Ralph’s celebrates 10th year

Ralph’s Joy of Living hosted wine tastings and a Made in America event Saturday, in celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Tiffin store’s Joy of Living department.

In 1950, Ralph’s Joy of Living opened in Tiffin as Ralph’s Appliances, and the store diversified over the years to become the destination it is today, said Ralph Smothers II, son of the founder of Ralph’s Appliances and the owner of the Ralph’s Joy of Living.

The Joy of Living expansion opened in 2003, and Smothers said his wife Julie’s extensive knowledge about wine and her passion for cooking really helped it “take off.”

Bringing new customers in with fresh products and events at Joy of Living, he said, would “pack the store,” and helped increase sales in other departments of Ralph’s, leading to additional growth and diversification at the store.

Today, Ralph’s stocks items ranging from traditional appliances and electronics to beer, wine and kitchen items, including cookware, cutlery and specialty gadgets. Culinary classes and special events, as well as kitchen design and gift registry, also are offered at Ralph’s Joy of Living.

“We’re a feel-good store,” Smothers said.

Smothers said Ralph’s Joy of Living is the only store nationally to simultaneously feature home and kitchen appliances and have a beer and wine license.

Such a distinction makes Ralph’s a “one-of-a-kind” destination for shoppers and people who love to cook. People travel from big cities to experience the store, he said, and get a taste of the eclectic atmosphere.

Smothers said Ralph’s Joy of Living is part of the nationwide network of BrandSource stores, and recently was named 2013 Dealer of the Year.

“We’re very proud of that,” Smothers said.

Smothers said Ralph’s Joy of Living uses wine tastings, cooking shows and other events to bring in customers and “create footprints in the store.”

In addition to celebrating the Joy of Living anniversary, Smothers said Ralph’s also is debuting a new web address, which he said will make finding and navigating the site easier for customers. Ralph’s Joy of Living now can be found at, Smothers said. The new web address, he said, “is a game changer.”

Smothers said he and his family are looking to the future, and are considering different plans for Ralph’s, but “nothing is set in stone.”

He said company growth may develop from e-commerce activity, and may include further diversification and fresh directions at the Tiffin store.

One potential plan, he said, is to build onto the North side of the business and open an “outdoor living” department. That department, he said, would feature grills, fire pits, bars, tools and other items for celebrating the “joy of the outdoors.”

The new destination, he said, would possibly feature a deck and tables for hosting wine tastings and an espresso machine for customers, creating another niche in Ralph’s eclectic store.

Smothers said plans also may include expansion into new markets.

“Ralph’s could be successful anywhere,” he said.

Saturday’s events included showcases of Ralph’s Made in America products and a number of product giveaways, including a Wusthof knife set, Le Creuset cookware and a flat screen TV, and other items, according to a press release from Ralph’s Joy of Living.