Image from Marsha's Buckeyes

Brad Smith didn’t bat an eye at the order he and his company was asked to fill — 4,500 peanut butter and chocolate buckeyes. What caught Smith (BA ’04) a little off-guard was who they were for. 

Smith, owner and president of Marsha’s Homemade Buckeyes, was being asked to provide Fisher’s Class of 2020 spring graduates — all 1,500 of them — with buckeyes. The candies were part of care packages sent by the college to acknowledge the graduates’ accomplishment following the postponement of their commencement ceremony. 

“I felt for those graduates,” Smith said. “With everything that was going on with COVID-19, it was such an unfortunate thing that everything these students worked toward, they wouldn’t get the graduation moment they deserved. It was a great idea and any little thing we could do to help, we were willing to do.” 

“When I can do something to give back, especially to Ohio State, I say yes anytime I can.” 

Marsha, of Marsha's Famous Buckeyes
Marsha Smith, the company's
namesake, poses with boxes of
buckeyes during the early days
of the family business.

Smith’s mother, Marsha, created the family business in 1984 in Perrysburg, Ohio, making buckeyes in her basement and selling them at garage sales, festivals and then at a local grocery store. The company eventually grew, as Kroger and Cracker Barrel began stocking and selling the packaged candies. In 1998, production moved out of the family’s basement and into dedicated facility in Perrysburg.  

In 2017 Smith, along with his brother Matthew, purchased the business from their parents and operate it together. The company now employs more than 30, including Brad’s wife, Shannon, who earned a Master of Accounting degree from Fisher in 2004 and serves as Marsha’s chief financial officer. 

Brad originally joined the family company 11 years ago after working in sales in Columbus. He credits the experiences and the network he built during that time as being instrumental to his leadership of Marsha’s. 

“Networks are everything. As a history major, I had no training or experience to lead me in what we’ve been doing past 11 years at Marsha’s,” said Smith, who said his time as a student manager on Jim O’Brien’s Ohio State men’s basketball team was influential. “Everything’s built on relationships. I encourage students to get involved while at Ohio State. Make your experience to be what you want.” 

Smith family
Brad Smith (BA '04), his wife, Shannon (MAcc '04), and their
three daughters.

As Marsha’s helped Fisher acknowledge the Class of 2020, the company was taking a hard look at the impact that COVID-19 was having on its own business. The temporary closure of Cracker Barrel restaurants, along with most others, sapped demand for Marsha’s buckeyes. Direct online orders to the company decreased, and the emergence of online grocery shopping at Kroger led to less shoppers walking the aisles and making impulse buys for candy. 

“We've been fortunate in that we’ve been able to work when we need to,” Smith said. “Many of our customers had to shut their doors or limit their business. We’re keeping an eye on the fall and winter; those are our busiest times of the year.” 

In the meantime, Smith said he continues to receive notes, photos and messages from Fisher graduates and their families thanking Marsha’s for helping turn a difficult situation into something of a positive. 

“It's been great to get those responses,” he said. “Nobody at Fisher had to do this. It really does show the appreciation and loyalty that Ohio State has for its alumni, as well as the unity of the Buckeye network.” 

Photos courtesy of Marsha's Homemade Buckeyes