In the spring, Ryan Reigle took the reins of Kewaskum-based cookware maker Regal Ware Inc. as its president and chief executive officer. A fourth-generation descendent of founder J.O. Reigle, Ryan succeeds his father, Jeffrey Reigle, at the company’s helm. Regal Ware has grown from solely being a manufacturer to now marketing a variety of food and beverage products with a portfolio including Saladmaster, Lifetime, American Kitchen and ESPRO. BizTimes associate editor Lauren Anderson recently caught up with Reigle to discuss taking over the family business and its growth strategy.
How’s the transition going?
“We’ve been in discussion about the transition for about a year and a half, so … it made it to the point where when the official day came, it was kind of a non-event for Jeff and I, as well as the organization. … The perception when a new leader comes into place is ‘what’s new, what’s going to change, what’s the new direction?’ We wanted to be cautious and avoid that because that’s not healthy for the organization. …. While there was a transition of responsibility, it’s the same team, the same strategy we’ve now been talking about for 12 to 18 months.”
Family business philosophy
“It is family in business, but you’ve got to be able to separate the two. Having healthy family relationships outside of the business is partially what has led to our success to be here for 76 years now. As a younger man, my grandfather was president and chairman and my father was after that. My uncle is still involved in the business, and my cousin is in it and my older brother as well. The one thing the family has always done so well, and I reflect back on that now, is really separating the two. Family time is family time, and the business is the business, and we don’t mix the two.”
“We are in a growth mode. We had great growth this year even throughout 2020, even through COVID. … Now we’re here sitting in a strong place with a strong balance sheet. We’re looking at product development, we’ll be stepping into (that) and how consumers are looking to interact with product. We’re looking at potential additions and acquisitions to our portfolio to support existing brands and customers. Regal Ware in 12 to 15 months is going to look different.”
Preparing for the future
“(Being a family business) allows us to make strategic or financial decisions that we know will take time to pay off but are in the best interest of customers and employees. That’s one of the greatest benefits of the organization. … The reality is we have people who are working in our West Bend facility that are fourth- and fifth-generation (employees). We’re not here to be the leader and the head honcho forever, but to hand it off to the next generation and make it better in the process.”