Esther Price owner dedicated to chocolate business

Esther Price CEO Jim Day thought he would be the last person to sell chocolates.

He was a baker’s son from Cincinnati who grew up in the Great Depression, a soldier in the Korean War, and a concrete contractor. He barely finished high school because he had to work to help his family.

But when he had the chance in 1976 to buy Esther Price candies with Jim Bates, Ralph Schmidt, and Joe Haarmeyer, all Cincinnati businessmen, he went for it. Day and Schimdt bought out Bates and Haarmeyer after the first two years. After Schmidt died in 2007, Day took over the business with his wife, Elaine, four daughters and one son-in-law.

Day will be honored by the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance on Friday with the Everest Award. The award is given to business owners that have had a positive impact on business, the community or quality of life along the Interstate 75 corridor between Cincinnati and Dayton. The other honorees are Dick Alderson of Alderson Properties and Wilbur Cohen of Cohen USA.

“It’s breathless,” Day said of winning the award. “Why me when there are so many others who do as much as me or more?”

Esther Price opened its newest location south of Dayton in West Chester Twp. on October 2013, to go along with its six other locations in Dayton and Cincinnati. Day said the business in West Chester Twp. is one of the better revenue-producing locations for the company.

Years ago, Day created an endowed scholarship fund at his alma mater Elder High School that funds two students’ full tuition for a year. But his philanthropy isn’t just outside of work.

“He’s a great boss,” said Sherry Crum, who works in the shipping department at Esther Price. “We all think that. He’s very family oriented. Not just his family, but ours too.”

You’re being honored for fostering growth along and around the Interstate 75 Growth Corridor. How can business leaders and government officials along the corridor work together to encourage even more growth throughout the corridor?

Day: We have to have some of the people up in Washington understand what it is that we need. We don't need more tax structures and more laws restricting us. We need incentives … like they used to do, that they give you $100,000 tax free to buy equipment and stuff and (give) incentives for business people who want to hire people and to increase business. All they do is just do the opposite.

Q: For business owners or employees who find themselves out of their former industry or job, what sort of advice would you provide to help reinvent oneself to reenter the workforce?

Day: Like what you do. Whatever you do, you've got to be sure you're going to dedicate most of your time to this business because without you, it's never going to work. You just can't go and have other people do it for you, you've got to be there at least 10 hours a day until everything gets started and do something that you like to do, something that you went to school to do and something that's fun.

Q: What’s the riskiest move you ever made and did it pay off?

Day: The biggest risk is when I went into (a Florida-based ice cream) business with people and letting them run things when they didn't know how to do it. They didn't have enough people because they were cutting back on things when they needed to hire people and you can't tell all this stuff when you're looking through cameras and running the business from a couple of hundred miles away. You've got to learn the business that you're in and the only way you really learn it is being there every day. I bought them out and then we increased it about 75 to 80 percent. I got a good business going because we were down there… every day checking things.

Q: Technology seems to be such a pervasive aspect of today’s marketplace. Is there any technology that you’ve found indispensable?

Day: I have a cellphone, that's it. I'm not much of a computer nerd. I know exactly what it does, I have my secretary take care of all that for me, the email and the whole bit. I have just an old-fashioned cellphone that does plenty for me because I don't have time to look at these gadgets and answer email all day.

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