On the north side of Orrville, Ohio, (pop. 8,551)—across the railroad tracks on Strawberry Lane—the sweet smell of blackberries, raspberries, grapes, elderberries, apples, and, yes, strawberries permanently perfumes the air. It’s a pleasant reminder that The J.M. Smucker Co., also known as Smucker’s, calls this town home.
The history of Orrville and Smucker’s has long been entwined. Orrville was founded in 1852, and its proximity to numerous railroad lines soon made it a bustling center of trade and industry. In 1897, Orrville resident Jerome Monroe Smucker, a descendant of Swiss immigrants, began pressing local apples—legend has it from trees planted by Johnny Appleseed—for cider and apple butter. He packed the apple butter in crocks, each of which he signed as a guarantee of quality.
The business grew, and throughout the years it has gradually become a leader in its industry. Now, in addition to apple butter, Smucker’s manufactures a variety of jams and jellies—as well as natural peanut butter, ice cream toppings, and other specialty fruit products—which are distributed around the globe. The company has more than 2,000 employees worldwide (including 450 in Orrville) at four fruit-processing facilities and 12 manufacturing plants—the largest and oldest of which is in Orrville.
Tim and Richard Smucker—fourth-generation Smuckers—are co-CEOs of the company, and the sense of family extends to all employees—even those who make the jam and jelly in the manufacturing plant.
“The way the company treats its employees is very nice, very considerate,” says Bob Jones, a line operator who has worked at Smucker’s for 44 years, for three different generations of Smuckers. “They’re always willing to sit down and listen to you.”
The sense of teamwork that pervades the culture within Smucker’s has shaped the relationship the company has with Orrville and the town’s working-class residents.
“We know it’s important to be a good citizen, whether you’re an individual or a corporation,” Tim Smucker says. “We like to think we’re a good member of the community.”
Smucker’s and the people of Orrville have a history of working together to make the town a better place. In 1991, for example, the company started Heartland Education Community Inc., whose programs include promoting character education in the schools, helping provide students and community members with access to new technologies, and allowing students to explore career opportunities through mentoring and work-site visits.
The organization involves the Orrville City Schools, Orrville Public Library, the city of Orrville, and Wayne College, a branch campus of the University of Akron based in Orrville, as well as local businesses.
“What makes this community so different is that when there’s a problem, people come together and say, ‘Here’s a problem, let’s fix it,’” says Cindy Lombardo, director of the Orrville Public Library. “Even though this is a small town, its ideas are very progressive.”
Tom Hiller, marketing manager for Contours Ltd., an Orrville-based metal products manufacturer, agrees. Hiller grew up in the Cleveland suburbs, but he’s happy to be living in Orrville.
“This is the best place I’ve ever lived,” Hiller says. “It’s a wonderful place to raise a family.”
The qualities of partnership and leadership so prevalent in the town can be traced directly to the influence of Smucker’s and the company’s history of giving back to the community.
“I really think that if Jerome Smucker could see what Orrville has become, he would be pleased,” says Jenni Reusser, president of the Orrville Area Chamber of Commerce.