The Null Device

Kongo Gumi

The world's oldest continuously operating family business, a Japanese temple-building company founded in 578, went out of business last year. Over the 1,428 years it operated, Kongo Gumi was headed by 40 generations of the Kongo family, and continuously built Buddhist temples, with the exception of a period during World War 2 during which it made coffins.
How do you make a family business last for 14 centuries? Kongo Gumi's case suggests that it's a good idea to operate in a stable industry. Few industries could be less flighty than Buddhist temple construction. The belief system has survived for thousands of years and has many millions of adherents. With this firm foundation, Kongo had survived some tumultuous times, notably the 19th century Meiji restoration when it lost government subsidies and began building commercial buildings for the first time. But temple construction had until recently been a reliable mainstay, contributing 80% of Kongo Gumi's $67.6 million in 2004 revenues.
I wonder what the current oldest continuously running family business is.

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