Columbus, Ohio, has a long history of doing business well. Roger Dudley, tourism sales manager at Experience Columbus, said that is illustrated by several of its fascinating factory tours.
“Many of these guys have been around for over 100 years,” Dudley said.
Several of the following factory tours are featured in Experience Columbus’ “How Did They Do That?” itinerary, formulated to give visitors unusual behind-the-scenes experiences and show them how some of their favorite products are made.
American Whistle Corporation
Policemen, sports referees, the American Red Cross and the Boy Scouts of America all rely on whistles, and even the ordinary citizen might find one handy.
“We have a very unique market,” Amber Robertson, a tour guide at the American Whistle Corporation, said. “People are used to seeing whistles from a small age, so they’re very familiar to people.”
The only metal whistle manufacturer in the United States, the American Whistle Corporation has been in business since 1956. A tour of the factory tells about the history of the company, gives an overview of the markets in which it is involved and showcases the manufacturing.
“It’s great for groups of all ages, [including] children and senior citizens,” Robertson said. “It’s really interactive; there’s a lot of time for questions.”
While on the tour, visitors see a variety of machinery, including some that’s been around from the 1950s and a new soldering system. The whistle is seen in its raw state as coils of brass, a material that gives the whistle great sound, then worked through the stages of production and finished in packaging.
“The biggest mystery,” Robertson said, “what everyone wants to know, is how that little ball gets inside the whistle, why it’s even necessary.”
Find out for yourself on this tour, and claim your own free whistle souvenir at the end.
Velvet Ice Cream
Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the Velvet Ice Cream Company makes 5 million gallons of ice cream every year, produces 60 to 70 different flavors and delivers its goods to 26 different states. The primary facility is located in Utica, about an hour outside Columbus, and is open to visitors May through October.
The tour begins at the visitors center, where guests watch a video and learn about the history of the site and the attached mill. Ye Olde Mill is an 1800s gristmill that the Dugar family restored and opened to the public in 1970. Guests then go to the viewing gallery, where the eight steps of Velvet Ice Cream production can be seen.
After the tour, many groups visit the ice cream parlor, the museum and the gift shop, where a new cookbook of family recipes can be found.
“It’s definitely a day filled with ice cream,” said Andre Dugar-Sarap, a fourth-generation member of the family and the vice president of guest relations.
There are other attractions on-site for families as well, including two ponds, a petting zoo, a park for kids and a nature trail a quarter of a mile long.
“It’s not just an ice cream parlor, not just a plant,” Dugar-Sarap said. “It’s the best of both worlds. People look forward to us reopening every May.”
Dugar-Sarap’s favorite ice cream flavor is black raspberry fudge, and she said that visitors love the seasonal flavors such as peach cobbler and strawberry cheesecake.