Wittenberg alumni entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry return to campus to showcase their products and talk with students about their successful journeys during “Taste of Witt” from 4-6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6, along Alumni Way (rain site Geil Lounge, Benham-Pence Student Center).
Part of the university’s new entrepreneurial-inspired programming series called Enlight, “Taste of Witt" will feature founders or owners of businesses in the food and beverage industry. The event also reaffirms the university being ranked 46th among the “Most Entrepreneurial Colleges in America” by Forbes Magazine. Parents, students, faculty, staff and Springfield community members will have the opportunity to sample a variety of delicious foods and beverages provided by these successful alumni.
Alumni guests participating in the first-of-its-kind event at Wittenberg include Michael De Massimo of De Massimo's Sauce, Bob and Chip Graeter of Graeter’s Ice Cream, Kevin and John Loftis of Mother Stewart’s Brewery, Ken Turro of On-Time Mixers, Francoise Labrique Walusis of Madame Delluc, Tim McCarthy of Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers and Isaac and Jayne Barnes of Honeyrun Farm.
De Massimo, class of 1999, majored in English and minored in secondary education. During his four years at Wittenberg, he was also a member of the Tiger baseball team. Upon graduation, De Massimo began his career as a high school English teacher and continued to stay connected to Wittenberg as an assistant baseball coach for four years. After an 18-year career in education as a teacher, coach, and principal, De Massimo took a leap and began fulfilling a lifelong dream - bringing a part of his family to families all around. De Massimo’s Authentic Sauces began in early spring 2015 and continues to grow.
“Our sauces are ‘Old World’ Italian recipes that were handed down over generations,” said De Massimo, who resides in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife, Bethany, of 13 years and their three children, Anthony, A.J. and Olivia. “We began our dream in the spring of 2015 offering our sauces at the Hilliard City Farmers’ Market. Since that first market, De Massimo’s has established a growing retail and food service presence, and participates in various markets and events throughout Ohio and the Midwest.”
Robert Graeter, class of 1978, is a fourth-generation owner of Graeter's Ice Cream. He grew up in the family business working in retail stores and manufacturing operations. He worked as a store manager before pursuing his M.B.A at the University of Michigan. After spending five years at Procter & Gamble, he decided to return to the family business. His responsibilities have included wholesale sales, manufacturing management, sourcing and retail store development. A certified food scientist, he is currently the Chief of Quality Assurance with responsibility for product development, sourcing and manufacturing support. Graeter currently resides in Cincinnati and maintains a fanatical commitment to product quality, flavor innovation and food safety.
Chip Graeter, class of 1986, also a fourth-generation member of the Graeter family to own and operate the business, has been involved in guest interaction at Graeter's retail stores since his teenage years. By learning the guest service aspect of retail sales from the ground up, he has developed a keen sense of the guest's needs and desires, developing a reputation for consensus building that has helped the company work toward common goals for a better guest experience and company growth. He works with a retail team as well as the sales staff to ensure patrons are included in the Graeter's experience.
"It's more than just the irresistible ice cream and treats," said Chip Graeter, who graduated from Wittenberg with a bachelor’s degree in speech and theater, and continues to be involved in his community in and around Madeira, Ohio where he lives with his wife and three boys.
"It's my goal and personal mission to make the entire Graeter's experience satisfying and memorable for every guest. I am honored to have grown up in a family business that has been fortunate enough to see great success and popularity in Ohio for the past 147 years. It is my desire to make sure Graeter’s is viable for the next generation of the Graeter family.”
With backgrounds in real estate development, John Loftis, class of 1994, and Kevin Loftis, who also attended Wittenberg, epitomize community-building in their hometown of Springfield, Ohio. The two recently founded Mother Stewart's Brewery, a family-owned production brewery located at 109 W. North Street in downtown Springfield. The brewery, named for Eliza Daniel Stewart, one of the leaders of the temperance movement in Springfield and Xenia area in the late 1800s, offers a range of craft beer selections for the Miami Valley, which they serve in the establishment's spacious 8,500-square-foot taproom and outdoor beer garden.
John Loftis, a contractor, renovated the building formerly known as the Metallic Casket Co. Kevin Loftis brought the brewing experience after attending Sieble Institute in Chicago, Ill. The brothers have sold some of their beer to local businesses in the area, and their recipes include a German wheat beer, a Belgian ale and a root beer.
Turro, who graduated from Wittenberg in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in history, has been a performance-driven senior executive with more than 14 years of experience in the health care industry and a strong background in human resources, business development, operations management and leadership. He decided to open his current business venture – On-Time Mixers – in July 2016 in the Indianapolis area. The company makes high-quality drink mixers from time-tested family recipes.
Walusis, class of 1999, graduated with a degree in history. Since her time at Wittenberg, she has earned a master's degree in social sciences from the University of Chicago and a B.S.N. from Wright State University. Married and raising three daughters, Walusis recently added entrepreneur to her resume. In 2015, she and her husband, John, created their own company, Francoise Imports, the first American company to partner with Mary Chocolatier in Brussels, Belgium. Branded as Madame Delluc Artisan Chocolatier for the North American market, she owns and operates shops in Oakwood and Upper Arlington, Ohio, as well as a thriving online business to bring Belgium's finest chocolate to happy customers everywhere in the United States.
McCarthy, class of 2002, wears three professional hats as founder of the largest Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers Franchise, chairman of WorkPlace Impact, which connects brands to consumers at work, and chairman of the Business of Good Foundation, which serves those who serve the poor.
Since graduating from Wittenberg with a degree in English, McCarthy has been building RCO Limited, the Ohio Franchise Partner of Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers. RCO Limited was founded in November of 2003 and became the first franchisee for Raising Cane’s, which up until this point in time had grown exclusively through company stores. With 14 restaurants in Central Ohio as of 2015, and 12 more in the works for Cincinnati, he has kept busy in the areas of construction and real estate development, finance, marketing, and human resources within the business.
Isaac Barnes, class of 1999 and a geology major, is a former high school science teacher who is now a beekeeper managing around 700 hives in central Ohio. He and his wife, Jayne, Wittenberg class of 2003, founded and operate Williamsport, Ohio-based Honeyrun Farm. Together, they strive to produce environmentally mindful goods while ensuring the health and survival of their honeybees. Honeyrun currently sells seasonal and varietal honey along with value-added products such as soaps, salves, lip balms and beeswax candles.
The next Enlight event involves the university’s own rendition of Shark Tank on Thursday, February 15, 2018. More details will be forthcoming.