One of the nominees for the 76th Annual Kettle Awards, to be held May 23 at the Union League Club of Chicago, is President and CEO Douglas R. Dressman, of Esther Price Candies, in Dayton, OH.
Voting for the Kettle Award is currently ongoing, and will close at the end of February.
This is the third article in a series of articles that highlighted all three nominees.
In 1976, James (Jim) Day, Doug Dressman’s father-in-law, purchased Esther Price Candies along with four stockholders. Shortly thereafter, the ownership changed hands and was solely owned by the Day family. The passion of creating delicious candies and confections was instilled in the family to continue the Dayton legacy created by Esther Price in 1926.
In May 1978, Dressman began his 44 years of candy making service and leadership career in the confection industry. Dressman and his devoted wife of 45 years have raised three children, and also have eight grandchildren.
Along with his leadership team, they continue to produce world-class, award-winning candies and confections, following original Esther Price recipes passed down to the Day family, while continuing to develop new pieces, which sustain their industry success.
Liz Parker: How did you originally get into the candy and confectionery industry?
Douglas R. Dressman: After a four-year career in the United States Air Force, being newly married and in need of a new career path, my father-in-law offered me a position at Esther Price Candies (EPC) serving as a maintenance technician for the candy-making production facility in Dayton, Ohio. This position prompted addition training in the entire operation, processes, and servicing of all the confectionary equipment. In addition to the critical production equipment, I received training and was certified in HVAC equipment. During the maintenance tenure, I simultaneously educated myself in all facets of the candy-making processes. These learned recipes and processes eventually led to the management of production, purchasing, and resources for EPC.
LP: What was the biggest challenge of your career, and how did you overcome it?
DRD: There have been several challenges, with not one standing alone as the “biggest.”
The first was gaining respect from my “work family” since I was the son-in-law of the owner and very new at this confectionary business. Thus, having an ever-constant presence within the kitchen, production, packing, and the warehouse, the EPC team members witnessed, first-hand, my dedication to this industry and their livelihood.
The next was ensuring the original Esther Price recipes, ingredients, and processes were kept as the “standard” and guarded. We have never wavered from that promise. Maintaining the quality in all stages of the processes, ensuring no “wiggle room,” no cutting corners, or rushing to finish a job was a standard thinking in our candy-making. This led our company from producing 100,000 pounds of candy to over 1,000,000 pounds over the past decades. We are very proud of that accomplishment—it takes great teamwork.
Lastly, maintaining a strong balance between “work-family” and home life is a challenge I have overcome. It is essential having a solid spiritual life, enjoying lively family gatherings, and ensuring frequent company activities with generous business profit-sharing have kept all of us healthy and happy!
LP: What do you love most about working in this industry?
DRD: Everyone loves sweets, and I never get tired of hearing how much people love Esther Price Candies! It is very gratifying, knowing we are making wonderful hometown treats. Staying true to the original recipes, ensuring the finest chocolate profiles are met, continuously improving our processes and equipment, and actively participating in the development of new products make me very happy and encouraged that Esther Price Candies will be around another 97 years!
LP: What is the proudest moment of your career?
DRD: There have been several proud moments throughout my 45-year career at EPC. Having my family and ‘‘work-family’’ understand, recognize, and appreciate what has been accomplished over the years is most rewarding. Increasing the business through sales, private-label sales, large chain-store distribution—locally and regionally—and creating five additional retail stores, growing from two stores to seven, are most notable. In addition, Esther Price Candies has consistently won awards as the Best Chocolates in Ohio and has the distinguished honor of being the Best of Dayton.
LP: What is your favorite candy or confectionery treat?
DRD: This is a tough question to answer. There are a few: our chocolate enrobed Cashew Butter Supremes, hand-rolled Peanut Butter Creams, Caramel Pecans, and our signature Bourbon Cherries.
Why? Our candies are made with the freshest and finest ingredients, have premium “centers” of creams and caramel, use select-grade pecans and cashews, and utilize a premium Kentucky Bourbon during the cherry soaking process.
LP: What’s the next step in your career?
DRD: We continuously work on expanding our brand and business footprint. We will do so with expanding our current Dayton production site to include a larger and more functional loading dock, replacement of older equipment with more state-of-the art equipment to increase throughput, adding retail stores in tri-state area, and growing the private-label business.
My hope is to have additional family members join me in the candy-making business ... it won’t be long before the grandchildren will sport an EPC ball cap and apron!
Congrats to Douglas Dressman on his nomination! For more information on the Kettle Award, click here.