Manufacturers throughout the state open their doors to the public, offering tours to demonstrate how they produce everything from modern vehicles to old-school items and providing prime examples of the Buckeye work ethic.
Plan ahead: Since production schedules can affect factory tour availability, always call to confirm dates and times.
Phoenix Bat Company
“Who wants to start the lathe?” asks sales specialist Brian Chenetski, as he leads visitors on a tour of the Phoenix Bat Company. “All you have to do is push the green button.” A youngster steps forward, presses the button, and — voila! — everyone watches wide-eyed as the lathe turns a chunky wooden billet into a sleek baseball bat in only two minutes.
“This is the most advanced bat-making machine in the world because it automatically cuts and sands wood,” Chenetski tells the group.
Located near Plain City, Phoenix Bats is a Union Rural Electric Cooperative member that annually manufactures about 17,000 baseball bats from maple, birch, and ash, sourced primarily from New York and Pennsylvania. “That’s where they grow tall and straight; we need perfect, straight-grained wood for our pro billets,” Chenetski explains.
Although it’s one of 38 companies approved to make pro bats, Phoenix Bats hits a grand slam by offering nearly 700 different models sized for everyone from T-ball players to major leaguers. It also produces customized award and trophy bats, as well as reproduction bats dating back to the 1850s. The company itself started in 1996, when a Columbus craftsman who played for the Ohio Village Muffins decided to make authentic bats for the old-time team. Today, Phoenix Bats keeps a firm grip on the vintage market with a lineup that includes Ruth, Mantle, and “Shoeless Joe” replicas.
“This company began with the Muffins,” notes Chenetski, “and it’s still the gold standard for vintage bats.”
American Whistle Corporation
Started in 1956, the only U.S. metal whistle manufacturer produces 1 million whistles every year. “We make the best whistles in the universe,” says Business Development Director Mark Waterstreet. “They’re heavy-gauge brass, don’t rust, and last a lifetime.” After watching the company’s 40-ton press and custom-made soldering machine in action, tour participants get a complimentary whistle.
KitchenAid Stand Mixer Factory
The KitchenAid stand mixer is likely America’s favorite countertop appliance, and every single one originates at the Greenville manufacturing plant. “People love that they’re made in America,” says Tour Guide Marlenea Hood. Since the mixer comes in more than 80 colors, the factory’s robotic paint department wows visitors, and so do the optional post-tour apple dumplings at downtown Greenville’s KitchenAid Experience retail center.
The Mosser family’s expertise is hand-pressed glass, and at their factory’s retail store, pieces like Mosser’s gorgeous cake stands confirm their knack for beauty and craftsmanship. Tours cover the entire manufacturing process, and says Manager Mindy Mosser Hartley, “People can see the handiwork that goes into decorating lights or crimping baskets.”
Rockwood Pottery Company
Founded by pioneering ceramist Maria Longworth in 1880, the revered art pottery company has a tradition of excellence that is evident in timeless architectural tiles, as well as decorative items such as its iconic 1920s Shirayamadani candlesticks. Tours include every phase of pottery production and emphasize the company’s artisans. “The scope of the Rookwood tour,” says guide George Hibben, “is unequaled as a living treasure of American ceramic art.”
Honda Heritage Center and Auto Plant Tour
At Honda’s visitor facilities in Marysville, you get two different tours in one trip. The self-guided, at-your-own-pace tour of the Honda Heritage Center’s museum features products from Gold Wing motorcycles to a HondaJet, while fast-paced guided assembly-plant tours showcase the Accord. Tip: Plant tours have limited availability, so reserve your spot early.
Velvet Ice Cream
An 1800s mill complete with a waterwheel provides a picturesque home for the Dager family’s century-old Velvet Ice Cream Company. After tour guides review the history of the company and Ye Olde Mill, guests get to watch ice cream being made from a viewing gallery. Tip: Try the Licking Legend, Velvet’s famous five-scoop sundae, at Ye Olde Mill’s café.