Basecamp spent three years telling the stories of people who run businesses that endured 25 years or more. Have a listen — they're an inspiration for anyone looking to build a business that goes the distance.

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All fifty eight episodes:

Business Model
Business Model

Lily Liu was 16 years old when a talent scout approached her at a department store. She started her career as a model, but found her true calling behind the scenes, first representing her three daughters and then opening her own talent agency. For Lily, who’s spent her career working for opportunities for Asian and Asian-American talent, the issue of representation has taken on a special resonance.

Going to the Mattresses
Going to the Mattresses

Tim Masters describes himself as “just a mattress maker,” but that belies the business acumen he’s gained over decades of building and selling beds. Tim’s store in the Chicago suburbs, Quality Sleep Shop, opened in 1969 and has held its own against the proliferation of private equity-backed mattress corporations and chain stores. As Big Mattress has grown more complex, churning out endless permutations of confusingly named products, Tim has embraced simplicity.

If It Ain't Baroque, Don't Fix It
If It Ain't Baroque, Don't Fix It

Ben and Larry are longtime owners of two different music-related businesses, a payroll service for musicians and an auctioneer of rare classical LPs. They don’t know each other, but they have something in common: They’re both still running their businesses on custom software written in the 1980s by the same developer. If you miss the sound of a dot matrix printer at work, this is the episode for you.

Troy Henikoff
Troy Henikoff

Troy Henikoff was a college student in 1984 when he wrote his first program, a piece of software to help his grandfather’s steel warehouse manage their inventory. That summer project led Troy to start his own software consulting business a couple years later. This is an atypical Distance story about beginnings, endings and unexpected legacies.

The Business Cycle, Part 2
The Business Cycle, Part 2

In 2010, as Worksman Cycles was emerging from the recession and ready to grow again, the maker of heavy-duty cycles saw an exciting opportunity to supply the bikes for New York City’s bike share program. But the city rejected Worksman’s proposal, and that disappointment lay the groundwork for the company to relocate to South Carolina, leaving behind the city it had been in since its founding in 1898.

The Business Cycle, Part 1
The Business Cycle, Part 1

Worksman Cycles is the oldest American bicycle manufacturer that still makes its products in the U.S. Founded in New York in 1898, Worksman has outlasted the demise of American cycle manufacturing by focusing on a niche category: heavy duty tricycles that factory workers use for hauling equipment and getting around industrial plants. And Worksman’s president is determined to keep the company in the U.S., even as that commitment has been tested through the years.

Steeped in History
Steeped in History

Nom Wah Tea Parlor is New York Chinatown’s oldest dim sum restaurant. For decades, it served Cantonese dumplings and rolls in the traditional way, from trolleys pushed around the restaurant. When Wilson Tang took over Nom Wah in 2011, he switched from trolleys to menus with pictures and started serving dim sum through dinner. He also opened new locations that broadened Nom Wah’s repertoire beyond dim sum. These were big changes for a restaurant that opened in 1920, but Wilson saw them as measures to secure Nom Wah’s future for its next century in business.

Make It Rain
Make It Rain

Matt Stock is a business owner who loves marketing and has embraced the unglamorous job of selling a pretty mundane service: basement waterproofing. He’s tried everything from Yellow Pages to billboards to Internet advertising at U.S. Waterproofing, his 60-year-old family business. But Matt faced one of his greatest challenges as a business owner and a marketer in 2012, when Illinois was hit with a drought.

You Butter Believe It!
You Butter Believe It!

Every year in the weeks leading up to Easter, the four-person staff at Danish Maid Butter Co. starts counting sheep. The Chicago company has made lamb-shaped butter for more than 50 years, moving from wooden molds dropped in cans of ice water to a more modern process. There are other parts of Danish Maid’s business that are larger and growing faster, but the two siblings that run the company remain committed to the butter lambs as an important link to both their family legacy and current generations of customers.

Jungle Jim, I Presume?
Jungle Jim, I Presume?

In an industry known for selling commodities at low margins, Jungle Jim’s International Market in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio is something else entirely. It’s a super-sized grocery store that’s also a tourist attraction with animatronic characters, a dedicated events center, and a working monorail. At the center of this unexpected food empire is a businessman known simply as Jungle, who started with a pop-up produce stand and built something closer to a theme park than a grocery store.

The Richest Man In Town
The Richest Man In Town

Cullinan’s Stadium Club and Beverly Records sit next door to each other in the Chicago neighborhood of Morgan Park. The owners of the two businesses have been friendly since Dan Cullinan opened his bar and grill in 1989. But even Dan couldn’t imagine how John Dreznes of Beverly Records would rush in to help when Cullinan’s Stadium Club ran into financial trouble in late 2016.

All the Art That's Fit to Print
All the Art That's Fit to Print

In 1989, Deborah Maris Lader had recently moved to Chicago and was looking for a studio where she could make prints and meet other artists. She couldn’t find a place like that, so she opened her own: the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative. Deborah also took the unconventional step of setting up the print shop and gallery as a business rather than a non-profit. She’s learned how to run a sustainable enterprise without grants or donations, which are the lifeblood of other arts organizations, and to balance her dual roles as business owner and artist.

Solo Act
Solo Act

Bruce Roper never planned to start a business. As a teenager, he wanted to be a Beatle. As an adult, he moved to Chicago after a brief stint running a music store and began fixing guitars. Over the next quarter century, Bruce built up a modest but steady one-man business repairing and building instruments, as well as teaching guitar building. Bruce’s students come to him seeking the secrets of making guitars, but he’s the first to say there are no secrets. It’s just a matter of doing it, and there’s no substitute for the decades of experience Bruce has accumulated.

Diamonds Are Forever
Diamonds Are Forever

Jewelry tells a story. For Kathy, the owner of a 90-year-old jewelry store in Berwyn, Illinois, every piece of her jewelry adds up to a larger, richer history about the business that she joined as a 16-year-old part-time employee and ended up running. A lot of small businesses are labors of love, but the story of Kathy and Hursts’ Berwyn Jewelers is a love story in more ways than one.

Neighborhood Fixture
Neighborhood Fixture

The neighborhood appliance store is all but gone from the American retail landscape. But on Chicago’s north side, Cole’s Appliance and Furniture Co. has been selling refrigerators and sofas from the same corner since 1946. The Krasney family, which has owned Cole’s for three generations, has learned how to outlast big box stores, online competition, and the booms and busts of the housing market.

Clothes Call
Clothes Call

When the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series, Jim Piko Jr. wasn’t just thrilled as a longtime fan of the team. Marathon Sportswear, the screen printing company his father started in the family garage in 1980, began printing tens of thousands of officially licensed Cubs t-shirts as soon as the team won the championship. It was the equivalent of a farmer’s bumper crop for Jim. Being prepared for that moment took weeks of advance preparation—and years of slowly building a business, one t-shirt at a time.

Help Wanted
Help Wanted

In 2009, as Chicago manufacturer Wiegel Tool Works was emerging from the recession and wanting to hire again, company president Aaron Wiegel noticed that his job ads for tool and die makers were going unfilled for months. That realization led to his restarting an apprenticeship program, which he pitches as an alternative to college—especially at a time when the cost of higher education looks increasingly to be a bad deal.

Test of Metal
Test of Metal

Otto Wiegel founded Wiegel Tool Works the day before the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. This year, his three grandchildren mark the manufacturing company’s 75th anniversary. The family business, which specializes in precision metal stamping, has survived succession issues and dislocations in the global economy to become somewhat of a rare species: A midwestern American manufacturer in growth mode.

Party Foul
Party Foul

The products that AR-EN Party Printers makes—customized items like gift tags and coasters—are a luxury and not a necessity, but that doesn’t make them any less important to the company’s customers. AR-EN can’t afford to misprint a couple’s monogram or get a color wrong. In this mini episode, business owner Gary Morrison recalls one memorable incident in his company’s early history.

Party in the Front, Business in the Back
Party in the Front, Business in the Back

When Gary Morrison’s mother and her best friend got into the foil-stamped napkin business in 1979, the two women were just looking for a side project that would make them some extra money. Decades later, Gary is running AR-EN Party Printers, a company that custom prints cocktail napkins, coasters, matchboxes and more. He’s the first person to acknowledge that no one really needs what he’s selling, yet he’s figured out how to make a sustainable business out of disposable personalized favors.

Cremains To Be Seen
Cremains To Be Seen

From seagrass caskets to biodegradable urns designed for water burials, there is a growing number of options when it comes to burying the dead. In this mini episode, Claudette Zarzycki of Zarzycki Manor Chapels, a 101-year-old funeral home, talks about how approaches to mourning are evolving.

Home is Where the Hearse Is
Home is Where the Hearse Is

Four generations of the Zarzycki family have lived behind or above their funeral home, starting with founder Agnes Zarzycki, the first woman funeral director of Polish descent in Chicago. Today, 101-year-old Zarzycki Manor Chapels is still run by women, who are upholding old traditions—like conducting funeral services in Polish—while bringing in new ideas to keep their business going for the next century.

Stranger Things
Stranger Things

It takes a lot of work to make a dead body appear healthy and lifelike. It also takes a lot of chemicals, like the kind manufactured by 124-year-old Frigid Fluid. In this mini episode, learn more about embalming and some of the strange phone calls that the company gets.

Job Preservation
Job Preservation

The modern practice of embalming started in the U.S. during the Civil War, and Brian Yeazel’s family got into the embalming fluid business a few decades later. Frigid Fluid, the company his great great uncle founded in 1892, is also the inventor of the automatic casket lowering device. Brian, who took over in 2013, has discovered that even a business based on life’s only certainty—death—isn’t nearly as steady and predictable as it may seem to outsiders.

Uphill Climb
Uphill Climb

R. Russell Builders is still recovering from the worst housing market it’s experienced in its 60-year history. But before “subprime mortgage” was a household term, company founder Ron Russell, Sr. was overcoming his own personal challenges so he could pursue the career he wanted.

The House that Russell Built
The House that Russell Built

The housing crisis wiped out half of the homebuilders in the U.S. This is the story of one that survived, but emerged from the recession to find both itself and its industry drastically changed. Ron Russell Sr. founded R. Russell Builders in 1956, and the company found success in converting large tracts of raw farmland in Chicago’s western suburbs into tidy subdivisions. His son, Ron Russell Jr., was at the helm of the family business when the crisis hit, and he’s charting a course for R. Russell Builders in a housing market that’s still chastened from the recession.

The Man on the Wall
The Man on the Wall

Willie David Langford Senior’s picture is on the wall of Langford’s Barber Shop, the business he founded in Atlanta in 1964. The barber shop has long been a neighborhood haven, not least of all for the many kids who grew up in the area. In this mini episode, hear more about Willie Langford’s legacy and the young people he took under his wing.

Grateful Heads
Grateful Heads

LaMichael Langford grew up watching his uncle run a barber shop and would sneak in his friends to cut their hair. LaMichael eventually took over the business that his uncle opened in 1964, and Langford’s Barber Shop has been a constant in an Atlanta neighborhood that’s seen significant demographic shifts over the decades. Throughout all the changes, Langford’s has been there—both for its customers and for its longtime employees.

It's a Hardware Life
It's a Hardware Life

John Stallworth has worked almost non-stop at his hardware store for over 40 years. He’s passed that work ethic down to his son, John Jr., who works alongside his father at the shop on Chicago’s South Side. In this mini episode, find out what it takes to run a neighborhood hardware and bike repair shop that helps anchor its community.

Unchanging Gears
Unchanging Gears

John Stallworth has been selling hardware and fixing bikes at his shop on Chicago’s South Side for 50 years, helping to anchor a neighborhood that’s struggled with population loss and divestment. John’s Hardware and Bicycle Shop is the kind of old-fashioned business that’s happy to sell customers two nails instead of a whole box. The store’s motto is “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” Today more than ever, the neighborhood needs John Stallworth and his business.

Soy Meets World
Soy Meets World

Jenny Yang held many different jobs in Taiwan and the U.S. before discovering her passion: running one of Chicago’s oldest tofu manufacturers. In this mini episode, Jenny talks about her long, winding journey to Phoenix Bean Tofu and how immigrating to the U.S. opened new possibilities for her.

Soy You Bought a Tofu Factory
Soy You Bought a Tofu Factory

In 1999, Jenny Yang discovered a small tofu company in her Chicago neighborhood that made the fresh soybean curd she remembered from her native Taiwan. Seven years later, when Jenny learned the business was in danger of closing, she impulsively stepped up to buy it. Jenny didn’t just guide Phoenix Bean Tofu through the transition, but opened new markets for her products and today is on the cusp of a major expansion.

Director's Cut
Director's Cut

Choosing and taking care of a knife can be an intimidating process for home cooks. In this mini episode, Northwestern Cutlery owner Marty Petlicki and a culinary school director offer some knife tips and dispel a common misconception about what a sharpening steel actually does. (Hint: It’s not for sharpening!)

Knife Work If You Can Get It
Knife Work If You Can Get It

In 1972, when two cousins opened Northwestern Cutlery, their knife rental and sharpening business, they chose a location in Chicago near the city’s meatpackers. Over the next decades, the dramatic transformation of the neighborhood around the business meant a nearly complete turnover in Northwestern Cutlery’s customer base—from industrial meatpackers to affluent gourmands.

Junk in the Trunk
Junk in the Trunk

We ride along with a two-man 1-800-GOT-JUNK truck team in Vancouver, British Columbia and learn about what they will and won’t take (no bed bugs or asbestos, please), what kind of personality is required for the job and some of their best finds.

The Rubbish Boy
The Rubbish Boy

Brian Scudamore was 19 when he set up his junk-hauling business with a used pick-up truck and a stack of business cards. But his ambitions were always greater than being a one-man junk operation. Brian Scudamore wanted his company to have a brand as polished as FedEx or Starbucks, and he wanted it to be big. Today, 1-800-GOT-JUNK is in three countries, and Brian is using what he learned about franchising to take other unglamorous home services and make them into big businesses.

Swan Song
Swan Song

In the ice sculpture world of the 70s and 80s, swans ruled the roost. Jim Nadeau carved a swan every Sunday for the brunch service of the hotel where he worked. He doesn’t make too many swans anymore, but the shape is still taught in culinary schools. In this mini episode, find out how swans became standard in ice sculptures and what rookie carvers can learn from making them.

Mr. Freeze
Mr. Freeze

In the 1970s, ice carving was the province of chefs at high-end hotels that made the sculptures part of their decor for Sunday brunch. Jim Nadeau came out of this tradition. Then, in 1980, he got the idea to start his own ice carving business in the Chicago area. Nadeau’s Ice Sculptures was among the first specialty carving shops to open and helped take the craft out of upscale hotel kitchens and into the mass market.

Code TH
Code TH

The Nedra Matteucci Galleries in Santa Fe, New Mexico draws many visitors looking to admire or buy fine artwork. Then there are the treasure hunters, who come to the gallery looking for clues about a chest of valuables reportedly buried in the Rocky Mountains by the gallery’s previous owner, retired art dealer Forrest Fenn. The Nedra Matteucci Galleries’ rich history and unique architecture only add to the institution’s mystique, making it a magnet for fortune seekers.

Humble Adobe
Humble Adobe

Santa Fe, New Mexico is home to around 200 art galleries. Even in this thriving art scene, Nedra Matteucci’s gallery stands out. The 44-year-old gallery, which she bought in 1988, is housed in an adobe compound spanning two acres, and the business takes a grounded approach to fine art. If visiting the Nedra Matteucci Galleries feels like you’re stepping into someone’s home, it’s because Nedra, a New Mexico native who got her start selling paintings on the road, has made approachability part of the overall experience.

A Lively Conversation, Part 2
A Lively Conversation, Part 2

In the second half of the conversation between Paul McKenna of Starship restaurant and Anne Pezalla and Kate Pezalla Marlin of Lively Athletics, the business owners talk social media, the dark side of coupons and what’s next.

A Lively Conversation, Part 1
A Lively Conversation, Part 1

We’re trying something new with this episode. It’s a conversation between business owners on different ends of the experience spectrum. Sisters Anne Pezalla and Kate Pezalla Marlin opened their women’s athletic apparel and running shoe boutique, Lively Athletics, in 2014. They’re at the start of their entrepreneurial journey and wanted to get some advice from Paul McKenna, who’s been running a sandwich shop and catering business called Starship since 1977. You’ll hear Anne, Kate and Paul discuss growth, competition, burnout and other issues facing small business owners.

Resurrection Mary
Resurrection Mary

With 95 years of history behind it, the Willowbrook Ballroom in Willow Springs, Ill. has seen many generations of dancers come and go. One dancer in particular has stuck around: Resurrection Mary, the ghost of a young woman who’s reputed to haunt the ballroom and the area around it. She’s one of the region’s most well-known spooky legends.

Save the Last Dance
Save the Last Dance

When Birute and Gediminas Jodwalis bought the Willowbrook Ballroom from the business’ founding family nearly 20 years ago, they inherited an intensely loyal but shrinking customer base of Sunday afternoon dancers. The 95-year-old Willowbrook is one of the area’s last remaining traditional ballrooms, and while the pastime continues to slowly fade away, the Jodwalis’ commitment to their legacy customers hasn’t wavered. They have adapted the event space for a modern clientele while honoring a promise they made to the founding family to keep the Sunday dancers on their feet and the big bands on stage.

Children of the Corn
Children of the Corn

The primary business at the Funk family farm is maple syrup production. But the farm also grows corn and soybeans to supplement the income from maple syrup. Mike and Debby Funk, the fifth generation to farm on the family land in central Illinois, met de-tasseling corn as teenagers. In this mini episode, Debby remembers those days of meeting her future husband and tasting his family’s maple syrup for the first time.

Funk Yeah!
Funk Yeah!

Central Illinois is a long way from Vermont or Canada, but that hasn’t stopped the Funk family of Funks Grove, Ill., from building a multi-generational maple syrup business. Every year, the Funks collect sap from thousands of trees that have been passed down in their family and boil it into pure maple syrup. The acres of maple trees, along with syrup-making expertise and the love of a business that’s unpredictable and laborious, are family assets that have sustained generations of Funks.

Keeping Those Refrigerators Running
Keeping Those Refrigerators Running

In the early 80s, long before he became the CEO of LION, his family-owned manufacturing company, Steve Schwartz ran his college fraternity’s refrigerator rental business. Fridges are a far cry from LION’s core business of making protective gear for firefighters, but that early experience gave Steve his first taste of entrepreneurism.

Fire Sale
Fire Sale

LION’s products can mean the difference between life and death for the customers of this family-owned company, which makes protective clothing and training equipment for firefighters. From its origins in 1898 as a horse-and-wagon operation selling clothing to farmers in Dayton, Ohio, LION turns out everything from Teflon suits worn by medical personnel transporting Ebola patients to mini metropolises spanning 20 acres that can be set on fire to train fire departments.

Closure
Closure

The 2014 ownership transition at Women & Children First was an emotional process, as the founders of the feminist bookstore sold their business to two staff members after 35 years at the helm. In this mini episode, the past and present owners of Women & Children First talk about the day they officially closed the deal.

Independent Women
Independent Women

Throw your hands up at me! In 1979, Ann Christopherson and Linda Bubon opened a store in Chicago to sell books by and about women. Their business, Women & Children First, became a place where emerging writers could be discovered, a safe space for women to discuss issues important to them, and a neighborhood institution that survived the rise and decline of large chain bookstores. Ann and Linda sold Women & Children First in 2014 to staff members Lynn Mooney and Sarah Hollenbeck, who are continuing the store’s mission of being independent, literary, political—and sustainable.

Cold Storage
Cold Storage

The Great Depression hit shortly after Joe and Katherine Sapp opened their Chicago ice cream shop, Original Rainbow Cone, and subsequent generations of Sapps haven’t forgotten what it meant to almost lose everything. In this mini episode, current Rainbow Cone owner Lynn Sapp talks about the physical reminders of her grandparents’ survival mentality.

Rainbow Connection
Rainbow Connection

Opening an ice cream store in Chicago is not for the faint of heart. Factor in a mostly deserted neighborhood and the Great Depression, and the idea of selling ice cream looks utterly harebrained. Yet that’s exactly what the Sapp family did in 1926 when they started Original Rainbow Cone, and their signature treat—five flavors arranged in diagonal slabs—has come to symbolize spring and summer for generations of Chicagoans who grew up on the city’s south side.

If These Cubicle Walls Could Talk
If These Cubicle Walls Could Talk

The modern office has gone from private offices to cubicles, and from cube farms to more open spaces with lower partitions. All those changes have been good business for Office Furniture Resources, which is marking 25 years of buying and reselling the chairs, desks and cubicles that make up American offices. OFR operates in an industry that’s completely behind the scenes yet touches the lives of workers everywhere.

Getting the Boot
Getting the Boot

Shaun Hildner, co-producer of The Distance, goes shopping for cowboy boots at Alcala’s Western Wear and learns “an old cowboy trick” from business owner Richard Alcala.

Bootstrapped and Proud
Bootstrapped and Proud

As an urban metropolis east of the Mississippi River, Chicago might seem like an unlikely home for a purveyor of cowboy hats, boots and shirts. Yet Alcala’s Western Wear has flourished in the Windy City for over four decades, building a massive selection and a knack for customer service. For the Alcala family, now in its second generation of ownership, western wear has proved to be much more than a fashion fad.

Pulp Fixing
Pulp Fixing

Human history comes with a long paper trail, and Graphic Conservation Company’s mission is to preserve and restore that record. The 95-year-old lab specializes in repairing works on paper, which range from priceless historical artifacts and artwork to personal items like someone’s old letter to Santa Claus. After nearly a century of smoothing wrinkles, patching holes and removing acid burns, there are few problems—on paper, anyway—that Graphic Conservation’s staff can’t fix.

Always Glad You Came
Always Glad You Came

Bill Carlson describes his business as “a little shot and a beer bar,” but the 61-year-old Uptown Tavern has always been more than a dive. It’s a place where third-shift workers can unwind in the early morning and where people without a place to go on Thanksgiving can come in for a free turkey dinner. Bill, a veteran bartender, knows that even a humble tavern needs to keep evolving to survive.

A 102-Year Winning Streak
A 102-Year Winning Streak

Bowlers Journal International is the longest-running sports monthly in the United States, and it’s a print magazine that’s held on to a remarkably loyal base of subscribers and advertisers since its founding in 1913 by a Chicago shoe salesman. Of all the stories Bowlers Journal has told, the most enduring is that of its own longevity and close relationship with its readers.

Holiday Bow-nus
Holiday Bow-nus

In this mini episode, Carol Richardson of Richardson Farm explains how to tie a perfect bow.

Homestead for the Holidays
Homestead for the Holidays

The Richardson family arrived in Spring Grove, Illinois in 1840, when brothers Robert and Frank each claimed 80 acres of farmland that had become available for homesteading. Successive generations of Richardsons tried their hand at cash crops, dairy cows and pig production. But it was the agritourism business that proved the most sustainable for the 175-year-old family farm, which today is operated by the fifth and sixth generations of Richardsons. The family sells cut-your-own Christmas trees during the holidays and operates the world’s largest corn maze in the fall. They’ve become experts in seasonal entertainment, offering a nostalgic rural escape from suburban sprawl.

Dance Marathon
Dance Marathon

Kerry Hubata started dancing at the age of eight and hasn’t stopped. In 1968, she and her mentor opened a classical ballet studio in the Chicago suburb of Evanston. The two women never set out to be entrepreneurs, but they ended up with a sustainable business that’s trained everyone from professional dancers to the mayor of Chicago.

Chocoholic Anonymous
Chocoholic Anonymous

Athena Uslander is the Cyrano de Bergerac of brownies. The company she co-founded in 1983, Silverland Bakery, makes sweet treats that are sold under the names of grocery stores and restaurants across the U.S. and even internationally. Silverland Bakery may not have the consumer name recognition of a Mrs. Fields or Betty Crocker, but Athena Uslander has the sustainable business and entrepreneurial career she always wanted.

Family Medicine
Family Medicine

When Abdul Qaiyum, a young Pakistani immigrant, discovered Merz Apothecary in 1972, the Swiss German drugstore was on the verge of closing permanently after nearly a century in business. Qaiyum bought the store from the founding family and has run it ever since, transforming a modest purveyor of homeopathic remedies into a retailer that combines modern business savvy with old-world nostalgia.

Grave Matters
Grave Matters

The Peter Troost Monument Company has been making grave markers, headstones and mausoleums in the Chicago area since 1889. The issue of longevity has a particular resonance for fifth-generation president Lisa Troost, who knows that the product she sells is a one-time purchase that is meant to last forever.

The Bales Girls
The Bales Girls

Stacey Bales has worked in almost every department at her family manufacturing business, from the front office to the shop floor. But when it came to running the entire company, she expected her father, Steve, to do that for at least another decade. That all changed with Steve Bales’ sudden passing in 2009. Stacey and her sister, Sara, found themselves in charge of the business without their father, boss and mentor. Today, they’re building on Steve Bales’ legacy while crafting their own vision for the company.

Ancient History, Modern Family
Ancient History, Modern Family

As students of history, Harlan Berk and his three children know that circumstances around them can change rapidly. They’ve learned to adapt the family business through 51 years of buying and selling ancient coins, as well as antiquities and maps. From rare artifacts to a mystery involving long-lost valuables and the FBI, there’s no telling what might turn up next at Harlan J. Berk Limited.

Farming Like the Joneses
Farming Like the Joneses

The Jones family has been farming in Iowa for generations. They have weathered tough winters, the consolidation of small family farms and the farm crisis of the 1980s. Today, 29-year-old Will Jones is in charge, and he’s melding his own vision for the family business with the collective wisdom of predecessors like his father.

The World's Largest Laundromat (Redux)
The World's Largest Laundromat (Redux)

There’s been a laundromat on this corner of Berwyn, Illinois for more than a half century. But it was the current owner, Tom Benson, who made the World’s Largest Laundromat into the family-friendly destination it is today. This is an edited and improved version of an episode we originally aired in February.

Pipe Dreams
Pipe Dreams

The warehouse at Carma Labs in Franklin, Wisconsin is filled with boxes of the 78-year-old company’s signature product, Carmex lip balm. But there’s something else going on in this concrete storage facility. Carma Labs President Paul Woelbing, the grandson of the company’s founder, is on year eight of a personal mission to construct a massive pipe organ at the warehouse that will be open to the community. Woelbing wants to spur interest in organ music among a new generation of listeners and players—building a musical legacy alongside his business one.

It Soothes, It Heals, It Tingles
It Soothes, It Heals, It Tingles

Alfred Woelbing made the first batch of Carmex at his kitchen stovetop in 1937. He was looking for a cold sore treatment and came up with a hit lip balm instead. Nearly 80 years later, Carma Labs is still independent and running under family ownership. Find out what goes into the Carmex formula—both for making lip balm and building a company that takes care of its customers and employees over the long term.

Cheesecake, the Chicago Way
Cheesecake, the Chicago Way

The list of classic Chicago foods includes pizza, hot dogs, Italian beef—and Eli’s Cheesecake, a creamy confection with a hint of sour cream and a butter shortbread cookie crust. The dessert was first served at Eli’s The Place For Steak, a restaurant owned by lifelong Chicagoan Eli Schulman that served guests from local politicians to visiting celebrities like Frank Sinatra. Today Eli’s son, Marc, oversees the family dessert business, which makes cheesecakes and other sweet items for restaurants and grocery stores worldwide. The Distance takes you inside a real-life cheesecake factory.

High Fidelity
High Fidelity

Some of the audio world's most revered headphones are made in a cramped Brooklyn townhouse that used to house a fruit store.

Wholesale Changes
Wholesale Changes

Chicago’s Fulton Market district is the city’s last remaining food market, a hub for meatpackers and wholesalers of agricultural products. But a wave of new development, including high-end restaurants and luxury condos, is transforming Fulton Market and prompting many long-time business owners to question whether the neighborhood can continue to sustain their livelihoods. We talk to two Fulton Market businesses about how they’re navigating this transition.

Bonus Episode: Jason Fried
Bonus Episode: Jason Fried

Jason Fried co-founded Basecamp in 1999 and in 2014 launched The Distance. Shaun Hildner sat down with Jason to talk about The Distance and the kinds of business stories that interest him.

Special Arrangements
Special Arrangements

It’s been 83 years since Roy Sheffield started selling bouquets on the street, but the bloom is still on the rose of the business he founded.

A Stitch In Time
A Stitch In Time

The master tailors at this store know how to cut a fine figure.

Auto Transmission
Auto Transmission

One man's junkyard is the next generation's modern recycling center.

All The Right Angles
All The Right Angles

From speakeasies to supermarkets, this packaging company never stops looking for new opportunities.

Freshly Pressed
Freshly Pressed

Harry Holly invented a machine for molding hamburger patties that helped give birth to the modern fast food industry.

Second Cycle
Second Cycle

Laundry gets way more fun when there's free pizza, live animals and family-friendly entertainment in the mix.

Time and Tide
Time and Tide

No detail is left to chance in the pursuit of building the world’s finest wooden boats.

Life of Pie
Life of Pie

The inventor of the insulated pizza delivery bag saved one of America's most beloved foods from a cold and soggy fate.

Guardians of the Gallery
Guardians of the Gallery

Meet the company that art museums and galleries call when they need a literal helping hand.

Not That Kind of Ghoul
Not That Kind of Ghoul

Don’t stop make-believin’—this block-long costume store has been open all year round for nearly half a century.

The Music Man
The Music Man

For schools that don't have their own music programs, this 30-year-old education company teaches kids to toot their own horns.

Aloha from the Hala Kahiki
Aloha from the Hala Kahiki

This tropical-themed bar has endured decades beyond the end of the original tiki fad.

The Bra Surgeon is in
The Bra Surgeon is in

This lingerie store has tackled a vexing issue for many women – ill-fitting bras – for the last 27 years.

Chicago’s Last Tannery
Chicago’s Last Tannery

More than a century after its founding, Chicago’s last tannery is still running under family ownership.