(Submitted by Kimberly Roush, Program Assistant, Ohio Cooperative Development Center and Business Development Network, OSU South Centers)
Generations of visionaries at Oak Chips Inc.
Oak Chips Inc. (OCI) originated in 1975 as Clarksville Stave & Veneer Co., Inc. Ben Nathan, Owner of OCI, developed a “slow-roasting” process of high quality toasted oak chips for the wine industry, which has continuously improved upon through the years.
The Nathan’s come from a long line of successful entrepreneurs, many were blacksmiths. Ben’s father invented a plow for John Deere. Ben and his sons, Todd and Jason, designed and hand built the machinery for the oak chips process. Today, OCI is a three-generation, family-owned business.
“My father is the man behind all of what you see today. He is the one who had the vision and we have capitalized on his energy and success. My father is 74 years old and is still in here every day,” states Todd Nathan.
In 2006, Jason Nathan took the initiative of finding a new place to expand OCI. He discovered a 65,000 square foot building on 45 acres in Waverly, Ohio. After two years of tedious dedication, Jason was able to relocate the old saw mill equipment to the new location. During this time, he obtained permits for setup and finished remodeling the building in 2008.
With a new vision in mind for expanding the family business at Oak Chips, Inc. and for the hometown community, Todd Nathan returned to Ohio from Tennessee. Initially, the infrastructure for the business needed some improvement. According to Todd, “It took about a year and a half to get settled. We had the facility, knew what to do, and, most importantly, had the right people here to do it. Two and a half years ago when I returned from Tennessee to help lead the restructure of OCI with my brother, we started out with 12 people, now we have over 50 people and are continuing to expand.”
Todd continues, “Today’s whisky business is increasing world-wide. With the Chinese market expanding, it opened up a new opportunity for our business to grow. OCI is exporting nearly half of their material overseas. The future holds a lot of opportunity for us to grow. We are currently in the process of adding another warehouse facility and considering two more mills.”
“Kelly O’Bryant and another industry partner, Chris Ervin, assisted in the funding process that helped to provide a $25,000 grant for a dust collection system. It was an expensive project and the money was helpful. Kelly and Chris got the grant application going and put the paperwork together. They knew exactly what I needed. I’ve done this a few times myself, and these guys are pros,” states Todd.
For more information about Oak Chips Inc., go to Oak Chips Inc.