DULUTH, MN – It’s no surprise that Duluth has a number of historic places and events in the city’s history that people can hang their hats on.
What might come as a surprise, however, is that it is home to one of the state’s oldest businesses.
“We’ve been in the midst of the community for 150 years,” said owner Jim Olson.
A century and a half later, they are still hanging around.
“It’s something, it’s a cool story, and making it last is hard, [but] we find ways to do it, said Olson.
Olson has been running the company since 1995. He says there’s not much they can’t do in the printing world. He adds, if you can dream it, they can make it happen.
“We do everything from brochures, letterheads, envelopes, forms. It’s hard to be a one-stop-shop, but we’re pretty close.”
Although no longer in the founding family, Olson’s father bought the business from a second-generation Taylor, the company’s namesake, before Olson himself bought it.
To give you an idea of how long the business had been around when Stewart Taylor first opened, the light bulb, car, and telephone had not yet been invented.
Today, the frontage of Superior Street gives way to a maze of equipment and a trunk with an old type of lead, just a few elements marking more than a century of existence in the companies.
Surviving for 150 years has not been easy. It took a lot of adaptation and going beyond.
“You can go back to the 1870s and it was the type of lead and type blocks that were set by hand,” Olson said, “It just gradually changed. The equipment obviously got bigger, better, more fast.”
Surviving as long as they have is going through several world wars, the Spanish flu, stock market crashes and now the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We just started printing COVID stuff for everyone, and our business, you know, has only grown over that time frame, over the past four months,” Olson said.
The secret to longevity, says Olson, is being active in the community.
“If this community isn’t prospering, then Stewart Taylor isn’t prospering, or Duluth Sign isn’t prospering.”
Hoping to prosper for another 150 years.
“If we’ve been through how many wars, how many recessions, how many pandemics, and we’ve always been open. 150 years we’ve been open, and I think that has a lot to do with the people who work here.”
When Olson took over, the company merged with Duluth Sign.
So, not only do they work in the printing world, but they are also responsible for several very recognizable signs in the city.
As to whether or not this is the oldest company in the state, that title belongs to the St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company, founded in 1853, according to the state historical society.
Olson said they have a celebration planned for this year. However, they had to suspend it due to the pandemic. He said they still hope to hold him at the end of 2020.