Grimaldi Candies Lures Couple from Retirement

After 24 years of growing a successful printing company from scratch, Phil and Jamie Holtje decided to move from Wisconsin to Florida and retire.

Retire … yeah, that’s a good one!

Eight months later, the couple was back in business. On June 1, 2009, they became the owners of Grimaldi Candies, with locations in Rockledge, at 3006 U.S. Highway 1, and Melbourne, at 1916 Waverly Place.

Talk about a change of scenery and business makeup. Instead of dealing with industrial clients, they’re now serving the everyday consumer. Not only is the product different, it smells a lot better, too!

What Could Be More Fun?

“One of the biggest differences I see is that this business is a lot more fun than printing,” Phil Holtje said. “This is about interaction with people; it’s a fun product and people come in the store liking what they’re going to buy. Therefore this is a happier business. Printing is extremely competitive, extremely tough.”

The Holtjes started Burlington Graphics Systems, Inc. in the workshop behind their house in Racine, Wis. in 1984 and turned it into a multi-million dollar enterprise. In 2004, they began the process of selling the company to the employees, but stayed on until the transition was completed four years later. Phil remains the Chairman of the Board.

Through so many years of working together, Jamie said she and Phil “kind of have it figured out” when it comes to sharing duties in running a business. However, since moving to Florida, there has been a slight tweak.

The Next Generation

In Wisconsin, Phil was in charge of manufacturing, sales and marketing while Jamie handled the books. In Florida, the two share marketing strategy and Jamie deals with customers more on a daily basis. But that’s not all.

Phil and Jamie have also taken on the role of mentors to their daughter Celeste, and their son-in-law Will Ralston, who serves as the general manager and has a background in food services. Instead of Phil making the final decision as he did in Wisconsin, it’s now more of a four-person discussion.

“For example, I wouldn’t go out and buy a piece of equipment unless the four of us discussed whether it was the right purchase,” Phil said. “That’s a difference, but it’s a good difference. It’s because Jamie’s more involved here, and because we’re trying to mentor Celeste and Will on what it means to run a business and how you look at all the dynamics.”

Another daughter, Melissa, also works part-time with the company. Her husband, Daniel Richeson, is in charge of the Viera Water Network, a charity started by the Holtjes to drill and repair fresh water wells in under-developed countries. Because they have other income, the Holtjes donate their profits from Grimaldi Candies to charity.

An Irresistible Opportunity

Though one business mantra is to stick with what you know, the Holtjes have enjoyed learning something new. The switch to candy wasn’t planned, but ultimately, something they couldn’t resist. “There were a lot of factors that went into it,” Jamie explained. “A family business is always kind of fun. The candy business sounded fun. And of course, the economy was doing absolutely nothing at that time. We felt like if we invested … if you work a little harder, at least you have a chance.”

The ink that used to run through the Holtje’s veins has turned to chocolate. Now that is one sweet tradeoff. “Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur,” Jamie said. “When it’s in your blood, it’s in your blood. … I told somebody, ‘Well, we’re buying another company.’ She said, ‘Of course you are, because that’s what you do. You’re too young to retire anyway!’”