By ERIC SCHAADT
McCOMB — If Fritz Meyer hadn’t built a cookie factory in McComb more than 50 years ago, it’s difficult to imagine what the village might look like today, according to McComb leaders.
Meyer, one of the founders of Consolidated Biscuit Co. on Rader Road, died Tuesday at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus. He was 91.
“I don’t think you can overstate the impact he had on that community,” longtime friend William Montgomery said Wednesday. “He improved the aesthetics and the quality of life in McComb.”
In addition to the bakery, Meyer had a hand in attracting a restaurant, a pharmacy, some housing and a VFW building to McComb, Montgomery said.
Meyer also worked to remove dilapidated structures downtown, Montgomery added.
“He was a private person,” McComb Mayor Robert Schwab said. “He gave a lot back to the community. A person like that comes to a community once in a lifetime.”
“He was a driving force in the community since he came here in 1963,” said another friend, Bob Smith. “I think he meant a lot to the village.”
Smith said if Meyer saw an opportunity to “make the town better, he’d do it.”
Friends and community leaders on Wednesday agreed Meyer was a private person who disliked the spotlight, but was willing to help the community.
Everett Latta, a Realtor and former McComb Council member, said Meyer established scholarships for McComb schools in the early 1990s that are handed out each year.
“He made so many improvements (in McComb) that people don’t give him credit for,” Latta said.
In 1992, Meyer received the village’s first lifetime achievement award, presented by McComb representatives and service organizations for his efforts in the village.
Meyer grudgingly accepted the honor, according to friends, but he enjoyed spending time with family and friends the night the award was presented.
“He was very humble,” Montgomery said.
“Fritz was a well-educated man,” Councilman Robin Rader said. “He had dreams and a goal. He did a lot to support this community.
“I am so glad he chose to come to McComb,” Rader said.
Dennis Turner, another councilman, said he was impressed by the design of the cookie factory.
“That’s an amazing feat in itself,” Turner said. “He was a very knowledgeable person.”
A mechanical engineer, Meyer had previously worked in the packaging machine industry.
Latta said, “It’s just amazing what they have done out there.”
McComb’s largest employer, Consolidated Biscuit was purchased by Hearthside Food Solutions in 2010.
The factory, which makes and packages cookies, crackers and other treats, employs 1,000 workers and is reportedly the largest private bakery in North America.
“We were saddened to hear of Fritz Meyer’s passing. He not only lived long, he accomplished much, touching many people’s lives,” according to a statement by John Aldrich, vice president of operations at McComb’s Hearthside plant.
“Those of us that now work in the ‘cookie’ plant, many of whom remember working under Fritz, owe him a great deal of respect and gratitude. If not for his wisdom, passion, and vision, all of us would not have had the opportunity that we have now. We are proud to carry on that passion today. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Born in Germany, Meyer came to the U.S. with his family in 1955. He worked in the baking business in Cincinnati and Terre Haute, Ind.
Meyer and a partner, E.H. Digman, launched a bakery in McComb in the early 1960s.
Before deciding on McComb, the group considered other locations in Leipsic, Ottawa and Bowling Green. In a 1992 interview with The Courier, Meyer said the group wanted to build a bakery next to an interstate system, as well as being near wheat flour, sugar and other raw materials available in this area.
The grand opening of Consolidated Biscuit had been slated for Oct. 25, 1962, but bad weather delayed the start of operations until July 1, 1963.
According to Montgomery, Meyer took over operations of the company from his partner by the mid-1980s, before selling his controlling interest, in phases, during the early 1990s.
Each summer, McComb community organizers sponsor the Cookie Festival, an homage to the bakery and its products.
“He will be missed,” Smith said.
Meyer’s obituary appears on Page A5.
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