Missoula Legacy Business Registry
The legacy businesses recognized this year by the Missoula Historic Preservation Commission represent a diverse mix of industries. They represent some, but not all, of the businesses in operation for over a century:
1896 – Caras Nursery
The roots of Caras Nursery were planted in 1896, in the same space where it still operates today in the Orchard Homes neighborhood. James K. Caras purchased the business in 1920, and integrated it with his existing downtown business, Garden City Floral. Over the years, the multi-generational family business expanded to include several acres with greenhouses and a one time, an outdoor railway garden and alpacas. The Nursery itself may be one hundred and twenty-three years old to date, but its heartbeat is as strong as ever.
1908 – Missoula Textile Services
Hailing from his Swiss family’s Bozeman laundering empire, Joseph Hagen set his sights north to Missoula in 1908 and opened his own textile service. Model Laundry operated in the basement of the Dorothy Apartment building until 1945 when Hagen moved the business to its East Spruce Street location. Continuing through with his phase of transition, Joseph renamed the company Missoula Laundry and then shortly thereafter sold the franchise to nephews Herman, Karl, and Larry Topel in 1947.
1908 - Union Club Bar & Grill
In 1896, copper magnate Marcus Daly donated land downtown and the original Union Hall was constructed. That building served as local headquarters for unions affiliated with Federal Union Local 83, the precursor of the building trade unions that later organized into separate crafts. When first completed, the facility also housed Missoula's only theater and hosted the town's 1896 Democratic Convention. By 1904, fifteen unions were affiliated with the Missoula Trade and Labor Council. The original building burned in 1911, new construction commenced in 1916, and the present temple opened in 1917, the second and third floors housing union, lodge and of course, dance facilities. Since taking ownership of the building in 1908, the Union Hall Company (in which local unions own stock) has continually fostered the growth of both the national labor movement, and a treasured community hub.
1916 – Missoula’s Office City
Originally called The Office Supply Co. and founded in 1916 by former Montana governor Joseph Dixon, the Office Supply Co. became a staple of Missoula’s downtown business association comfortably situated in the old Florence Hotel. In 1995, the Office Supply Co. joined the nation’s largest buying group and transitioned into what we know today as Missoula’s Office City. Retaining their family business status as well as claiming the title of Western Montana’s locally owned office supply and furniture dealer, Missoula’s Office City continues to provide Missoula a look into its treasured past while providing a fully supplied path to the future.
1917 – Bob Ward's Sports & Outdoors
Robert C. Ward was on his way to discover gold in the Klondike when he ran out of money in Missoula, MT. A family friend owned a jewelry shop and offered Ward a job. Over a decade later, Ward was still in Missoula when he opened a shop that would eventually become Bob Ward & Sons, launching a family tradition that continues to supply Missoula with all things wilderness, one hundred and two years later.