A cold storage business almost hidden two blocks off from Main Street might not be the face of downtown Dayton, but the small industrial businesses that line the city’s core “really are the backbone,” said Chad Diggs, chief executive at Dayton Frozen Solutions
“There’s a lot of industry on the other side of the train tracks,” Diggs said.
Along with the office towers, boutique retail and local restaurants, downtown Dayton is also lined with other industries like Dayton Frozen Solutions, which at 20 Eaker St. is a busy refrigerated and frozen storage business.
Diggs, in an interview from his office looking out at the downtown skyline, said when he bought at the 75-year-old business, the business venture was a partnership between longtime friends and fraternity brothers.
Dayton Frozen Solutions was formerly Terminal Cold Storage before it was bought by an investment group in 2016, which along with Diggs included William Lumpkin, chief financial officer and Dr. Michael Dulan.
Diggs said he and Lumpkin were born two months apart and have been friends their entire lives. Diggs, Dulan and general manager Brandon Tisdale are all connected as members of fraternity Omega Psi Phi, which Diggs said also drives their business philosophy of serving the community.
It takes the right kind of friends to own a business together, Diggs said. The challenge of running a business can bring up frustrations from years ago or highlight different communication styles.
“You have to know that your friendship will get challenged. “You have to make sure you have the right friend and you’re on the same page with your end goals,’” he said.
Diggs said he and Lumpkin “got our feet wet as entrepreneurs” when they bought Gem City Car Wash in 2015 and invested in turning around the struggling longtime business on Gettysburg Avenue.
“We were able to take professionalism, great service and a great atmosphere to an area that wasn’t known for that,’ he said. “What we wanted to do was show that even in that area you can have excellent customer service, you can increase safety and decrease crime and with that car wash we’re very proud of what we were able to accomplish there.”
Then in 2016, he and the larger investment group bought Terminal cold storage and said the 20-person company has had to get innovative to stay ahead as customers shift from processed foods — which need cold storage — to more fresh foods. The company has been adding new services to stay ahead like more deliveries and putting together orders on pallets for customers.
“So it passes the middleman, which is myself,” Diggs said. “It’s been a shift in the industry to a lot of manufacturers limiting their storage so we have to change with the industry.”
But other business shifts have boded well for Dayton Frozen Solutions. When craft beer took off, it created new customers that need storage options.
“Craft brewing has really taken off and so we’re just going to ride that wave,” Diggs said.
The cold storage company works with everything from Bob Evans and Sara Lee products, to a type of cow mucus product that can be used in zoos for helping feed baby animals.
Diggs said the company is a certified minority-owned business and is part of a broader industry shift to more women-owned and minority-owned businesses.
“Part of it is the increase of minorities in the United States. The percentage of minorities are increasing and the big companies are realizing they are going to have to make changes in the culture of America,” he said. “As America continues to be more diverse, corporate America needs to continue to be more diverse.”
Diggs said he and his co-workers have seen the ups and downs of Dayton and want to help the city thrive.
“We want to be a part of the change and we’re looking to keeping doing business in the Dayton area and to do more of it,” he said. “This will not be the last Dayton company I own.”