From Elkhart Campground – Elkhart, IN
Today, we toured our second RV factory……Jayco in Middlebury. We decided to tour this manufacturer when it was discovered that they were replacing their older Designer model with a new one in 2011 called the Pinnacle. Rudy had also talked to a new owner of this model at our recent overnight stop in Claremore, OK.
Jayco had its beginning in 1968 when the founder began building “pop up” trailers on his farm in 2 chicken coops and the family barn. Today, it is the largest privately owned RV manufacturer in North America and the 3rd largest in the world. They also hold the distinction of being the maker of the #1 travel trailer in the U.S…….the Jay Flight.
They like other RV industries in this area have felt the effects of the recession and today employ about 1200. However prior to the bad economy they had a high of 1700 and saw that go down to only 900 at the worst of times. Of the current employee population Amish and Mennonite account for about 70% of the total.
The company has over a million square foot of production area under roof in 25 buildings. Today’s tour took us to 2 of these buildings……the sewing shop where all of the cloth material accessories like drapes, furniture upholstery covers, pillows, bedspreads, etc are made and the second was the 5th wheel production facility where in 4 days start to finish, a 5th wheel trailer is completed.
After completion of the tour, seeing the marketing video about the company and viewing some of the current models on display behind the visitors’ center we have taken Jayco off our list of possible trailers to consider when time comes to replace what we currently have. The quality of craftsmanship, some materials we saw used and the lack of some options which we consider must haves form the basis of this elimination of the new Pinnacle model.
We once again ventured to the heart of Main Street; close to the area in which we attended the Fall Festival last weekend to check out Varns & Hoover Hardware Store that has been in operation serving the community of Middlebury since 1886. With its wooden plank floors and isle after isle of merchandise ranging from bins upon bins of fasteners of all types to plumbing and electrical supplies, to paints and stains and a large selection of all kinds of hand tools. You can even find Radio Flyer Wagons, bikes and trailers as wells as kazoos, spinning tops, puzzles, games and children’s books. There is even a large home decor and gift section. Just amazing how many items and their enormous variance from one another could be found under one roof…….just love to discover these quaint little stores in small rural communities, it is truly stepping back in time as you walk through their doors.
On the side of Varns & Hoover Hardware Store building are four 6x6 ft quilt murals that make up the larger “Welcoming You to Middlebury in Language of Quilts” mural. Depicted with the four smaller quilt patterns is the Middlebury Star, a Pinwheel which invites you to explore “Around Town”, the Round Circle of Hospitality and a square signifying Middlebury’s friendly “Old Town Square”.
Another highlight of our day was lunch at the Das Dutchman Essenhaus Amish-Style Restaurant. It is the largest family style restaurant in the state of Indiana and offers Amish homestyle cooking and hospitality. Best known for their family style all you can eat meals featuring salad, crisp broasted chicken, roast beef, ham, homemade bread dressing, mashed potatoes with gravy, homemade noodles, fresh baked bread and your choice of either corn or green beans…..mouth watering yet!
They also offer for those not wanting this family style menu, the option of ordering off a menu that offers many more Amish-style dishes as well as just some plain good home cooked meals…..this is what we opted to do and Rudy enjoyed a great tasting chicken pot pie and I had to have something with homemade noodles and chose meatball stroganoff with homemade noodles which was delicious.
Now the restaurant’s other claim-to-fame is their homemade pies with more than 30 to choose from. Rudy found a “sugar free” banana cream for his choice and I had my all time favorite coconut cream….what a great way to end an already great eating experience.
Next door to the restaurant they have a bakery where one can take home items seen on the dessert menu as well as fresh baked bread, rolls, muffins, and many more pastries. Also found on the grounds of the Essenhaus complex is an Inn and Conference Center, a golf course, and the Village Shops where you can find locally hand-crafted quilts, a year round Christmas shop and other unique collectibles and gift items in one of the many small shops.
This Essenhaus complex is also home to yet another Living Quilt display however we are getting near the end of this display; October 1 and some are looking tired and withered. So don’t know how many more we will see that will be worth photos as we continue to explore the area.
Today wrapped up our exploration of Middlebury…..the slower pace of this small community nestled in the Amish Country of Northern Indiana with the clip-clop of buggies passing by as you walk up and down Main Street is something we will remember for a long time to come.