5 of the oldest businesses in America

The John Stevens Shop

oldest american company john stevens
  • Type of business: Stone carving
  • Year founded: 1705

John Stevens put up his shingle in Newport, R.I. in 1705, seven years after emigrating from England and 71 years before the United States of America was formed. He sold everything from rum and molasses back then, but the store's bread and butter was stone carving, specifically gravestones.

In 1927, the Stevens family sold the business to John Howard Benson, who was enamored by the colonial gravestone designs it used to create.

Nick Benson, a trained calligrapher, stone carver and John Benson's grandson, runs the business today. The company still engraves headstones, but it also does the carving on memorials like the FDR Four Freedoms Park.

He says the business has survived for two reasons: He's not concerned about making big bucks and he cares deeply about his work.

"We don't care about the money as much as we care about the product," he says. "I'm inspired by the legacy I've received."

First published July 30, 2014: 4:55 PM ET

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