Next time you are traveling in Michigan, a state that has so much to offer; check out the things they make there and plan to take a tour and watch how they do it.
In Dearborn, begin by taking a trip to the Henry Ford Museum. Buses leave every twenty minutes to take you to the Ford Rouge Factory. Begin the experience in the Manufacturing Innovation Theater. You will feel the air blasts and buzz of the impact wrenches through each seat. After the theater, climb up to the catwalk and watch from above as the production floor where 1,200 shiny Ford F-150’s roll off the line each day as you watch on your self-guided tour of the factory that has been there since 1903 when they rolled out the first Model “A.”
Follow the giant red hat to the tour of the Stormy Kromer factory at 1:30 in the afternoon every Monday through Friday in Ironwood. Come and watch the old-school American craftsmanship that makes their hand-sewn hats rugged. The tours begin with the story of George “Stormy” Kromer, a railroad engineer. His wife Ida was a seamstress that designed the signature ear-flap hat, when winter winds kept blowing the ball cap off Stormy’s head. Don’t forget to visit the well-stocked company store while there.
In 1901, the Chelsea Milling Company, better known as the Jiffy Mix Factory in Chelsea, began milling what is now one and a half million blue and white boxes of baking mixes a day during peak season from September to January. You can taste the delicious complimentary treats while watching a 20-minute film about the factory’s people and processes. Next, you will slip on a blue hair net and hit the factory floor. Watch as grains from America’s Heartland get sifted, portioned and packaged into the myriad of their delicious mixes. Don’t forget to take a selfie with Corny J. before you leave.
In 2011, when Detroit needed a boost, Shinola came to the rescue to help with the rebirth. Detroit has always been known for its manufacturing history, so the factory consisting of 30,000 square-feet in Midtown became a mainstay. Welcoming visitors to observe the process of watch assembly as technicians in lab coats wield small instruments with surgical precision. Of course, you will be watching behind the glass wall, as to not disturb the delicate processes. You will also see Shinola’s leather studio, where an army of denim-clad craftsmen works over piles of supple, subtly dyed skins that are actually tanned on-site. Watch as they stitch up heirloom-quality totes, wallets, dopp kits and dog collars while music bumps in the background. The one-hour tours, by reservation, are limited to groups of ten and are available at 2 p.m. two Fridays a month. So plan ahead.