There aren’t many companies that can boast they are as old as the London Underground and the Football Association. But James Hall, the Spar wholesaler for the north of England, can.

Just one year younger than The Grocer, the £458m turnover-wholesaler marks 150 years of trading this November. The exact date of the company’s formation - when founder James Hall opened a Bacon cutting business and shop in Preston - has been lost in the annals of time, but the company knows that Hall first set up shop in 1863, shortly after he got married.

Today, the fourth and fifth generation of Halls who work there (chairman Ian, managing director Andrew and IT director Dominic) are determined to futureproof the business so it is still going strong for at least 50 years to come - and as ever, they are not afraid to invest in the expansion needed to secure that future.

Their appetite for expansion was whetted in 1881, when the business first extended its premises. By the early 1900s it had transformed itself into a wholesaler supplying cheese, tinned foods and groceries and in 1956, it chose to concentrate on supplying Spar. By the early 2000s, the company had completely outgrown its Preston HQ, so in 2011 it moved just two miles down the road to a purpose-built 45-acre site.

“The new site was constructed for future growth. We’ve invested in the warehouse for the next 50 years”

Dominic Hall

There is still plenty of capacity to extend Bowland View, which cost “in excess of £50m” to build. The depot is 350,000 sq ft, but the company has planning permission for 500,000 sq ft. Inside, the walls of the depot are made of fridge panels - even areas that don’t store fresh and chilled produce - meaning if category demand grows, James Hall can grow with it.

“The new site was constructed for future growth,” explains Dominic Hall, a fifth-generation Hall. “We’ve invested in the warehouse for the next 50 years. It is purpose-built and flexible in design so we can grow.”

Bowland View is packed with eco-features, he adds, including a waterfall and stream stocked with about 500 fish that flows through reception to a pond outside to collect water from the roof for reuse.

The company has also gone back to its roots as a manufacturer. The depot has given James Hall more scope to prepare its own products, just as in 1863, when it had its own bacon-cutting line. The company already makes all its own-label sandwiches (it churns out 85,000 sandwiches a week) at a separate site in Blackpool, as well as cakes, pies and quiches at the Clayton Park Bakery business it acquired in 2010. But the new depot boasts a smoking room for cooked meats, and a cheese-cutting line. The company is also considering starting a fresh production line for fruit, salads and coleslaw.

One day, James Hall could even supply its fellow Spar wholesalers with own-label lines. And it is also breaking out into non-food. It acquired Landmark Wholesale member GAP in November 2011. The business has been relocated to Bowland View and supplies car care and impulse lines to forecourts and c-stores. It currently stocks 6,500 lines and James Hall has been expanding the business further into c-stores.

James Hall himself would have been “amazed” by the sheer size and scale of Bowland View if he’d been alive today, says Dominic. “But he’d also be delighted that the business has remained in the family for 150 years.” And so should the entire wholesale sector be given the achievement it represents.