Do you ever wonder how companies begin by selling one thing and over time transform into something completely different? How does someone start out as a farmer, selling door to door, and end up being a wholesale manufacturer? This is exactly what happened for C.J. Dannemiller Co.
Clarence James, or C.J., as everyone referred to him, was a farmer. He sold ginseng, that he grew, until the Great Depression came along and wiped out the demand. As a result, C.J. decided to grow popcorn in his garden and sell it door to door. Before too long he had more demand for his popcorn than he could grow, so he had other local farmers grow it for him. In addition to selling popcorn door to door, he also began to sell it to pushcart vendors who set up in Akron near the rubber factories. Soon these vendors were requesting related products like salt, oil and bags. He began to source and sell these as well.
Over the years more related products were added. Much of the customer base included county fair vendors and theater concession stands. In addition to the popcorn line, we sold:
- Cotton candy equipment and supplies – making our own cotton candy sugar
- Snow cone equipment and supplies – mixing our own snow cone syrup
- Caramel and candy apple equipment and supplies – making our own candy apple mix
- Peanuts in the shell – roasting our own product
In the 1970’s we had a devastating fire that resulted in relocating to our current location in Norton, OH. The new location allowed for continued growth to manufacture and sell more products. We added a popped, ready to eat, line of popcorn and oil roasted nutmeats. Our current Vice President, Dave Troup, was the first to do the oil roasting. He recalls that we oil roasted 2 types of peanuts and 3 types of cashews in 100-pound batches to start. Each batch took about 20 minutes. These offerings continued to grow and develop.
Today, we offer numerous types of peanuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, filberts, pistachios, walnuts, etc. We offer many nut and snack mixes, along with honey roasted products. We roast on 4 different lines and are in the process of installing a 5th line, with plans for a 6th production line. Currently, our largest roaster can cook over 1,200 lbs. per hour.
What is the point to all of this?
It is important to continue listening to your customers as they will tell you their needs and then in turn respond to those needs. The result is a wild business ride! You never know where it will take you. We were a company that sold 90% concession supplies and 10% equipment. Now we sell 80% nuts and 20% concession supplies and equipment.
Keep showing up, keep listening to your customers, and keep responding to the market; then hold on for the ride of a lifetime!
John Dannemiller, President