Ed Nofziger’s father instilled in him business acumen and a responsibility to help others, while his mother lectured, “Remember who you are.”
Those lessons followed Nofziger as he built up a thriving Wauseon business and immersed himself in projects to benefit the community.
“We need to build families and build community, and the only way you can do that is to get involved, be part of it,” he said.
Last Thursday, the Wauseon Chamber of Commerce recognized Nofziger for his part in enriching the city by naming him “2015 Citizen of the Year” during a dinner and ceremony at VFW Post #7424. Chamber Executive Director Neil Toeppe said Nofziger was chosen for both his overall contributions to the community and his quiet philanthropy.
The chamber also recognized Vern and Mary Oyer with its Extra Mile Award, and Wauseon Elementary School Principal Theresa Vietmeier and fifth grade teacher April Beck as Distinguished Educators of the Year.
Toeppe said Nofziger, the owner with his wife Carol of Haas Door on Sycamore Street, was “surprised and amazed and humbled by the selection.” During a conversation in his spacious office, Nofziger attempted to steer the topic away from himself, extolling the virtues of the city’s denizens as a whole.
“I’m doing my part. I want to be a good citizen and a good community participant,” he said modestly of his role.
He became a member of the Wauseon Rotary Club “so I can know the pulse of the community. We take our responsibility seriously. We want to be a good partner.”
To that end, the Rotary Club will complete a project within a year or two that extends the walking trails in Homecoming Park through two wooded areas east of the park’s hill.
“If we’re going to make paths, I’m going to be out there with my chain saw and my tractor, and I’m going to help. I’m happy to be supporting that kind of a thing for the community,” Nofziger said.
Doing his part is important to the businessman. He turned the reins of Haas Door over to his son Jeff in 2014, but keeps busy in all aspects of the operation. That includes making deliveries to customers across the region, as his tongue-in-cheek business card attests: “Edward Nofziger, Part Time Truck Driver.”
“It is fun. I’m out there in my grubbies, and I’m unloading this stuff, and (company owners) come out in their suits. They get embarrassed, and they want to help,” he said, smiling.
“It’s my way of managing – understanding the employees and walking in their shoes. I want to be a good team player. I never was the first one to be picked on the ball team, either. I’d rather be an undercover boss.”
And he has no plans to retire, saying, “As long as I can have value I want to participate behind the scenes.”
Nofziger began from scratch over 40 years ago, co-owning Nofziger Door Sales on County Road D in Archbold with his father. He eventually bought his father’s share and relocated the growing business from the family farm to a commercial building just north of the village. A second location opened in Plain City, Ohio, in 1985.
He sold the company, now in Archbold Industrial Park, to his son, Jon, and Tom Rufenacht in 2010. He had purchased Haas Door in 1995, and moved the business from Perrysburg to Wauseon. The company’s 225 employees celebrated its 20th anniversary in October.
“I had some people who believed in me to make it happen. And the community has supported it,” he said. “Wauseon has been very, very friendly, and good to work with.”
His efforts have been recognized with the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2000 and the International Door Association Member Service Award in 2009.
Over the past two decades, Nofziger also “just happened to become involved in community.” He was instrumental in the creation of a 10-acre city detention pond located behind his business that offers relief to the area from potential flooding.
“I think that’s one of the big things that we’ve accomplished here together as the Wauseon community,” he said. “I feel good about helping the community, making it safe.”
He eschews the idea that his contributions are more important than those of others. “I want to be a part of a bigger group than just me. The more ownership you can get involved, the better the project. It’s how we work together as a community to get it accomplished.”
Nofziger has also made his mark in his native Archbold, where he sits on the boards of Fairlawn Haven Nursing Home and Sauder Village, and was a former member of Adriel, a foster care and adoption organization. He was honored as Archbold Citizen of the Year in 2011.
“If we’re blessed with responsibility, we need to be good stewards of that,” he said. “I want to be a good citizen of Fulton County. I just happen to live in Archbold. I just happen to be working in Wauseon.”
Nofziger said being named Citizen of the Year is very humbling.
“I am amazed at the friendly working relationship this town has given and extended to me as a business person. It’s been a very wonderful relationship. Just everybody in town has been very gracious and fun to work with, and we’ve accomplished more than I can ever dream. The city is just phenomenal.”
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.