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.

 

Champaign County’s $60 Million Business

This summer my son Alex got to talk with people from New York to the state of Washington. Not to mention people from other parts of the world like Russia, Norway and the United Kingdom.

And he traveled a mere dozen miles from our house in Urbana, Ohio, to his summer job, guiding tours at Ohio Caverns.

I bring this up because we locals often take for granted the treasures in our own backyard.

Ohio Caverns, Champaign County, Ohio

My son Alex guiding a tour this summer at Ohio Caverns.

Plus we don’t fully grasp the economic value to our community of visitors who take an interest in what we’ve got around us, or under our feet. It’s bigger business than most of us probably imagine.

$40 billion. That’s how much money visitors leave behind in Ohio each year.

$60 million. That was Champaign County’s share in 2011, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency – $45.6 million in visitors’ purchases, $11.5 million in wages for visitor-related jobs and $5.8 million in taxes paid by visitors.

Melinda Huntley, executive director of the Ohio Travel Association, shared those figures in a recent presentation, “Tourism Is Everybody’s Business,” hosted by the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau.

Her message: All businesses – not just those commonly considered tourist-related – benefit from attracting and welcoming visitors to Champaign County.

Opportunity to Grow

And with a more concentrated, cooperative effort, Champaign County’s income from tourism could easily be greater.

Huntley offered an example: Lake Erie lighthouses once promoted their sites individually. Then they banded together to market cooperatively, and their attendance climbed.

A similar situation is already happening in Champaign County. The 20 antique and vintage shops in downtown Urbana promote one another through Antique & Vintage Shops of Urbana.

United, they provide shoppers and visitors more choices, which has ended up convincing more people from the Dayton and Columbus metro areas to make shopping excursions to Urbana.

(And here’s how we’re collaborating with neighboring counties.)

Another key to increasing tourism is developing more overnight accommodations so visitors can stay longer and experience more of what Champaign County has to offer – to name a few examples, Ohio Caverns, Cedar Bog nature preserve, the Champaign Aviation Museum, agritourism attractions like Freshwater Farms of Ohio, the Simon Kenton Trail bike path (which stretches south to Cincinnati and soon will be headed north), and a wide range of special events, restaurants and shopping.

How to Get Involved

The Champaign County Visitors Bureau is focused on growing our tourism economy. If you’d like to join the effort, contact Sandi Arnold, executive director of the Chamber and Visitors Bureau – 937-653-5764 or info@champaignohio.com. She’s looking for new members to join the Visitor Bureau’s advisory group, chaired by Pat Thackery.

How do you suggest attracting more visitors to Champaign County?

Shopping Local for the Holidays

Monument Square, Urbana, Ohio, aglow with the Christmas spirit.

The other day, as I completed a project for one of my freelance writing clients, Vince Guaraldi’s jazz instrumentals from A Charlie Brown Christmas played in the background on Spotify. Old familiar music like that takes me back – say, to the night that Charlie Brown first bemoaned the commercialization of Christmas on national TV, and I was 8 years old.

Another vision from my Christmases past is the enchanting, mechanized window displays of the Wolf & Dessauer department store, a retail institution that dated back to the 1890s in downtown Fort Wayne. Those displays ranked high among local Christmas traditions – until L.S. Ayres bought W&D’s, and Christmas shopping got carted off to the malls.

The good news is that Champaign County, Ohio, offers plenty of opportunities to shop at distinctive, locally-owned stores that offer quality merchandise, personal service and the fun of exploring.

When you shop at these stores, your money stays in Champaign County to promote the local economy.  And there’s no having to search for your car when it’s time to go home.

In the next several Champaign Uncorked! blog posts I will feature some of the many locally-owned businesses that offer pleasant shopping experiences at Christmas and throughout the year.

Check Out Chamber Checks

The Champaign County Chamber of Commerce also offers a solution for those of you who don’t like to shop or have someone who’s difficult to shop for: Chamber Checks.

Call the Chamber – 937-653-5764 – to find out more about Chamber Checks, which can be purchased any time of year in denominations of $10, $25 and $50, with no service charge or purchasing fee. They work like a gift certificate and can be used for purchases at more than 100 retail shops, restaurants, salons and other service providers throughout Champaign County (a list of participating businesses is provided with each Chamber Check).

Until next time, what are your favorite local shopping venues?

The Return of Spring … You Can Almost Taste It!

The first crocus breaking through the earth is a beautiful sight. No doubt. But what spring-time “first” truly gets me excited?

That would have to be – and I’m certain I’m not alone – the first ice cream shop to reopen for the season.

Ahhhh ... a waffle cone in full bloom!

This year, in Champaign County, Ohio, that will be Dairy Corner, at 1472 E. U.S. 36, Urbana. The doors open at 11 a.m. this Saturday, February 18! Owners Bob and Robin Turner have added specialty hot dogs to the menu … and though maybe not Saturday, but by Monday, they’ll begin serving up a new variety of ice cream. (In addition, Dairy Corner is adding catering — a make your own sundae bar.)

Next to open will be the Urbana Dairy Queen at 1047 N. Main St. on the following Saturday,  February 25, and Climber Cone, at 801 Maimi St., Urbana, will open April 1.

If you know of other openings, please leave a comment.

Next up: Champaign Uncorked! will continue its recent food fixation, but will return to the subject of foods that are  locally grown.

Your Guide to Fresh, Locally Grown, Champaign Goodness

You know those directories on supermarket shopping carts that tell you where to find the mayonnaise? Pretty handy for the shopping impaired like me.

Now the Local Food Council of the Community Improvement Corporation of Champaign County (CIC) has gone one better. It’s come up with a directory — a brochure, actually — that’ll guide you all over Champaign County, Ohio, not just down the aisles of a grocery store, showing you where to find the freshest locally grown and made food products.

This brochure includes a county map and corresponding list of growers, vendors and farmers’ markets, with address, contact information, hours of operation and products … fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish, meats (even bison), honey, dried flowers, garlic, herbs, dog treats, maple syrup, artisan breads, preserves, handmade soaps, lavender, bedding plants, vegetable plants…. And that’s not all. Click on the image at left to see for yourself  all the local food treasures that are out there to be discovered and savored.

So, from now on when it’s time to write out the shopping list, consult this brochure — not just the grocery flyers and coupons. Take full advantage of what Champaign County farmers have growing. Discover the advantages of buying and eating locally grown food that’s at the peak of freshness … better taste, improved nutrition, a stronger local economy, and more.

It’s been my pleasure to assist with this project through the CIC and Local Food Council. And many thanks to Lisa Williams of Type by Design, who designed the brochure.

Use it in good health.

Updates will be made periodically. Email corrections or additions for future editions to cic@ctcn.net.


A New Hybrid: Locally Grown Food Meets Online Shopping

Online shopping’s a breeze – like popping a prepackaged dinner in the microwave. The trouble is: Internet sales keep taking a bigger bite from local business’ plates. (Similar to how frozen dinners shortchange our health.)

However, in Champaign County, Ohio, a fresh new, locally grown approach to online shopping will soon dish out more money to our local economy.

The new virtual farmers' market will bring the convenience of online shopping to the realm of locally grown food, but there's still nothing like communing with neighbors, farmers and fresh produce at one of Champaign County's open air markets.

Offering products that may look out of place among the clothing, electronics, media and imported gewgaws typically packed into online shopping carts, the Champaign County Virtual Farmers’ Market will allow shoppers to click and pick tomatoes, other veggies, fruits, meats, and value-added food products like baked goods – all grown or made in and around Champaign County.

The virtual market is an idea germinated and cultivated by the Local Food Council of the Champaign County Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) and Activate Champaign County (ACC). And it’s being started with a Pioneering Healthy Communities grant obtained by the Champaign Family YMCA through the YMCA of the USA. (Sorry for the alphabet soup.)

Heather Tiefenthaler, a member of the CIC, Local Food Council and ACC, is preparing the virtual market for opening the first week of May (check back here for updates). She’s recruiting vendors to join the market. Vendors can register on the market’s website – www.champaignoh.locallygrown.net (click on “create an account” near the bottom of the “Our Vendors” page).

If you have questions, you may contact Heather at mctief@frontier.com. A market manager will be appointed soon.

Does this mean traditional farmers’ markets are being replaced?

Not at all!

Champaign County’s three farmers’ markets, in Urbana, Mechanicsburg and St. Paris, will reopen for the season in May.

The virtual market is simply a convenience for busy shoppers who can’t always get to the markets. It will make it possible for more people to discover and enjoy the just-picked freshness and good taste of locally grown food – food that hasn’t grown weary from hundreds of miles in a truck.

The virtual market promises great advantages, but nothing can replace the neighborly, community-building charm of a farmers’ market, where people renew acquaintances, catch up on news, meet the growers, and thump melons.

How will the virtual market work?

Beginning the week of May 6:

  • Participating vendors will post their available inventory on the market website each Sunday.
  • Customers who register on the site will be notified by email when the inventory is posted and they can begin shopping. They will have until 8 p.m. that Tuesday to place their orders at www.champaignoh.locallygrown.net.
  • The vendors will prepare the orders and bring them on Thursday to the Champaign Family YMCA, where customers will pick them up between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Payment is due at time of pickup.

Next up at Champaign Uncorked!: I’ll offer you a look at a new brochure published by the CIC, Local Food Council and their partners – a guide to where you can find locally grown and made food products throughout the county. And as we lead up to the new farm market season, I’ll whet your appetite by featuring some local growers and the fruits of their labor.

And please take a moment, if you will, to share with me what your favorite locally grown or made food product is.

Coffee That’s One Hand Shake Away from Being Local

At a roadside stand or farmers’ market, you buy direct from the farmer. Middlemen are left out of the exchange, the farmer nets more from his toil, and you benefit from eating fresher food—and knowing where it came from.

Paul Kurtz and his son-in-law Hans Hochstedler display a bag of Cafe Diego, coffee they purchased directly from a farmer in Nicaragua.

You can experience similar advantages at Hemisphere Coffee Roasters (HCR) at 22 S. Main Street (State Route 29) in Mechanicsburg, Ohio. Obviously, the coffee that owners Paul and Grace Kurtz sell isn’t locally grown. Yet, in Hemisphere’s inviting, aromatic coffee shop and roastery, you’re much less removed from the people who grow and harvest the coffee than you typically are at the supermarket.

Shake hands with Paul Kurtz and you’re in the clasp of the man who shakes hands with Latin American and African coffee growers as they agree on fair, direct purchases of the many varieties that HCR sells.

Coffee with a Mission

“Coffee with a mission,” HCR’s slogan, is much less a marketing mantra than pithy creed. In 2004, HCR blossomed from Paul’s service as director of global mission for Rosedale Mennonite Missions in Irwin, Ohio.

Hans roasts coffee at Hemisphere Coffee Roasters.

In his extensive travels through Central and South America and East Africa, Paul witnessed struggling people and communities.

The economies of many of the communities had coffee in common, so Paul recognized an opportunity to offer the people a “hand up,” instead of a “hand out.”  Since then he’s been shaking hands with coffee growers, offering them a direct, fair price—considerably higher than customary—to sustain their farms, their families, their employees and their communities.

“We’re now seeing new roofs on houses and cement floors that were once dirt—and growers who are better able to support their workers and their families,” Paul says.

The direct trade relationships that the Kurtzes cultivate with coffee growers also benefit HCR’s customers. Before making any purchase, Paul “cups,” or taste tests the coffee to assure its quality.

Last year HCR roasted and sold 57,000 pounds of coffee, retail and wholesale, and is continually expanding its market.

HCR coffee is available in Champaign County, Ohio, at Everyday Organics, Freshwater Farms of Ohio and Yutzy’s Cheese House in Urbana, Mad River Farm Market, near West Liberty, and Preston’s IGA in Mechanicsburg. For more retail locations, a list of churches that serve HCR coffee, and online sales, visit HCR’s website.

HCR coffee shop, retail store and roastery
22 S. Main St., Mechanicsburg
937-834-3230
www.hemispherecoffeeroasters.com
Facebook: Hemisphere Coffee Roasters

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Bible study: 10 a.m. to noon on Sunday. All are welcome!