A mere 30 percent of family businesses survive into the second generation, the Family Business Institute reports. Yet, the Buckeye State is home to family-owned businesses in the food industry that have overcome the odds to celebrate major milestone birthdays. Among them, Schmidt’s Sausage reached the centennial mark for participation in the Ohio State Fair in 2014, and Velvet Ice Cream along with Cooper Farms celebrated their 100 and 75th birthdays respectively in 2013. The best part: the founding families continue to operate each one.
Generations Of Goodness
“Our theme is to be consistent,” says Geoffrey Schmidt, fourth-generation president of Schmidt’s Restaurant and Sausage Haus. “Our products are good, solid products that have been produced for 128 years.”
The fifth generation now works at Schmidt’s Sausage, famous for its Bahama Mama sausage and jumbo cream puff. The company was founded in 1866 as a packinghouse in Columbus. Today, the family operates a restaurant, catering business and banquet facility in the historic German Village. The Schmidts have also expanded into food trucks, special events, online sales and golf course facilities. This expansion generates a livelihood for a growing family.
It’s Sweet To Beat The Odds
Just 3 percent of family businesses operate at the fourth-generation level or beyond, according to the Family Business Institute.
Despite the trend, the fourth generation runs Velvet Ice Cream, which personifies the American dream. In the early 1900s, Joseph Dager emigrated from Lebanon for a better life. He started a hand-cranked ice cream operation in a Utica basement in 1914.
Today, the Dager family’s state-of-the-art facility at Ye Olde Mill in Utica produces and distributes 5 million gallons of ice cream per year, says Nathan Arnold, marketing manager for Velvet Ice Cream. More than 150,000 people annually visit Velvet’s parlor, museum, free factory tour and scenic grounds.
The company sells more than 60 flavors of ice cream at retail locations in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia, and Bob Evans Restaurants serve their ice cream throughout the United States.
“Ohio’s strong agriculture industry has enabled us to source products locally,” Arnold says. “Most of our cream comes from Ohio. We source honey for our honey caramel ice cream from Ohio. Our sugar comes from a plant in Ohio.”
Pride, Passion, Commitment
More than 75 years ago, Virgil Cooper raised 300 meat turkeys, mainly for the holidays. Today, the second and third generations of his family own the 11th largest turkey operation in the United States.
Cooper Farms raises turkeys, chicken layers and hogs in relationship with 400 family farmers, says Gary Cooper, CEO representing the second generation. The farm employs about 1,600 Ohioans, making it a leading employer in the state’s food industry.
The farm’s two Ohio-based processing plants produce a variety of fully cooked and ready-to-cook turkey, ham and chicken products for customers throughout North America and various export markets. Much of their products sell under private labels at Meijer, Kroger, Wal-Mart and more.
“We have a really innovative, entrepreneurship type of company culture,” Cooper says. “We call it more than a workplace. We really do believe that.
“There is legacy. There is longevity. There is passion for the business. When you work hard enough and do something long enough, you get pretty good at it or you’re not going to be around.”