EBE honorees reflect diverse business interestsWritten by Staff Reports | | email@example.com
Ed Beczynski is a staple in the Downtown Toledo restaurant scene. The owner of The Blarney Irish Pub, Focaccia’s Deli and Café Focaccia’s recently won a business excellence award from the Entrepreneurial & Business Excellence (EBE) Hall of Fame. An awards ceremony is set for Nov. 7.
Beczynski began his journey into the Downtown eatery business in 1996, when he opened Eddy B’s in the old Toledo Trust Building.
“Everybody thought I was crazy to be even looking Downtown, because at that time, everybody was moving out of Downtown,” Beczynski said. “There was really nothing going on, but I’ve always been passionate about cities and their downtowns, and decided that Downtown was where I was going to make a future.”
Eddy B’s was a breakfast and lunch staple for years, and in 2001, Beczynski opened Focaccia’s Deli in the HCR ManorCare building, followed by The Blarney Irish Pub at 601 Monroe St. in 2005.
Additionally, Beczynski expanded his Focaccia’s brand by opening Café Focaccia’s in the Hylant building last year. He’s also opened up the neighboring space to The Blarney as an event center, which hosts special parties and events.
“That space has been really great. Probably every weekend there’s something going on in there. It’s been a great addition to The Blarney.”
Beczynski said one of the secrets of his sustained success in Downtown Toledo is surrounding himself with the right people.
“There’s no CEOs or business owners that can do it on their own,” he said. “I have great management that has been around me — Barb Reese, who has been with me from day one with Eddy B’s, runs Focaccia’s, Café Focaccia’s and our catering division, and Bill Kline runs The Blarney and the Event Center. You have to have people like that.”
Beczynski said it is also important to have mentors to reach out to for advice from time to time.
“The big thing is just being surrounded by good people, and listening to them.”
Beczynski said he appreciates being honored by the EBE, although he never thought of himself as “that guy, getting the award.”
“I’ve just been a hard worker all my life, and never thought about that.”
Beczynski said he is looking to open a new Café Focaccia’s at One SeaGate in the near future, but admits that he may be nearing a self-imposed limit on the number of businesses he can run at one time.
“I think I’m done after that,” he said. “It’s just so busy all the time, and I think expanding yourself too much is a risk.”
Beczynski said his son Travis, who recently graduated from college, is interested in returning to Toledo to work with his father and his team.
Regardless of whether or not father and son decide to expand further, Beczynski is confident he will keep his roots secure in Downtown Toledo.
“I still love what I do. It’s a passion, and I love Toledo. That’s why I’m here. If you don’t love [what you do], you’re in trouble. There’s ups and downs in this business, and you’ve got to ride those highs, but be ready for the lows. If you don’t love it, those lows are really tough. If you’re not in it for the long haul and don’t love what you do, you’re wasting your time, because this is a tough business.”
— Jay Hathaway
Dick Baker and Lynn Fruth are second-generation owners of The Danberry Co. Realtors, one of the largest realty companies in the Toledo area. As executive vice presidents, the pair gradually bought the company in the mid-1990s. With Toledo as its core market, Danberry does business in nine counties throughout Northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.
Danberry is a real estate brokerage company serving residential, commercial and industrial clients. The company also provides its customers with options related to leasing, rentals and project management.
“We work on a consumer-based, agent-centered model that’s designed to meet our clients’ needs,” said Fruth, Danberry’s CEO. Baker, Danberry’s president, added, “We try to be a one-stop shop for our customers.”
“For example, we’re the leader in corporate moving.” Baker said. “So if you’re a company that is moving and your employees need to relocate, that’s where we come in. We also have a joint venture with Chicago Title for title insurance, and we work with Nationwide for homeowners insurance.”
The co-owners attribute Danberry’s position as a regional leader in the real estate industry to its focus on technological innovation.
“I think the one thing that has given Danberry a competitive advantage is technology. We’ve seen a shift in technology within the newest generation of customers. They’ve moved away from computers to mobile devices, and we expect them to become more mobile in the coming months,” Fruth said.
“If we stand still, market technology will pass us by,” Baker said. “You can’t design a real estate business for baby boomers and not listen to younger folks who also want to shop.”
To meet the demands of customers in their 20s and 30s, the demographic most likely to be looking at buying a home, Danberry has developed a mobile app which includes features that lets users name their real estate agent and look at properties for sale (even non-Danberry properties) in the area. The app also lets users see what properties recently sold for in their neighborhood.
“Even if someone isn’t actively in the market, they still want to know what’s going on in the neighborhood,” Baker said.
The company’s website, danberry.com, allows shoppers to create a profile based on their real estate preferences and receive notifications when a matching property goes on the market.
“We use a consultative approach, not a selling approach,” Fruth said. “People don’t want to be sold things; they want advisers to help them make informed decisions, and in real estate they want a company that’s meeting the market where the market is.”
Danberry’s approach appears to have a strong appeal with the buying public. According to the company, its website has received more visits than those of their top 10 competitors combined.
The Northwest Ohio community has made Danberry a leader in the real estate field, and the owners feel a need to give back to the community. For 19 years, they have exercised the value they place on social responsibility through the Danberry Treasure Chest, an emergency assistance fund that helps children with serious or chronic illnesses and their families in coordination with ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital.
In 2012, the fund raised more than $60,000 and helped almost 70 families.
Danberry’s success in the marketplace and the company’s involvement in the community were factors that led to its business excellence award in the EBE HOF.
“There’s no greater honor than to be recognized by fellow businesses for a job well done,” Fruth said.
— Kevin Moore
The concept for MAGNETNotes started in the 1990s, when CEO Randy Boudouris was asked to help invent a replacement for magnetic promotional pieces being used for advertising by Marco’s Pizza. He began searching for an innovative alternative, which ultimately brought him back to magnets, but with a brand-new design.
“It’s kind of ironic that I set out to invent something to replace magnets, and ended up in magnetics,” Boudouris said. “When [people] get a magnet, of course the first place they stick it is on the refrigerator. It’s a good place to get exposure for an advertiser.”
However, Boudouris said he began tuning in to some of the negative feedback he was receiving about using magnets to advertise, such as expense and difficulty with printing.
“That was kind of the impetus for this mission I’ve been on for the last 14 years — to develop a printer-friendly way to make magnetics.”
The company was recently named winner of the EBE HOF Innovation in Business award.
MAGNETNotes was founded in 2000, and began integrating magnetics into the printing process. In 2003, the company underwent a series of ownership changes. First, it was bought by the Seiko Corporation, which soon sold it to Cerberus Capital Management and then to Glatfelter, during which time the magnetic paper product it produced was named “MagneCote.”
In 2008, Boudouris was semi-retired, but becoming increasingly frustrated with the performance of his invention. He began negotiations to take back company ownership and was successful.
At the same time, Boudouris began fighting an aggressive form of cancer, all while the economic recession began to take its toll on the U.S., which further complicated his renewed business venture.
“They were rough years for me, but we found a way through it,” Boudouris said. “We focused on the quality of our products on the manufacturing side, which is what I had been obsessing about. In about two to three years, we were able to dramatically improve the quality of our products.”
In 2010, MAGNETNotes began concentrating efforts on magnetic enclosures and packaging, which led to a deal with Kraft for use with its gum packaging.
Now, with his cancer in remission, Boudouris is looking to expand into the automotive and medical industries with his magnetic packaging designs, as well as set up a laboratory in Toledo to focus on product development.
Whatever his future holds, Boudouris said he will maintain his business philosophy of “innovation, innovation, innovation,” which he said has been validated by his award from the EBE.
“It’s a big honor to me. It’s a nice thing to be awarded for all the hard work, so it’s greatly appreciated.”
Boudouris also said that his success would not be possible without his strong team of 11 employees.
“It’s important as the leader of my company that I also am pragmatic enough to know where I’m not good, and to fill those gaps in with people who are. I don’t try to do things that I’m not good at — it frustrates me and keeps me awake at night. I’ve got a great team of employees that supports me well, and a great set of investors as well.”
For more information, visit the website magnetnotes.com.
— Jay Hathaway
Meyer Hill Lynch
Meyer Hill Lynch is a Maumee-based information technology (IT) solutions company that specializes in business computing, computer networking, network security and IT consulting for businesses, local governments and nonprofit organizations.
“Our range of services lets us fill the gaps in a company’s IT department or serve as their sole IT company,” said managing partner Rob Shick.
The company offers its services to clients of any size or industry. In the past, it has been hired by banks, law firms, factories, the City of Toledo, Wood County, the Toledo Mud Hens and Walleye and the Toledo Zoo.
“Instead of narrowing our services into one industry, we offer a broad base of technology services and if it works for the company, regardless of their industry, we can work with them to meet their needs,” Shick said.
The staff at Meyer Hill Lynch hold a wide array of training certifications, which aids the company in its goal of providing full-time or supplemental IT solutions.
“It’s hard for companies to hire experts in everything, especially with technology changing so rapidly. We’re able to have a well-trained staff in several areas, which sets up a good model for outsourcing,” Shick said.
Meyer Hill Lynch has two new initiatives that address issues in today’s IT marketplace. The first, Total BR, gives customers a means of protecting data and restoring files almost instantly in the event of a crash. With cloud technology ineffective for the data storage needs of many businesses and investment in backup hardware costly, Total BR offers a monthly service that uses on-site backup as well as a secondary backup from Meyer Hill Lynch’s data center, resulting in uninterrupted access to data, Shick said.
The second new program is a service where the IT company essentially steps in as chief information officer for a client with a 24/7 help desk, support staff available for in-person and remote assistance, preventative maintenance and regular planning meetings.
“Small and medium businesses can’t afford to hire five or six full-time IT professionals. We can fill that role for the cost of one or two new hires.”
Shick views his company’s business excellence award from the EBE HOF as a reflection on his staff.
“We’re a quiet company not big into getting awards, but I think it’s good to recognize the hard work they’ve put in,” he said.
For more information, visit the web site www.mhl.com.
— Kevin Moore
Eugene Meisler said the secret behind the long legacy of his family’s business, Toft Dairy, is simple: hard work.
The Sandusky company, started 113 years ago by his grandparents, is entering its fifth generation and is the oldest operating dairy in the state of Ohio.
For its family legacy, product expansion, high-tech innovation and culture that nurtures a family-like environment, Toft Dairy was nominated for and won an Excellence in Family Business award from the EBE HOF.
“I guess it’s kind of a great honor, isn’t it?” said Meisler, president of the Sandusky company. “We feel real proud about it.”
The company buys milk from 21 local farmers and pasteurizes it at its plant, producing 18,000 gallons of milk and ice cream a day. It also offers a variety of products including cottage cheese, half and half, chip dip and drinks, including orange, grape, fruit punch, lemonade and iced tea.
Toft Dairy began in 1900. Meisler’s maternal grandparents, Christopher and Matilda Toft, delivered milk to the Sandusky area with a horse and buggy.
“They had 10-gallon cans of milk they’d bring into town and they dipped it right out of the can and sold it to the customer,” Meisler said. “It was raw milk right from the farm.”
In 1943, Meisler’s father began making ice cream in 5-gallon containers. The company now has 3,000-3,200 customers buying 51 flavors of dipped ice cream at their summer parlor, Meisler said.
The company currently employs nine family members from five generations. In 1965, Meisler and his two older brothers bought the company from their parents. In 1985, they brought in their sons and about five years ago they hired their grandsons.
They recently redesigned the ice cream containers and introduced a new flavor, Red Velvet Rush, with chunks of red velvet dough and ribbons of cream cheese.
Next year, Meisler said, they’ll bring out more new flavors, as they do every year.
“We have someone at the plant 365 days a year. They never shut the cows off,” he said. “None of the Meislers have an eight-hour day of work. We have a lot of help.”
The company has a dedicated workforce, he said, with some employees who have worked there for 40 years.
“We’re very good to our employees,” he said. “We have profit sharing, 401(k). I call it a big family.”
The dairy was nominated for the award by the University of Toledo Center for Family & Privately-Held Business because it exemplifies all the “best practices of a family business,” said director Debbe Skutch.
“They’re privately held, they have several generations and they have a sense of history and sense of legacy,” Skutch said. “[They were nominated] for the values they bring to our culture.”
For more information, visit the website toftdairy.com.
— Danielle Stanton
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