5 of Birmingham’s oldest businesses you need to check out, including the oldest Black-owned biz

buddy vines fish camp
Check out five more of Birmingham’s oldest establishments, including the peaceful Buddy Vines Fish Camp. Photo via Bham Now.

We’re back folks with another round of Birmingham’s oldest businesses. Keep reading to learn the fascinating, fun and funny history behind a few of your favorite Birmingham stores, businesses and companies.

1. Norton’s Florist

norton's florist
You can find orchids, wine and more at Norton’s Florist. Photo via Bham Now.

Birmingham’s oldest florist, Norton’s Florist was established in 1921 by Dr. J. S. Norton, who was a renowned gardener. The Norwood Floral Company was the original name of the shop, but later changed to Norton’s Florist in honor of its founder. In 2001, the Pappas family took over the business and the father-son duo still run the shop today.

Fun fact: during the World War II gas shortage, Norton’s took to delivering flowers by horse and buggy.

2. Buddy Vines Fishing Camp

To be fair, “oldest fishing camp” isn’t a hotly contested title, but this is Alabama so there are still some competitors. Buddy Vines Fishing Camp, founded in 1915, definitely wins this round for Birmingham’s oldest fishing camp. It’s been family-owned since the very beginning. The fishing camp began the year the Bankhead Lock and Dam turned the Locust Fork branch of the Black Warrior River into a much larger waterway.

Fun fact: according to the grandson of the camp’s founder, during the first few years they had to stop weekend rentals after several married politicians were caught entertaining girlfriends there.

3. Savage’s Bakery + Deli

Located on the popular 18th Street in Homewood, Savage’s Bakery is over 80 years old and still serving delicious baked goods to the Birmingham area. Birmingham’s oldest bakery started in 1939 when it was opened by the Savage family.

In 1978, Van Scott Jr. of Birmingham bought the bakery and the store has remained in the Scott family ever since. Pop in to try their Meltaways, Iced Smiley Face Cookies, Butterflake Rolls and famous cakes that still use the original recipes from the 30s.

4. Alabama Theatre

The famous Alabama Theatre is by far Birmingham’s oldest theater. Built in 1927, the Alabama was originally built as a cinema just to showcase Paramount films. For 55 years, the theater only showed films and hosted the weekly Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, but in 1987 it transitioned to become the Alabama Theatre for the Performing Arts. In 1998, the Alabama got a full facelift, with new gold leaf, a refreshed sign, new carpet and new drapes.

In a non-COVID year, the theater hosts over half a million guests at roughly 500 shows. When you think of Birmingham landmarks, it’s impossible not to think of the Alabama Theatre.

5. Davenport + Harris Funeral Home

davenport funeral home
Davenport & Harris Funeral Homes is the oldest Black-owned business in the state. Photo via Bham Now.

Davenport and Harris Funeral Home is not just Birmingham’s oldest Black-owned funeral home, but the oldest Black-owned business in the state of Alabama. The family-owned business was founded on September 2, 1899 just a couple decades after the founding of the city itself. Originally, the store was part grocery part funeral home, with one section serving bread and the other caskets.

When you look at these lists of Birmingham’s oldest businesses, you can see a collage of our city stretching back to the late 1800s. It is remarkable to see how these businesses have survived and thrived through nearly impossible times, from WWII gas shortages to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Check out the past two installments of this series:

Who should we include in our next roundup of Birmingham’s oldest stores? Send a message to claire@bhamnow.com and let us know!

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Claire Hancock
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