Peek behind the scenes of the manufacturing process at these six stops.
Whistles, baseball bats, ice cream—who knew Columbus was home to so many fun and interesting factories? See the magic in action during factory tours of six popular businesses in the capital city; there’s something for everyone.
Al’s Delicious Popcorn
1500 Bethel Road, Columbus; 614-451-7677
When: 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Tours are offered Jan. 15 to Sept. 15 and must be scheduled in advance.
Al’s Delicious Popcorn has been popping more than 60 flavors of popcorn since 1985. Always a family-owned operation, Scott Baird and his relatives took over in the fall of 2017. The business produces 24,000 gallons of popcorn a year. Suitable for all ages, the 30-to-45-minute tour will educate guests on the history of Al’s before giving samples and letting guests guess the flavors (pizza popcorn, anyone?). The tour is ADA-accessible, and bags are available to purchase following the tour.
American Whistle Corp.
6540 Huntley Road, Columbus; 614-846-2918
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Reservations are required.
One million. That’s the number of whistles American Whistle Corp. produces each year. The company, currently owned by Nic and Kelly Davirro, has been the country’s sole manufacturer of metal whistles since 1956. During the 45-minute tour, guests will see how the whistles are made, including the unique machinery used. The tour is ADA-accessible, and each person gets their own whistle souvenir. Tours are for groups of 15 people or more; smaller groups will be combined.
1777 Arlingate Lane, Columbus; 877-226-3921
When: Drop-in tours take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays year-round and Wednesdays from June to August.
Cost: Free for children 2 and younger, $1 for ages 3–18, $2 for adults. Customers get the ticket cost back via a voucher for the on-site retail store.
Although the factory was built in 1995, Anthony-Thomas has been producing chocolates since 1952, when it was founded by Anthony Zanetos and his son Tom. You can take a look inside the factory, which makes 30,000 pounds of candy per shift, during a 45-minute, wheelchair-accessible tour. The tour covers the whole manufacturing operation, including the kitchen and the area where the ever-famous buckeyes are made. Don’t worry—you’ll get one to try at the end of the tour.
Columbus Washboard Co.
14 Gallagher Ave., Logan; 740-380-3828
When: 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; self-guided tours on Saturdays from May through October.
Cost: Free for active military and children 3 and younger, $3 for ages 4–18, $4 for seniors, $5 for adults
As the only remaining washboard factory in the United States, Columbus Washboard Co. is rich in history. The company began in 1895, and some of the same equipment has been used for years to produce the washboards, typically used for washing clothes (although they’re good for music-making, too). Visit year-round for a 35-minute tour, where you’ll see how the company makes more than 20,000 washboards per year. The tour is wheelchair-accessible.
7801 Corporate Blvd., Suite E, Plain City; 877-590-6675
When: 1:30 p.m. Mondays and Fridays and 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays.
Batter up! Any baseball fans—or sports fans—will welcome the opportunity to see the production of Phoenix Bats, used by Little Leaguers and Major League Baseball players alike. Phoenix Bats, started in 1996 and currently under the leadership of CEO and president Joel Armbruster, makes around 20,000 bats per year. Each tour is about 60 minutes in length and is equipped to handle walkers, wheelchairs or scooters. Guests will see how bats are cut, shaped and sanded, and everyone will leave with a mini bat as a souvenir.
Velvet Ice Cream
11324 Mount Vernon Road, Utica; 800-589-5000
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, May 1 to Oct. 31. Note that production does not always run on Fridays.
Another family-owned factory, Velvet Ice Cream is in its fourth generation of Dager family leadership. Originally started by Joseph Dager in 1914, Velvet produces 5 million gallons of ice cream each year. Holy sweet tooth! Located in Utica, about an hour northeast of Columbus, guests of all ages can take the 30-minute, wheelchair-accessible tour and see ice cream in production through the viewing gallery (glass windows to the production area). Note that reservations are required for groups of 20 or more people.
Reprinted from Columbus Monthly City Guide 2019.