Archives for March 2014

Part 3: Made in Urbana, Sold in Urbana

Welcome to the third in a three-part series of posts about products manufactured and available for purchase in Champaign County, Ohio.

Robert Rothschild Farm products at Kroger

Part of the Robert Rothschild Farm display at Kroger in Urbana, Ohio.

About a mile and a half from where they’re made, you’ll find Robert Rothschild Farm gourmet food products at the Urbana Kroger store. Rothschild products also are sold at Mad River Farm Market, just north of Urbana.

Robert Rothschild Farm got its start back in 1976 as a pick-your-own berry farm established by entrepreneurs Bob and Sara Rothschild, who moved from the San Francisco Bay area. In 1984, they began using part of their 170-acre farm’s red raspberry harvest  to make preserves. From there, the product line of Robert Rothschild Farm has grown dramatically to more than 200 specialty food products, including dips, sauces, condiments, preserves, spreads, mustards, pasta sauces and dessert toppings. Many have won gourmet food awards.

The products, manufactured in small batches in Robert Rothschild Farm’s 51,000-square-foot production facility, are sold throughout the continental U.S., at grocery and specialty stores, as well as on the Robert Rothschild Farm website. More recently Rothschild products became available in 37-ounce jars at Sam’s Club and Costco.

In addition, you’ll find Robert Rothschild Farm gift sets during the holiday shopping season at Kohl’s, Macy’s and Barnes & Noble.

The company, which plans for continued growth, has recently partnered with Champaign County and the City of Urbana to extend a sewer line to facilitate expanded production and job growth.

 

This is the final post of this series about locally manufactured products that are sold locally. However, Champaign Uncorked! will periodically focus on other Champaign County manufacturers. They may not make products you can buy at a store. But local companies manufacture a wide array of  products that make our lives better — from sensors that prevent medical imaging equipment from colliding with us during exams, to automobile frames, to lighting for towers and aircraft.

 

 

Your St. Patrick’s Day Guide to Reuben Sandwiches in Urbana, Ohio

How will you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

I recommend a good Reuben sandwich – the handheld alternative to traditional Irish corned beef and cabbage.

The Reuben’s heritage, however, may not be Irish. As with many foods, stories conflict as to its origin. The two more popular legends – from the early 20th century – trace the sandwich to the New York deli of German immigrant Arnold Reuben or the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska, where grocer Reuben Kulakofsky, a native of Lithuania,  concocted the sandwich for his poker buddies.

Whatever the story, the Reuben is right at home at several local Urbana, Ohio, restaurants. My wife, Kay, our sons, Andy and Alex, and I recently checked them out – and found a few variations to the classic grilled Reuben with corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing on rye.

Here’s our pictorial review:

The Farmer’s Daughter (904 Miami St., Urbana; 937-653-3276) offers two varieties:

Reuben sandwich, Farmer's Daughter, Urbana, Ohio

A classic Reuben, which to my German taste, offered a pleasing, full-bodied sauerkraut flavor. Alex didn’t share my appreciation (“the sauerkraut almost overpowered the rest of the flavors”).

 

California Reuben at the Farmer's Daughter, Urbana, Ohio

The California Reuben, which substitutes turkey for corned beef and coleslaw for sauerkraut. The sweetness of the coleslaw was a nice counterpoint to the traditional Reuben. Alex thought the sweetness brought out the taste of the rye.

 

Mumford’s Potato Chips & Deli (325 N. Main St., Urbana; 937-653-3491):

Reuben sandwich at Mumford's Potato Chips and Deli, Urbana, Ohio

Accompanied by a serving of Mumford’s famed potato chips, and a pickle, this Reuben also stands out from the others in its packaging — wrapped up in a rye roll, rather than slices of rye bread. Andy thought the roll lacked the rye taste he savored in the other sandwiches, while Alex reported, “just enough Thousand Island dressing so it doesn’t overpower the other flavors.” Alex is all about balance.

 

Rock’n Robin Diner (1010 Scioto St., Urbana; 937-484-7625):

Reuben sandwich at Rockin' Robin Diner, Urbana, Ohio

This Reuben is an American classic, right down to the ’50s-style diner where it’s served, on Texas rye, with a pickle. The robust flavor of the corned beef comes to the forefront.

 

TeaBaggers (127 N. Main St., Urbana; 937-653-7817):

Reuben sandwich at TeaBaggers, Urbana, Ohio

Made in a panini press, rather than grilled, the TeaBaggers Reuben offers another distinction: It’s served with banana peppers — your choice of mild or hot. And it comes with your choice of chips. I agree with Alex that the banana peppers make a good addition and contribute to an overall pleasing taste. To Andy’s taste, though, the peppers distract from “the real Reuben flavor.”

 

Vintage Roadside Café (1549 S. U.S. 68, Urbana; 937-484-6900):

Reuben sandwich at Vintage Roadside Cafe, Urbana, Ohio

Here’s another classic Reuben, except that the Vintage gives you the choice of sauerkraut or coleslaw. We went with tradition — and it was good, though Kay would have liked a dab more Thousand Island dressing.

 

Who makes the best Reuben you’ve ever eaten? Please share in the comments below.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

Thanks to Alex and Andy for the photography.

Part 2: Made in Urbana, Sold in Urbana

Welcome to the second in a three-part series of posts about products manufactured and available for purchase in Champaign County, Ohio.

For this post, I take you to Williams Hardware in Urbana, a locally-owned store that’s part of the Do It Best cooperative of independent hardware and home improvement stores.

This post features products made by two long-time Urbana manufacturers. The first product (I hope) will soon be back in season, replacing snow shovels and deicer.

Adjustable window screen made by W.B. Marvin Manufacturing Co. of Urbana, Ohio

A W.B. Marvin adjustable window screen

Until then, adjustable window screens made by W.B. Marvin Manufacturing Co. of Urbana sit back in the stockroom.

Pete White, W.B. Marvin’s general manager, said that in the past year the Urbana plant has produced more than a million of the screens in various sizes for national and international markets and retailers that include Home Depot, Lowe’s, True Value, Kmart, Ace and Big Lots. They’re also available at the Urbana Walmart store.

“We sell more than we ever have,” White said.

And just seven years ago, W.B. Marvin, founded in 1915 by William Marvin Johnson, closed its doors. The company started out making lightweight window fans before introducing metal rail adjustable screens in 1936, screen window fans in 1945 and later space heaters. Due to supply problems for the heaters, the facility shut down.

Then along came Thermwell Products Co., Inc. of New Jersey, maker of Frost King weatherstripping and insulation products. Thermwell acquired W.B. Marvin in January 2008, reopened the Urbana facility and put the plant’s laid off employees back to work. And Thermwell has since purchased additional property for future expansion.

Desmond Stephan Manufacturing Co. grinding wheel dresser at Williams Hardware, Urbana, Ohio

Richard Van Buskirk of Williams Hardware with a Desmond Stephan grinding wheel dresser.

W.B. Marvin’s summer line of window screens formed the perfect complement to Frost King’s winterizing products, Mel Gerstein, Thermwell president, said. “It would be a tragedy to allow the Marvin name and quality reputation to disappear.”

You’ll find the other locally made product in Williams’ tool section – a grinding wheel dresser made by the Desmond Stephan Manufacturing Company, which has been in continuous operation in Urbana since 1898.

Desmond Stephan, touting the only complete line of wheel dressers, markets across the U.S. and in 17 other countries, mostly through industrial distributors that sell to foundries and small machine shops.

Three Cheers for Local Hardware Stores

Besides Williams Hardware, Champaign County has two other Do It Best stores – Downing’s Hardware in Mechanicsburg and Skelley Lumber Co. in Urbana.

I’m a fan of local hardware stores. Home repair-impaired and the owner of an old house, I value the personal attention I get when I cross the threshold of Williams or Skelley’s. (I’m sure the same could be said of Downing’s, though living in Urbana, I haven’t shopped there yet.)

They save me time and sanity. I carry in odd, antiquated, worn out pieces of plumbing, or what not, and I soon leave with advice and replacement parts. I’ve found that at big box stores, I wander in search of a sales associate and a solution to my home repair dilemma.

What local stores do you depend on?

I’ll be back with one more post for this series — and then a post about the changing of the guard and continuing of tradition in a Champaign County business that’s been a landmark since 1893.

Buy Local at Walmart?

Walmart draws a fair share of accusations across small-town America. Among them: Walmart sells low-priced merchandise from China and forces local retailers out of business.

As a well-known spokesperson for thankless, dirty jobs, Mike Rowe recently took some of the flak for Walmart when he voiced a commercial announcing the mega-retailer’s pledge to buy $250 billion of U.S.-made products over the next 10 years.

Bundy Baking Solutions, Urbana, Ohio

Sonja Ropp of the Urbana Walmart store holds two of the American Baking Classics products made by Bundy Baking Solutions.

Responding to the negative comments left on his Facebook page and explaining why he did the spot, Rowe wrote:

“Dozens of American factories are going to reopen all over the country. Millions of dollars will pour straight into local economies, and hundreds of thousands of new manufacturing positions will need to be filled.

“There’s a lot of merchandise currently in Walmart that’s manufactured right here in the USA.”

Made in USA in Urbana

Did you know that the Urbana Walmart store sells products that are manufactured right here – in Urbana, Ohio?

If not, don’t feel bad.

When I asked Sonja Ropp, Urbana Walmart zone merchandising supervisor, if I could snap a photo of her holding an American Bakeware Classics brand 12-cup muffin pan and half sheet pan, she was surprised. And not just by my request.

Until I told her, she had no idea that the products, and others on the shelves behind her, were made by Urbana’s own Bundy Baking Solutions.

The world’s leading baking corporations have long recognized Bundy for the quality and durability of its commercial baking pans and associated products. Now home bakers are discovering Bundy’s quality through the American Bakeware Classics consumer line, made since 2013 for Walmart.

Wendi Ebbing, marketing manager for Bundy, says that the company makes other consumer brands, such as USA Pan, for retailers that include Williams-Sonoma, Target and Bed Bath & Beyond.

“We are known as experts in manufacturing baking pans and we’re thrilled to bring the same quality that commercial bakers have come to appreciate into the home,” Ebbing said.

What other Champaign County-manufactured products are available at local retail stores?

Share your answers in the comments section below.

And stay tuned for upcoming posts.

 

Today’s bonus: A downtown Urbana retailer shares her view of  Walmart at the end of a previous Champaign Uncorked! post. It may not be what you’d expect.