Nickles entering Bakers Hall of Fame

Nickles Bakery is a business baked deeply into the history of Martins Ferry, as well as several other parts of Ohio.

Nickles operates two other bakeries in the Buckeye State in addition to the one in Martins Ferry, those being located in Navarre and Lima. All told, the three sites employ 1,600. Nickles has distribution outlets in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, as well as Ohio.

Moreover, the business distributes breads, buns and pastries thanks to more than 300 route salesman.

It’s obvious that Nickles is a major player in U.S. baking circles.

With any successful venture, solid and savvy leadership is part of the equation. Nickles is no different.

Alfred Nickles, a Swiss immigrant, founded the company in 1909. He did so after working in bakeries in Uhrichsville, Cleveland and Akron. He set up shop in his hometown of Navarre.

Alfred and his wife, Emma, had a son, Ernest. He followed in his father’s footsteps, entering into the family business, totally immersing himself in all facets of the operations.

Ernest’s business savvy and vision helped take Nickles to another level. One of his most notable accomplishments was transitioning the family business from a home-route driven entity, into a much more delivered-diverse operation. The wholesale baking firm, with Ernest in the realm of sales manager, expanded to servicing more than 500 routes which included grocery stores, restaurants and institutions.

Ernest enjoyed a success-laden 70-year career with Nickles. During that time, Nickles purchased five bakeries, encompassing two states, with 42 distribution branches. The bakery distributed its products in seven Midwestern states.

Ernest died in 1995, but his business accomplishments live on.

So much so that on Monday, Ernest will be inducted into the Baking Hall of Fame by the American Society of Baking at its annual Baking Tech meeting in Chicago.

Ernest’s oldest grandchild – Mark Sponseller – will give the acceptance speech. Sponseller is the company’s president of finance as well as treasurer and secretary.

A plaque in Ernest’s memory will be displayed at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kan.

He was a Massillon High grad with legendary football coach Paul Brown as a classmate. He spent a year at Northwestern before returning to the family business.

His induction is a fitting tribute to a man who worked seven days a week.

Ernest was innovative and exhaustive in his management style.

He held four-hour production meetings every Tuesday to sample products, to improve quality and create new products. Ernest also conducted three-hour sales meetings every workday afternoon and a three-hour production-planning meeting every Friday.

Ernest died from the effects of a major stroke. He left a legacy of an outstanding bakery.