LITTLE TOWN OF TOURS
The town’s merchants offer free tours of their unique and charming businesses where guests get a first-hand look at the only copper kettle manufacturers left in the country that does it all by hand, and how berries and fruit are processed into jellies and apple butter. And that’s just for starters. The little town of tours comes complete with a rediscovered Speak Easy frequented by Al Capone and Carl’s Gas Station where the 1950s come back to life.
Off the beaten path but conveniently located along State Route 30, Bucyrus, Ohio awaits with its Norman Rockwell charm and Mayberry friendliness and service.
Hop over to Cooper’s Cider Mill and see apples and berries go from the vine to spread.
Cooper’s apple butter and jellies are sold far and wide. But David Cooper isn’t lying when he says, “it’s just like grandma used to make,” because it is. David learned to make apple butter at his grandma’s farm. Later, he bought a stirring pot and began making his own. Demand grew and a business was formed to handle the requests. For years the mixing was done by hand – David’s father-in-law’s hands – out in the yard. On a sad note, the day David went to buy an automatic mixer, his father-in-law died before he returned. Today, the Cooper’s offer a complete behind-the-scenes tour of the entire production process and visitors get to witness the freshness, quality and care that go into every jar. Afterward, David’s wife Miriam has plenty of tasting stations set up for sampling throughout the country store next to the production plant. Inside, a new generation of Cooper’s is introducing another treat – fudge. The Cooper’s son started experimenting with making fudge for the fair and now has his own fudge station inside the family store. Cooper’s Web site is at www.coopersmill.net.
One of the lasting impressions at Cooper’s Mill is the 50-gallon copper kettle, which allows slow cooking over a wood-burning hearth. This leads us to Picking Copper Kettles.
The D. Picking & Company is the last of the old copper shops in America that still makes its original products by hand. The tour of the craftsmen at work is fascinating, but the building is a visual treat from nook to cranny as it is more than 130 years old and has character unique unto itself. The walls, furniture, floors, furnaces and workbenches all show more than a century of service. The place can easily double as a copper kettle museum of historic proportions. Many relics are on display including an antique rocking horse Mr. Picking got before his son was born. Venture into this old-world of American manufacturing and hear the harmony of tapping, pounding and other clamoring noises ringing from room to room. The tour begins the same place as the copper – by the double doors. The copper is worked into kettles, ladles, skillets and other custom forms as it progresses through the shops five rooms. Each craftsman takes his time to hammer out perfection, often striking up conversation as they work. D. Picking & Company, to no surprise, gets orders from around the world resulting in some cases, up to 1,874 patterns. Tours and catalogs are available by calling 419-562-6891.
D. Picking is still a family-owned business but very unlike the kind of family Al Capone used to preside over as Godfather.
Back in the Roaring Twenties, Al Capone used to stop off in Bucyrus for a night of sin at an underground Speak Easy while traveling to the East Coast from Chicago. Capone was originally a New Yorker. For decades, the Speak Easy in Bucyrus was a forgotten part of a tangled underground network of tunnels. The only company it kept was storage containers, boxes and the like. Recently, it was cleared out revealing thick brick dining booths and walls – made so that the spray of Tommy Gun bullets couldn’t penetrate and hurt the Mob Boss. Today, upon request, a group of Bucyrus’s locals provide a show in the authentic Speak Easy where Capone used to dine and drink away the night. The historical re-enactment showcases singing, dancing and laughter. The show, Roaring Twenties Live, lasts about an hour.
Yes, Bucyrus is a jewel of a city. And many more unique and charming stops are there. These include Carl’s Garage where Carl has reenacted a 1950s ambiance in his service station with such an impressive collection of memorabilia it’s hard to believe it isn’t a museum charging admission. His latest project is a room dedicated to the King of Rock-N-Roll, Elvis Presley. Other unique tours of Bucyrus are the Baja Marine Boat Manufacturing tour where visitors are walked through the entire boat making process; a tour demonstrating the process of recycling; dairy farm operation; and others. For complete tour information, coordination and other attractions, visit the Bucyrus Tourism & Visitors Bureau online at www.bucyrus.org or call 1-866-562-0720.
Oh, and we didn’t even cover the town's biggest attraction, its annual Bratwurst Festival in August. After all, Bucyrus is known as the Bratwurst capitol of the world. And maybe now as the little town of tours as well.
Excerpt from a previous edition of OhioTraveler Magazine
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