Jun 5, 2017

Longaberger Basket

Remember the days of the Longaberger home parties?  I do; however, I never bought one. Ten years ago when John and I were in Ohio we stopped in Newark to see the World’s Largest Basket.  It was actually the corporate headquarters for the Longaberger Company. The building is still there but sadly it is unoccupied and will be auctioned off with the starting bid - if you are interested - equal to the $700,000 tax debt.  The building cost $32 million to build in 1997.

Dave Longaberger wanted to create Longaberger-world with hotels, amusement rides, and eateries - something similar to Hershey, PA. It never came to fruition and today there is only Longaberger Homestead.  He died just before the Visitor Center opened. There was hardly anyone there and most of the buildings were not open.  The Visitor Center is beautiful and has a gift shop with
Longaberger baskets and other locally made items “mostly hand-touched products, made in America.”  A couple of the rooms in the main building are dedicated to the Longaberger story. There is a “make your own basket” area whereby visitors can pay to make a basket – at great expense, I might add.  They will also restore baskets. Most baskets will become family heirlooms. All Longaberger baskets are signed by the maker and labeled “Longaberger”

The Homestead has a large apple basket, the first workshop of Dave Longaberger’s father, the family homestead and a couple other buildings.  Only the large Visitor Center and workshop are open.  The Longaberger family moved to Dresden, Ohio in 1896. At that time baskets were as common as paper bags are now. His father took a job with the Dresden Basket Factory and learned the art of basket making. His son, Dave, had a severe shuddering problem and epilepsy but that did not stand in
his way. As a youngster he worked at so many different jobs his family called him the “25-cent millionaire.”  He owned and operated a small restaurant and an IGA store. Noticing the baskets were becoming popular he asked his father to make some which he took to local shops.  They sold and stores asked for more. The baskets were sold, with varying degrees of success, in malls and department stores. Dave

Longaberger found the most effective way to sell the baskets was via home shows whereby an educated home consultant would show Longaberger baskets, share the history, touting the excellent craftsmanship. There are still Longaberger home shows. The market for the baskets is not
what it used to be and the workforce has diminished. The baskets are now made in a factory near the Homestead. It is sad because so many people in the area were employed by Longaberger.  I chatted with a lady who no longer has family members who work for the company but she said it was the reason they moved to Dresden. 

We stayed at the lovely Inn at Dresden, which was the home of Dave Longaberger.  He used to play on the hill where the Inn is now located pretending he controlled everything as far as he could see.  The view is beautiful. Interestingly, the dining room has a section of La Guerre d’Independence.  They say the only other place that has parts of the mural/wall paper is the White House but I know different.  There is a section in Frances Tavern in NYC; and to my knowledge, Mexico High School has the only complete set.