800s. Part of Richmond’s entrepreneurial Black business community at the turn of the century, Waller opened his shop in 1900 in the Carver neighborhood. The business is now located at 19 E. Broad St.

Agee’s Bicycles | Opened 1910

Since 1910, the Agee family has kept Richmonders biking. One of the nation’s oldest bike shops, Agee’s was known as West End Bicycles when Louis Agee opened its doors in the Byrd Park area. It now has three locations on West Broad, Midlothian Turnpike, and Cary Street.

We couldn’t highlight all of the historic businesses that are still family-owned and operated in Richmond — that’d take quite a few more newsletters.

What should we look into next? Let us know + we could write a conversation about it.

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