9 of the Oldest Businesses in Pierce County
One of our favorite things about living in the South Sound area includes all of the amazing local businesses that are in Pierce County. Some of these businesses have been around for several decades (or even over a century in some cases), and in this post we’ll be focusing on Pierce County businesses that were established before the 1950s. However, do keep in mind that this is by no means a comprehensive list, but just a place to get started in exploring the history of Tacoma and beyond!
Here are a few of the oldest businesses in Pierce County:
The Spar - Established in 1917
Located in Tacoma’s Old Town neighborhood, The Spar is one of the oldest operating businesses we could find! The business was originally called the Old Tacoma Saloon, but Prohibition caused the bar to close down. In 1917, the David Building was constructed and the Radonich brothers used the space as a soda parlor, billiards parlor, and a men’s furnishing store. In 1926, a lunch counter was added into the mix, and this is also when the business received its new name, The Spar. You can still drop by The Spar today and enjoy food, beverages, and live music from time to time.
(Image on the left above: The Spar in the 1940s courtesy of Tacoma Public Library, 17873)
Brown & Haley - Established in 1912
Located just a few blocks from the Tacoma Dome, Brown & Haley is best known for making the popular treat Almond Roca that is enjoyed in 63 countries around the world. There is a fascinating timeline of this Tacoma business here, from when Brown and Haley first met at a church in Tacoma and began their business partnership in 1912, to when they set up their factory and Almond Roca was created in 1923. Today you can purchase their creations in a huge variety of grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.
Johnson Candy Company - Established in 1925
Located in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood, Johnson Candy Company began in the Olympic Dairy on South K Street in Tacoma. Russell Johnson began making and selling chocolates in his parents’ shop, a creamery business that evolved into an ice cream shop and eventually turned into a confectionary! (Read more about their unique history here!) Today you can still purchase housemade sweets and treats from Johnson Candy Company—stop by their online shop to browse their extensive selection of chocolate, toffee, fudge, and more.
(Image on the left above: Ron Johnson in front of his parents' general store at 1109 So. K St. (now Martin Luther King Jr. Way) in 1938 courtesy of the Tacoma Public Library, 36865)
The Valley - Established in 1926
Located right on Puyallup Ave by Port of Tacoma, The Valley has been reimagined many times over the years. Today you can still stop by this Tacoma mainstay to enjoy a cold beer, burgers, subs, and live music.
Parkway Tavern - Established in 1935
Located in Tacoma’s North End right on the edge of the Stadium District, Parkway Tavern started way back in 1935. This local staple originally began as a corner store known as Rawlings Market. Sometime in the 1950s the name was changed to Parkway Tavern, and today you can stop by to enjoy a large selection of beers on tap, a menu of hearty food, and games like pool, darts, and shuffleboard.
(Image above: The serve-yourself refrigerator at the Park Way Delicatessen & Tavern at 313 North I Street in 1955 courtesy of the Tacoma Public Library, 24171)
The Beach Tavern at Titlow - Established in 1934
Located right across the street from Titlow Beach in Tacoma’s West End, The Beach Tavern has been around for decades. It was a bit of a challenge to dig up information on The Beach Tavern’s history, but we love this account from Dale Wirsing on TacomaTales.org where he shares his memories of “Galloping Gertie” and the Titlow Beach area, including Beach Tavern.
LeRoy Jewelers - Established in 1941
Located in the heart of Downtown Tacoma, LeRoy Jewelers was officially started in 1941. LeRoy set up shop in Downtown and they’ve been there ever since, and today, LeRoy is still in the same family. Today, Steph Farber is at the helm of this family-owned business as a jewelry and designer, and you can find just a few of his creations to purchase here. LeRoy is still a popular local spot to find unique jewelry creations at, and they still make one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces today!
(Image on the left above: LeRoy Jewelers in Downtown Tacoma in the 1960s courtesy of the Tacoma Public Library, 30754. Image on the right above: LeRoy Jewelers in Downtown Tacoma in 1966 courtesy of Tacoma Public Library, 30779)
PICK-QUICK Drive In - Established in 1949
Located in Fife, PICK-QUICK Drive In was originally opened by Jay Adolph and Henriette Olson. The menu then is very similar to what it is now—fresh milkshakes, grilled burgers, fresh fries… yum! Over the years, the restaurant changed ownership, but it wasn’t until 2011 that PICK-QUICK added another location in Auburn. And in 2016, a PICK-QUICK was established in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood. You can still visit the original drive-in spot in Fife!
Bob’s Java Jive - Established in 1955
Originally known as the Coffee Pot Restaurant, this Pacific Northwest icon was built in 1927 and today it’s known fondly as Bob’s Java Jive. Local Tacoma veterinarian Otis G. Button built the Coffee Pot Restaurant, and local artist Bert Smyser designed it. Over the years, the building saw many different types of businesses between its walls—it was a diner drive-in, a speakeasy, and in 1955 it became Bob’s Java Jive. You can read more about the history here!