An archaic prohibition law almost resulted in one local business leaving, but thanks to the efforts of , Custom Culinary is not only staying in the city, but a state law was amended to help their business.
The result of that change means Custom Culinary, which manufactures bases, sauces and gravies, can expand. City, state and company leaders held a ground-breaking ceremony June 11 on a to the current 30 employees.
Many at the ceremony credited Smith with leading the charge to change the law and keep the company in Ohio.
For four years, Smith has been looking to state government to repeal a 1935 law that said all alcohol—even if purchased by food manufacturers—must be bought at retail prices and at retail portions.
Which meant companies that use alcohol products in manufacturing, such as Custom Culinary, had to not only forego wholesale prices but wasting time by opening individuals bottles of wine for recipes. One Custom Culinary recipe for a Merlot wine sauce called for 140,000 pounds of wine which had to be purchased, uncorked, sterilized and poured—one bottle at a time.
Plant manager Ann Walters-Cool said the new law meant a more efficient process.
“Someone’s job was to uncork every bottle, bottle after bottle,” Walters-Cool said.
Smith said he was at his wit’s end when he wrote a letter to the newly elected Lt. Governor Mary Taylor soon after she took office in 2011.
“I was begging, ‘can someone do something,’ because I want to retire, and I wasn’t going to stop until this thing was done,” Smith said. “I was begging. Begging for people’s jobs. Why the hell should you beg for people’s jobs?”
Smith said getting the law changed was integral to not just keeping Custom Culinary in Avon, but other companies in Ohio.
Soon after Taylor took office she was put in charge of Ohio’s Common Sense Initiative for regulatory reform that would make it easier to create jobs and do business in Ohio.
“On Jan. 31, one of the first letters I received came from Mayor Smith,” Taylor said. “It was very simply worded but I could tell the passion about his city and about Custom Culinary.”
Smith had been working on getting the law changed for years and told Taylor frustration had mounted. He told her, “Please help us help save this company in Avon.”
Taylor contacted State Senator Gayle Manning to sponsor Senate Bill 73 that “received no opposition,” and the bill passed within a month, earning Gov. John Kasich’s signature. Now, for the first time since prohibition, Ohio food manufacturing companies can purchase beer, wine and spirits at wholesale prices and in larger quantities.
The move was celebrated at the groundbreaking which drew Manning, Smith, Taylor as well as Custom Culinary President TC Chatterjee, CEO of Custom Culinary’s parent company, Griffith Labs, Herve de la Vauvre and Ohio Department of Commerce Director David Goodman.