Each U.S. state has its own vibe. Some have a universal currency of references -- think Napa wine in California, or Walden Pond in Massachusetts, or oil derricks in Texas. When you map corporate brands onto the country, there are also some things that make total sense like Apple and California, or Hershey's and Pennsylvania. Others are more puzzling, like Saks and Alabama, or Sonic and Oklahoma. But, what really ties brands to their states? Labor force? Headquarters? Longevity? Or, something about their products that speak about a specific geography? The graveyard of defunct brands is impossibly large, but these brands are all alive and kicking and have ties to each of the states they call home (or called home for most of their existence).
Saks Fifth Avenue, purveyors of fine clothing for eons, has been a subsidiary of Proffitt's since 1998-a company that relocated its headquarters from Tennessee (where another of its newly acquired subsidiaries, Parisian, called home) in 1997. Although there is no Saks store in the Cotton State, and Proffitt's is now legally Saks Holdings, Inc., Alabamians are related to the famous brand through one of those quirks of corporate legalities.
Carrs Quality Centers were a mainstay of Alaskan life as the preeminent supermarket chain for almost half a century. Although it was acquired by Safeway in 1999 (to become Carrs-Safeway, a subsidiary of Safeway, Inc.), the name -- and brand -- is strongly embedded in the minds and parlance of those who live in The Last Frontier.
Best Western is so ubiquitous now that it's easy to overlook the fact that it was founded in 1946 in Arizona-hence the moniker. The name is even more misleading, since it is not one "brand," but a closely related set of three brands at three different price points, encompassing Best Western, Best Western Plus, and Best Western Premier. And, yes, the hotel company dabbled in a version called Best Eastern in the 1960s, but that was abandoned.
Bentonville has become synonymous with Walmart, but its retail roots began in Rogers a few miles away. Nonetheless, Walmart has become a behemoth headquartered in Bentonville. In doing so, it has redefined discount and bulk shopping globally. Locally, it has raised the profile of the town it calls home with through the efforts of Sam Walmart scions who have just opened Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art there.
Before Apple, there was Apple Records, and the forbidden fruit of Adam and Eve, and ultimately the humble apple, itself. But all roads lead back to California for this generation (and many future generations, most likely), where Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne established a company in 1976 (and incorporated a year later, without Wayne).
The Molson Coors Brewing Company may be headquartered in Denver, but before the 2005 merger between two beer giants, it was just Coor's-and Coor's has, since 1873 called Golden, Colorado home. The Golden brewery is still the largest single one of its kind in the world and Coor's is still synonymous with the Centennial State.
Like a lot of companies, General Electric is incorporated in New York, but headquartered elsewhere (Fairfield, Connecticut, in this case). GE comes by its Empire State bona fides honestly, having been founded in Schenectady in 1892, but don't get used to associating the Blue Chip company with the Constitution State for too much longer. This year, GE announced plans to relocate to Boston.
There was barely a Delaware when DuPont was founded almost 215 years ago in Wilmington by an enterprising French national who wanted to make premium gunpowder. It's still legally known as the E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, but its output has expanded considerably to include nylon, Teflon, Mylar, and Lycra-always from its headquarters in Delaware, no matter the decade.
Hooters is officially known as a "sports bar and grill chain." Unofficially, it represents something more titillating to its patrons and defines the cultural aspirations of its Clearwater, Florida founders. There are almost 500 Hooters eateries worldwide-all of which promote the chicken wings that are, reportedly, a signature dish. Fans of the brand can be identified by their hooting owl t-shirts and broad grins.
Coca-Cola. What needs to be said about this iconic, ubiquitous American brand (and its progenitors) that has been part of the historic and corporate fabric of Georgia for generations. Beyond the Peach State, it is legally available in every country in the world except for Cuba and North Korea, which is a kind of reach that few other brands can claim. The formula is still a trade secret, but who really cares when it is reliably tasty-especially ice cold-on a hot summer's day.
If you've booked a trip on Hawaiian Airlines, you're probably headed somewhere good. Not only is it the most recognizable brand of Hawaii, but it's also one of the safest and most reliable airlines. Hawaiian began as Inter-Island Airways in 1929, but has spent most of its history known as its current moniker-still taking passengers around the major islands of the state, as well as to the continental U.S. and Asia.
Albertsons is a generations-old grocer that most Idahoans rely on-and Safeway (also an Idaho company), acquired by Albertsons last year, is a mainstay for millions of Americans. It's a grocery empire second only to Kroger in the U.S. Where is the distinctive apostrophe, though, in Albertson's? The company scuttled it in 2006 to give the brand name a more streamlined look.
The story of Caterpillar, Inc. (and its two progenitor companies) centers on an apotheosis at the end of the industrial revolution: wheeled machinery could create its own stability on uneven ground with the "continuous track"-the kind that tanks now use. A Peoria company, Caterpillar (or CAT) is a global leader in construction and mining equipment, as well as turbines, engines, and locomotive machines.
Cummins, Inc., founded in 1919, is a Columbus, Indiana company through and through-it's always been there and likely always will. You're just as likely to see Cummins stamped on the sides of generators as you are on the sides of power plant components, fuel systems, and turbochargers. If it runs-and powers something else-it's probably a Cummins.
Maytag was founded in 1893 as a washing machine company in Newton, Iowa, and despite a detour into military machine components during World War II, it has continued producing (and redefining) the home appliance industry for more than 120 years. Whirlpool acquired it in 2006, but Maytag still evokes "Iowa" as much as a fresh ear of corn or, lately, the sight of an Ethanol plant.
In the dark years before Google Maps, if you needed to use GPS in your car, you probably had "a Garmin"-a whole class of devices, in fact, attractively priced and easy to operate for consumers. Garmin was founded by two enterprising Kansans in 1989 (under the banner of Pro Nav), and its U.S. headquarters is still located in the Sunflower State-even if its holding company is Swiss.
The only brand on the list to incorporate its hometown into its name, Lexmark -- maker of fine laser printers -- is based in Lexington, Kentucky. Spun off of IBM in 1991, Lexmark maintains research and development sites in three other U.S. states and three other countries, but its Bluegrass State roots run deep (even in spite of its acquisition by an international conglomerate this year).
Tabasco -- a brand that evokes a singular and salivating reaction for that peppery condiment that (as some claim) improve any dish. The McIlhenny Company of Avery Island, Louisiana, has been making it for nearly 150 years, and has succeeded in securing a royal warrant of appointment to Queen Elizabeth II, herself, as a supplier. The Queen likes it hot, apparently.
Leon Leonwood Bean -- or, L.L., if you're savvy-began in 1912 selling a single product to hunters, the iconic Bean Boot. Today, of course, L.L. Bean sells a lot of other things, but the waterproof, durable, and quintessentially New England footwear remains the central pillar of its success. Its headquarters in Freeport began in Bean's brother's basement and has since expanded to more commodious digs, which include a 24-hour retail mecca for more than 3 million pilgrims and locals alike annually.
The GEICO gecko that speaks with a Cockney accent defines this recognizable auto insurance company today, but for most of its 80-year history, it functioned quietly as the Government Employees Insurance Company located just over the Maryland line from Washington, D.C. Its Modernist headquarters building in Chevy Chase, completed in 1959, remains an iconic local landmark even if its gecko takes the spotlight.
Gillette has made razors for 115 years, which is stunning since that's basically all it has made (with the recent exception of other shaving and grooming products). Founded in Boston by American businessman King Camp Gillette-how's that for a name?-the company merged with Procter & Gamble in 2005 to become a global powerhouse. But, the brand is still synonymous with the perfect and hassle-free shave.
Whether you call it General Motors or just GM, it is a wholly American brand that has touched the lives of Michiganders for generations-as a mainstay (first in Flint, now in Detroit), chief employer, and iconic touchstone. Since 1908, the car manufacturer has transformed the way we drive with Buicks, Chevrolets, Cadillacs, and GMC trucks; it's been an economic bellwether; and most recently, it's been a recessionary shorthand for the crossroads that American ingenuity and production faces in the global marketplace.
The Pillsbury Doughboy's distinctive "Mmm-hmm" is one of the most recognizable sounds on television, and neither the sound nor the doughboy's image can be separated from the Minneapolis food company, founded in 1872. The company ceased in 2001 when General Mills bought it (and the brand, itself, is now shared with Smucker's). General Mills still runs "Pillsbury" out of Minneapolis, and the brand lives on for the Twin Cities.
Millions of teenagers have plugged their first guitars and basses into Peavey amplifiers since the company was founded in 1965. Even if Peavey Electronics is about a lot more than amps (and is globally recognized as an industry leader), it has always called Meridian, Mississippi home. Hartley Peavey, its founder and CEO, has also always called the town of 41,000 home-he was born there in 1939.
Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch founded the company that bears their name in St. Louis in 1852, making it one of the longest running corporate success stories in America. Even if Anheuser-Busch is now a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the brand itself-and its distinctive A-nested-eagle logo-are as American as drinking a Budweiser while riding a Clydesdale on the way to Busch Gardens.
During America's bicentennial celebrations in 1976, a two bread guys from Connecticut founded a company in Great Falls, Montana -- and the Great Harvest Bread Company remains one of the state's most beloved mainstays today. Great Harvest is reputedly the country's first whole grain bread franchise, and has helped lead the way of America's embrace of (and demand for) whole grain bread.
If you've ever been to a Cabella's, you know that it's an outdoor fanatic's and gear-head's paradise for camping, canoeing, fishing, hiking, hunting, and just about anything else you can do en plein air. Headquartered in Sydney, Nebraska, the company (with retail outlets all over the U.S.) was founded about 30 miles away in Chappell more than half a century ago-and has remained a gem of the Cornhusker State.
There are a few well-known industries that thrive in Nevada-and one of them, "Vegas" itself, is a state of mind as much as anything else. But, Zappos, founded in Henderson, is a brand is a little more accessible to the average consumer. Who hasn't ordered shoes from Zappos? Acquired by Amazon in 1999, it continues to operate as a brand-and as a reliable and quite often rewarding experience for the faithful.
Although the Timberland brand has only been around since 1973 (when the original boot that bears the name was first produced), its founder-Boston shoemaker Nathan Swartz-operated a shoe company as early as 1918. The headquarters shifted from Boston to Newmarket, New Hampshire, in the 1960s (and again to Stratham, New Hampshire, later), and for generations it has been seen as a stable Granite State brand that still does one thing very, very well.
Just after the U.S. Civil War, two Jersey boys started a canned goods company that ultimately became the Campbell Soup Company --n ow headquartered in Camden, New Jersey. As brands go, Campbell's can logos are up there with McDonald's and Coke. And, as brands go, Campbell is still largely about soups-even if it also runs baked snacks out of the Pepperidge Farm brand and also produces healthy drinks like V8.
If you've ever driven through New Mexico, an Allsup's convenience store is like an oasis. On cold winter night drives, its coffee buoys the body. On hot summer day drives, it will keep you hydrated (and entertained, since the people-watching there is one of the great joys in life). Allsup's-don't forget the apostrophe-is also the state's largest privately held corporation, founded in Roswell a half a century ago, and located in Clovis today.
For New Yorkers of a certain age, the stoic logo of Bell Atlantic was a common sight throughout the city-and the region, all the way down to Virginia. When the Baby Bells were rebranded, and Bell Atlantic merged with GTE (which covered the rest of the country) in 2000, Verizon was born-itself an arranged marriage between veritas and horizon. The logo was redesigned this year, to the chagrin of some.
Like a snowball, the history of Bank of America is about steady, even, and seemingly astronomical growth-and it all started with San Francisco's Bank of Italy, founded in 1904. It's had serious trouble in our current post-recession era, and has been forced to change the way it does business, scale back in size and scope, and redefine its mission. But, since 1997, when it merged with Charlotte-based NationsBank, its official HQ has been in the Tar Heel State.
Founded just after World War II, Bobcat has been a major player in North Dakota manufacturing and in its corporate culture, in general. Its distinctive logo and reliable farming and construction machinery and vehicles have made it a strong brand nationwide, as well. Although it has been bought and sold a couple of times in the last 25 years, it remains in West Fargo-pretty close to the Fargo immortalized on screen by Joel and Ethan Coen.
Wendy's -- named for founder Dave Thomas' fourth child-is the third largest hamburger fast food chain (with nearly 6,500 locations) that attracts some of the most loyal brand enthusiasts. Is it the square burgers? Is it the unbelievably good shakes? Or, is it the memory of Dave on television, pitching his burger palace? No matter-this Ohio born-and-bred brand has been a source of local pride for almost half a century.
Don't let Sonic's offbeat, chatty, and dashboard-view commercials fool you-it's not an irony obsessed upstart or hipster throwback to the 1950s. Sonic is a legitimate product of the 1950s-and started as an Oklahoma root beer stand. It has thrived through the years based on its wholesome image and now, more than half a century later, some of its locations may even be the only classic drive-ins you can find in a country that used to be defined by them.
Few brands transcend commercial appeal and become metaphors, not just for an attitude, but also for an entire class of human activities. Nike is about any number of products. It's about the spirit of competition. Indeed, it's about athletics, itself. "Just Do It," the swoosh, and a panoply of celebrity athletes have helped get this Beaverton, Oregon company where it is today over the last 40 or 50 years. Sorry, Greeks -- "Victory" means something entirely different now.
The Hershey Company is so central to Hershey, Pennsylvania's history that the town abandoned its original name, Derry Church, to unofficially become Chocolatetown, USA, and officially, the name of one of the most ubiquitous corporations on the planet. How many Hershey's Kisses can one company sell to be this big? Well, it's more about the company's history of mergers and acquisitions, which has kept it competitive-and vital-to the Keystone State.
Think about it for a second: you and everyone you know across four generations grew up with Hasbro toys and board games. G.I. Joe, My Little Pony, Transformers-the list is much longer-but the point remains: the tagline "Boy oh boy, it's a Hasbro toy," wasn't a joke. The brand indicated serious fun. Since its inception almost a century ago, Hasbro has also been a Rhode Island staple-first in Providence, and now in Pawtucket, right next door.
The locations of Denny's mark time and distance for many road-trippers. The Spartanburg, South Carolina-based franchise giant is famously open all day, every day-and is a reliable source of pancakes and diner coffee off interstates far and wide. Born out of the post-1945 population boom and metastasizing car culture, Denny's remains an important link to the childhoods of your parents and young adulthoods of your grandparents.
Super 8 motels first cropped up in South Dakota in the early 1970s-and the original price of a room, $8.88 per night, gave shape to the brand name and the brand identity of convenience and affordability. Although its headquarters is in New Jersey now, Super 8 is as much a part of the South Dakota landscape (along with Mount Rushmore) as it is part of local pride.
FedEx Corporation -- named for its original air freight business, Federal Express-began as an Arkansas company, but its purple, orange, and white livery has been part of the Tennessee scene (where its headquarters is located today) long enough to seal the association with the Volunteer State in the mind's eye. Its pioneering tracking system redefined reliability and accountability-and has since been adopted by its competitors.
It's unclear if there was ever a Dr. Pepper, but what is clear is that the Texas-bred soft drink has been a mainstay of American life for more than 130 years. What's now the Dr Pepper Snapple Group (sans period after the honorific) is based in Plano-about two hours north of Waco, where the drink was first served at Morrison's Old Corner Drug Store.
Sinclair Oil Corporation has been based in Utah since its founding in 1916 during one of many oil booms in the early-20th century. Its distinctive dinosaur logo-a Brontosaurus, technically-has been a common sight on the road in the American West, and Sinclair remains one of the largest, privately held corporations in the U.S. (as well as the only oil company among these common state-associated brands).
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have done more for ice cream than anyone else in the history of ice cream, and their modest ice cream shop in Burlington, Vermont, is the perfect origin for what has become the beloved Ben & Jerry's brand. Cheeky flavor names, top quality ingredients, and the Ben and Jerry myth define an ever-changing line of pint sized consumables, which are forever associated with the Green Mountain State.
America largely got online in the 1990s with a select few Internet service providers (most now defunct) -- including AOL, which began life in Virginia as a modem company specializing in connecting Atari players in the 1980s. Although it's headquartered in New York (and has had a very rocky history, indeed), Virginians of a certain age still identify with it, its defunct yellow running man logo, the crunchy sound of a modem connecting, and the little "you've got mail" voice.
Starbucks headquarters in Seattle is a far cry in scale and intent than its modest retail origins at 1st and Pike Streets, tucked away in the city's historic Pike Place Market. Starbucks drinkers are committed to the brand's culture and entirely loyal to its coffee-which is not hard to be, considering how ubiquitous its presence is. Some cities seem to have one on every block. Still, what keeps those locations in business is consistently strong products and fast service.
You may find Gino's Pizza and Spaghetti in a few corners of the U.S.-sometimes paired with Tudor's Biscuit World-but you'll hit pay dirt in West Virginia, where there are nearly 40 locations. Fair prices and a consistent product define this brand and, if you're passing through the Mountain State.
You'd think that beer or cheese would appear under Wisconsin, but no. It's Harley-Davidson-the very definition of American-crafted freedom on two wheels for die-hard loyalists. Three Davidsons and one Harley founded the company in Milwaukee 113 years ago. Since then, the brand has become synonymous with motorcycles (whether you're talking about a "chopper" style of bike or not).
Tacos are a big deal in Wyoming, and Taco John's (founded in 1969 in Cheyenne) is perhaps the flagship taco purveyor in the Cowboy State. The brand has spread considerably since then to more than 400 locations in 25 states-and is often found (through a partnership deal) along with Steak Escape, as well as Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard. But, the distinctive TJ logo is hard to miss.