For Lee Schwebel, vice president of marketing for Schwebel Baking Co., the visit by Ohio State University students and the college’s president was a mixed blessing.
The company hosted a tour of its facilities Wednesday.
The company has a history of supporting OSU, including athletics and academic scholarships, he said. But the visit came just a few weeks after the death of his father, Joseph M. Schwebel, former company president.
“This a bit bittersweet for us. My father was a big Buckeye fan and a big Buckeye supporter,” Lee Schwebel said. “We have heavy hearts.”
Students were shown the baking process and provided a history of the company, its products and methods. At the end, each student left with a bag containing information about the company, a coupon and a loaf of bread.
The stop at Schwebel was one of several for the group Wednesday, said Gordon Gee, university president.
He said the tours are a chance to show students jobs and companies throughout the state. The university’s goal is to keep students in the state after they finish their degrees.
“The ideas for where to go come from the students,” Gee said. “They submit hundreds of ideas about companies to visit.”
Before the stop in Youngstown, the group toured American Mug and Stein Co. in East Liverpool and watched how the business produced mugs for Starbucks.
The student tour has not visited the Mahoning Valley for several years, Gee said.
“Ohio State University is for everyone in the state,” he said. “We love this part of the state, and we have partnerships with great universities like Youngstown State.”
Most of the students who attended are from central Ohio.
“This was a chance to educate them about a product they have been familiar with and seen at the grocery store but might not have known much about its history or where it was made,” Schwebel said. “This was a fun way to tell students about the company.”
Speaking to the women within the group, he told them his company’s story was not just of a small family bakery that has grown to serve several states, but also was one of strong women. Dora Schwebel kept the company going after the death of her husband, Joseph, in 1928.
“That was a time when it wasn’t real well thought of for a woman to be running a business,” Schwebel said.
He said despite the ideas of others, she kept the company, and it remained a family business.