Ridgeville Elevator Inc
When the Beck family came together to create a grain elevator, no one imagined it would be the first step toward the eventual creation of Ridgeville Elevator Inc. (Ridgeville). Nonetheless, the Ohio-based grain handler and drier is now well known in its region.
Some years before the company’s official incorporation in 1965, Darwin Beck and his three brothers grew tired of transporting grain from the family’s field to a grain terminal some 60 miles away. “They decided it was taking too long to haul their grain down there,” says Mike Beck, son of Darwin and treasurer of Ridgeville. “So they put up a couple silos and a drier, and they started drying their own corn. They never intended it to become a public business.”
The local farmers in the area, however, caught wind of the Beck family’s new grain elevator and fell in line with the family’s distaste for the long hauling distance. “We had a lot of neighbors coming in and saying, ‘Hey, can you dry my corn?’ Since Darwin was the youngest of the four brothers he was left to run the elevator and dry corn all night. And so it began; officially opened for business in 1965.”
Overtime, the local demand shifted from hauling grain all those 60 miles to the grain terminals far, far away, to bringing the grain right to the doorstep of the Beck family.
In the ‘70s, though, the company’s infrastructure went through a drastic change.
“We kind of separated, so there was the farming company and then the elevator,” Mike explains. “My dad bought out his brothers in 1979 and that’s what he focused on: the elevator. I was a senior in high school at the time and was just getting started farming on my own, with the help of my dad.”
From Grain to Grand
Today, at the age of 82, Darwin still remains president of Ridgeville. “He still comes into work all day,” says Mike. “He’s still the boss and runs the show, and he’s at the age where he’s not doing it because he has to, but because he loves what he does.”
All these years, Darwin strove to grow Ridgeville from the company’s familial beginnings.
“He bought the Fayette elevator in 2002 and Elery elevator in 1999,” Mike explains. “Then he bought Ridge Fertilizer Plant in 1983. In addition, in 1986, the company acquired Gerald Ag Center, a fertilizer and chemical plant specializing in wholesaling to farmers.”
Darwin also owns one-third of Grelton elevator, bought in 1971, and Napoleon branch in 1988.
In 1998 construction was completed on a new Sonoco fuel station and convenient store, dubbed Beck’s Petro Country Store.
According to Mike, such extensive growth was only made possible by his father’s dedication to the company. “He’s a workaholic, just keeps working,” jokes Mike. Additionally, the company’s solid customer base created over the years has ensured sustained success. Many of the company’s customers have been with Ridgeville for 20 years or more, and even though Ridgeville primarily services only a 15-mile radius around the company’s headquarters, Mike says the company serves some 900 customers throughout the numerous facilities and elevators.
“Most of our customers are farmers and we started as farmers, and still farm today,” he says. “They know that we come from the same stock. They know us and know we’re here. But Darwin is the reason that place is going strong. He has a natural knack for being in business. He’s very modest, and it’s a family-run company, but he runs it like a business.”
Next Big Harvest
The company has sustained success, and many attribute that to Darwin’s work ethic and passion. Notably, Darwin has been married to Rita for 60 years. Their four children, Patricia, Theresa, Christine and Mike, all work for the company in one way or another. It truly is a family business.
Of course, the company’s loyal employees also enhance Ridgeville’s success. “If it wasn’t for our wonderful employees who work so hard for our business we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” Mike says proudly. With a strong leader and a dedicated team, Ridgeville is well-prepared for the future.
The drive that Darwin instilled into Ridgeville all these years continues into the future as the company looks to expand into new markets, new regions and new areas of acquisition. “We’re looking at expansion, but when we look at it, it takes three things,” says Mike. “No. 1, you have to have the capital. No. 2, you have to have the business - in other words, there has to be a calling or need for that expansion. No. 3, it takes personnel, which comes back to capital.”
Along with those criteria comes the looming realization that Darwin will soon turn over the company to a successor, and Mike says that once this happens, the company’s biggest concern will be to just maintain what he has been able to build up all of these years. “He put together a great, viable company, and hopefully we’ll be able to do some type of expanding with it,” Mike notes.
In the meantime, Ridgeville Elevator Inc. will continue to provide customers with affordable prices and a reliable service, so as to follow in the footsteps of Darwin Beck and what he created many years ago.