Local companies have stood the test of time to become Dayton institutions.
By Tracy Staley
Dayton’s Historic Companies
Dayton has long prided itself on innovation for the future, but it is also the home to many companies that have stood the test of time. We took a look at several companies that have been in Dayton for more than half a century; what we found was a love for the area and its people, and a nimble ability to respond to changing times while respecting historic roots.
H. Gerstner & Sons, Inc.
H. Gerstner & Sons was founded in 1906, when Harry Gerstner started making custom journeyman’s tool chests and selling them door to door. The chests soon attracted a following among tool and die professionals, who found that the wooden chests wicked moisture away from the precision tools stored within, keeping them free of rust and continually accurate.
A Gerstner chest is a piece of “functional art,” says Vice President of Operations Scott Campbell. Although the company still sells chests to the tool and die industry, it has expanded to include home hobbyists with collections they both use and display. “You put one of these in your bedroom or living room; it’s not hidden in the garage or basement,” Campbell says.
Campbell notes that Dayton is a great fit for Gerstner because “it’s always been a family business and Dayton’s a great place for families.” The central location of Dayton also makes good business sense, as Campbell finds it “easy to ship to both coasts and around the world.”
Think Dayton, and you likely think of the gold foil Esther Price chocolates box. The company’s focus on tradition has made it a lasting part of the Dayton experience since Esther Price opened her first store in 1952.
“Our customer base treasures us. When people come back to town, they load up on candy,” says Jim Day, the current owner of Esther Price.
“We’re like your college alma mater,” Day says, noting that he’s seen three generations of the same families come through the doors of Esther Price.
When Day bought the business, he promised Esther Price herself that he wouldn’t change the all-natural recipe for the candies, and he hasn’t. Although the company has added new recipes like sea salt caramels and chocolate-covered potato chips, the traditional recipes have remained a consistent taste of Dayton.
The Ohlmann Group
Founded in 1949 as Penny and Penny, strategic marketing communications firm The Ohlmann Group has gone through several name changes while remaining true to its mission to build relationships among people and businesses in the Dayton area.
“People here know each other,” says President and CEO Walter Ohlmann. “You never go to a meeting that you don’t know someone there.”
Over its 65-year history, The Ohlmann Group has kept its focus on the city by remaining in the center of the action, choosing to keep its headquarters in downtown Dayton, Ohlmann says. But although the location remains consistent, the skill set at The Ohlmann Group is constantly updating. Most recently, “we reengineered to be a lot more digital” while keeping a strong focus on traditional marketing communications activities, Ohlmann says.
Other Companies with 50 Plus Years in Dayton:
Allied Supply Co., Inc.
CODE Credit Union
Community Blood Center
Dayton Children’s Hospital
Lorenz Educational Press
Miami Valley Hospital
Requarth Lumber & Millwork
Sinclair Community College
Smales Pretzel Bakery
The Pine Club
University of Dayton
… and many more!