Supplement to Lucy Grieser Oral History

Napoleon Creamery I

The operation of a local Creamery in the city of Napoleon was begun in the late 1800s by Mr. Ernest Spengler, a local Grocery operator. It was the outgrowth of his observation that he could perform a service for the local Farmers of the surrounding Community by buying their cream and churning here in Napoleon. The Farmers soon realized that this method of selling was more profitable then making the butter on the farm and then trying to market their product as many individuals.

Mr. Spengler found enough customers to try his venture and he started hauling the cream from the nearby farms to the local cream station with horse drawn wagons. His small Creamery remained a one man business for many years, but as his business increased, it necessitated an expansion program.

Earl GrieserIn the spring of 1924, the Napoleon Creamery Co. was formed. This was the combination of the business experience of Mr. Spengler; A Mr. Leo English who at the time was operating his own sales and distribution of butter and eggs in the City of Toledo; and a Mr. Earl Grieser, owner of the Holgate Produce Co.

(Pictured at left is Earl Grieser ca. 1955)

Mr. Earl Grieser came to Napoleon as the manager of the home plant, while Mr. English managed the sales branch in Toledo, Ohio. Out of this nucleus the new Napoleon Creamery Co. was begun. A building was started at 221 East Washington, with the first production in January of 1925.

In 1925 there were 10 Employees at the Napoleon plant and four with the sales branch at Toledo. The yearly production the first year was approximately 300,00O pounds of butter. From 1925 to 1938, the main products handled by the company were butter and Eggs. In September of 1938, The Napoleon Creamery bottled its first pasteurized milk for home consumption. Total sales of butter in the year 1963 reached 1,450,000 pounds. This butter is sold throughout northwestern Ohio and southern Michigan.

In the year 1963 the Napoleon Creamery Co. had 32 Employees with a total payroll of $171,530. The Raw Material cost for the year was $1,049,778. This included 3,999,294 pounds of Grade "A" bulk milk for use in the Dairy department. This amounted to $195,139. The balance of Raw Material cost was for cream purchased for butter manufacturing. Most of the Cream purchased came from Ohio and Michigan areas. The milk purchased for the Dairy Dept. is from Henry County farms.

Purchases from the local water and light plant amounted to $4275.00 for electric power and another $2506.00 for water. The purchase of gas and coal for the boiler rooms amounted to $6218.00. The personal property taxes paid to the County amounted to $5034.00, while another $1400 was paid to the State of Ohio for vehicle license tags.

These figures, we believe, indicate the value of a small business to the community of Napoleon, and were proud to be a part of its industrial program.

NAPOLEON CREAMERY II

The Napoleon Creamery Company

The operation of a local creamery in the city of Napoleon was begun in 1897 by Ernest Spengler, a local grocery operator. It was the outgrowth of his observation that he could perform a service for the local farmers of the surrounding community by buying their cream and churning butter here in Napoleon. The farmers soon realized that this method of selling was more profitable than making the butter on the farm and then trying to market their product as individuals.

Mr. Spengler found enough customers to try his venture and he started hauling the cream from the nearby farms to the local cream station with horse drawn wagons. His small creamery remained a one-man business for many years, but as his business increased, it necessitated an expansion program.

In the spring of 1924, The Napoleon Creamery Company was formed. This was the combination of the business experience of Mr. Spengler; Mr. Leo W. English who at the time was operating his own sales and distribution of butter and eggs in the City of Toledo; Mr. Earl A. Grieser, owner of the Holgate Produce Company; and Mr. Otto H. Spengler, an Attorney of Toledo, Ohio.
Mr. Grieser came to Napoleon as the Manager of the home plant, while Mr. English managed the sales branch in Toledo, Ohio. The Napoleon Creamery Company began its butter production in January of 1925 at 221 E. Washington St. and is still at that location.

In 1925 there were 10 employees at the Napoleon plant and 4 at the sales branch in Toledo. The yearly production the first year was approximately 300,000 pounds of butter. From 1925 to 1938 the main products handled by the company were "EverSweet" butter and "Napoleon" eggs. In September of 1938, The Napoleon Creamery Co. bottled its first pasteurized milk for home consumption. Total sales of butter in the year 1963 reached 1,450,000 pounds. This butter is still sold throughout northwestern Ohio, southern Michigan, and northeastern Indiana.

In the year 1963, The Napoleon Creamery Co. had 32 regular employees plus part time employees with a total payroll of $171,530. The raw material cost for the year was $1,049,778. This included 3,999,294 pounds of Grade "A" bulk milk for use in the Dairy Department. This amounted to $195,139. The balance of raw material cost was for cream purchased for butter manufacturing. Most of the cream purchased came from Ohio and Michigan areas. The milk purchased for the Dairy Department came from Henry County farms.

Earl Grieser managed the Creamery until his death in 1968. His nephew, Fred Grieser, who had worked with the business since 1950, took over as manager and President of the Creamery. Fred oversaw many changes take place during his tenure. In the late 1960s the Creamery stopped the production of milk. Milk was purchased from other dairies in the area, including Arps, Babcock and Allen Dairy, and distributed on the daily milk routes. Retail home delivery was continued until 1979.

Because of changing times and stiff competition, the Creamery halted butter production in 1978. The "Ever-Sweet" Butter was then bought from manufacturing plants in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. It is still distributed to grocery stores, restaurants and carryouts in the Tri-State area.

In the 1970s the Napoleon Creamery Co. increased their cheese sales and distribution area. A warehouse facility was set up in Fort Wayne, Indiana to help with distribution in that area. Cheese sales in 1981 totaled 1.5 million pounds, or $2.7 million. Butter sales were 1.3 million pounds, or $2.1 million. Total company sales were $6,233,337.

Fred Grieser managed the Creamery until his premature death in 1985. During his tenure, he saw many changes in the industry. The large competitive dairies took a toll on this small operation. Many smaller dairies and creameries in the country were closing. But the Napoleon Creamery continued distribution in the tri-state area, increasing its sales of miscellaneous items, including an Amish line of products such as noodles, cookies, and apple butter; and paper supplies, institutional food and pizza supplies. In the late 1970's Fred and his wife Lucy bought a retail cheese outlet in Fort Wayne called the Mouse House. It was closed around 1990 due to declining sales.

After Fred's death his son, Tony then managed the Napoleon business and Ken managed the Fort Wayne branch. Ken had worked with the company since the late 1970s, mainly in the Fort Wayne area. Tony brought a business and banking background to the company. When Tony left the company in 1988, Fred's nephew, Ron Gerdeman took over as manager of the Napoleon Creamery Company. Ron had worked with the company for over 20 years in various positions. He ran milk routes and production when it was necessary. He also worked in sales and distribution and purchasing and inventory control. In 1991, the total butter sales were 326,000 pounds worth $416,527. Cheese sales totaled almost $1.5 million (847,261 pounds). Total company sales in 1991 were almost $2.5 million.

Many of Fred's nine children worked at the creamery at some point while growing up. For instance, Deb, his eldest daughter, worked at the egg operation in Toledo one summer during high school. Most of them worked on the butter machines, and packed the butter into boxes. Dan churned butter and drove tankers and milk routes. Tony, Fritz and Ken worked in production and deliveries. In the summer, when Fred  would run the milk routes (for vacationing drivers) Deb, Ken, Jan, Fritz or Tony would ride along and help out. Jan worked in the office during high school and came back in 1976 to work full time until 1979. She was called back in 1983 to work full time in the office. When Ron Gerdeman died in 2003, Jan took over as the manager of the Napoleon branch.