Carmazzi’s Deli and Candy Store
One of the oldest and best-known businesses in the area is Carmazzi’s Deli and Candy Store. Located at 100 South Main Street in Urbana’s Monument Square, the business sits in Urbana’s oldest building, which was built in 1811. Serving as a military headquarters in the War of 1812 and later as a railroad office, the building eventually became the home of Bianchi’s Fruit Store in 1893. According to the store’s brochure, “Bianchi’s niece Victoria and her husband Frank Carmazzi took over the store in 1931 and renamed it Carmazzi’s. In 1944, after the death of her husband Frank, Victoria continued to run the store with the help of her children Bob, Rosemary, and John. Victoria’s son, John Carmazzi, acquired the store in 1952 and is still the present owner. Five generations of family members have worked in the business, and it is now managed by John’s nephew’s wife, Janet.” Janet is quick to point out that they now need to update the brochure to include the sixth generation in the store, her baby grandson Todd.
The residents of Urbana once shopped for basic groceries at the store, but as people began to shop at larger grocery stores, Carmazzi’s had to adapt to the changing times and became more of a convenience store. Local children now know Carmazzi’s as a candy store, because of the large collection of candy it offers, ranging from Snickers Bars to Red Hots to Chiclets. Adults also like to come in and get two-cent gummies because it reminds them of their childhood candy stores, where candy could be bought by the piece. In addition to the candy and other non-food items such as newspapers, the Carmazzi family still sells sandwiches at the deli as well as fruit baskets, which become popular around Christmastime. The decline in demand for Carmazzi’s fruit baskets year round has been a relatively recent phenomenon: twenty-five years ago, fruit was prominently displayed in the window of the store, recalling the original merchandise of Bianchi’s Fruit Store. Even as customer demands and the downtown area of Urbana have changed, Carmazzi’s has remained a staple in the community and is open almost 365 days a year.
A long-standing food business of Urbana is Crabill’s Hamburgers, located at 727 Miami Street. A milkman before entering the burger business, Forrest Crabill started selling nickel hamburgers out of a buggy in 1927. Two years later, he moved his business into a building, continuing to make the hamburgers as his mother made them: small. The prices have changed, so that the hamburgers now cost sixty cents, but the menu at Crabill’s Hamburgers has remained nearly the same. One key difference on the menu today is that Forrest only offered brown mustard, sweet relish, and onions as condiments. In 1990, ketchup was added. The current co-owner, Forrest’s granddaughter Marsha, notes that she can tell the difference between new customers and those who have been coming for years, because the “old-timers” never order their burgers with ketchup. They prefer the hamburgers as they were originally made. Another key difference is the size of the building. The old shop had only six wooden stools and a tiny kitchen; the new shop is three times bigger than its predecessor, even though the counter seats only eight stools (the six originals plus two extras).
Forrest died at a young age of a heart attack, so his wife Frida, with seven children at home, had to take over the restaurant. Frida retired at the age of 65, and Marsha’s cousin took over. At that time, Crabill’s rented the building it inhabited, and in 1988, the owner of the building wanted to sell it. Marsha’s cousin did not want to buy the building, so the business closed. Marsha and her husband re-opened Crabill’s out of a buggy in 1989. Within an hour of opening on their first day, they sold out, and they knew that there was still a demand for Crabill’s hamburgers in Urbana.
The restaurant has always been a family business, and Marsha remembers working for her grandmother at Crabill’s when she was in kindergarten. The whole family is still actively involved in running the restaurant: Marsha’s three children work there in the summer. Because Crabill’s has been in Urbana for so long, customers often come in and tell that they used to eat at Crabill’s when they were younger, leaving the high school campus for lunch and getting into trouble for coming back too late. At the moment, Marsha does not want to franchise, because she likes knowing the customers when they come in; if she does not know their names, she does know what they want to order. She will see people in the parking lot and say “Here comes 3 doubles…” and start cooking before they even come in. Crabill’s is open year round, and the burgers are available for dine-in or carry-out.
Mumford’s Potato Chips and Deli
Mumford’s Potato Chips and Deli is located at 325 North Main Street and has been in business for over seventy years. Mumford's Potato Chips was founded in 1932 by Asa Mumford. His trademark was to cook the potato chips by hand in large kettles. He developed the secret recipe with his son, Virgil, and they made their chips in the back of their grocery store. Today, the chips are still made with the same recipe and cooking method that Asa and Virgil developed. The chips are still stirred with a rake to keep them from sticking together.
The present owner, Marilyn Leopard, explains that she has worked for Mumford's since 1956. At that time, her boyfriend worked at the business and since she spent so much time there, Mr. Mumford offered her a job. She remembers going into the Mumford's grocery store as a child and getting things at her mother's request. During her time at Mumford's, Marilyn has done nearly every job from working the counter to stirring the chips. She explains that she was not strong enough to do the stirring, and thus did not do it very often. One thing that sticks out in her memory is cutting up potatoes. The potatoes had to be cut by hand before there were machines to do it, which made it a time-consuming process. Marilyn and her husband eventually purchased Mumford's. Their children worked in the business and Marilyn's granddaughter now works there.
Although Mumford's had the opportunity to expand their business nationally, they decided to stay small and focus on maintaining the quality of their product. Mumford's Potato Chips are sold in some of the smaller grocery stores in the area as well as some nearby restaurants. They can be shipped internationally as well, so local parents who have children serving overseas in the military sometimes send the potato chips in care packages to give them a taste of home. The Urbana location no longer makes the potato chips on site; they are now made in northern Ohio and shipped into Urbana. Customers can now visit the Urbana location to view Mumford's memorabilia and buy bagged chips while eating at the deli, which is run by Marilyn’s son and daughter-in-law.
The Airport Café is located at 1636 North Main Street, better known as Grimes Field Airport. The menu's cover states, "Welcome to Pat and Doug's Airport Cafe, where friends and neighbors meet" and "Patronize your local community." The Airport Cafe does emphasize community in its business practices. The cafe is small and has a familial atmosphere. The owners, Pat Hall and her son Doug, make an effort to patronize local food producers and even buy their beef and pork locally.
The customers are a mix of locals and out-of-towners, mostly due to the airport. On a given day, 20-40 planes land at the airport. To pilots, the Airport Cafe is known for its "hundred dollar hamburger," which is a reference to the fact that many customers are pilots who make a deliberate choice to land in Urbana and get a hamburger. The further they fly, the more expensive the hamburger gets. Pilots also frequent the cafe for its homemade pie (particularly the butterscotch), selling at $2 a slice. All of the food is made "from scratch," as Pat describes it. The pie recipes come from Pat's grandmother, for example, and uses old-fashioned ingredients (like lard in the crust).
The Airport Cafe was first established in 1945 or 1946. It has been open for almost all of the time from then until the present, although it has not been continuously owned by the same family. Pat's family bought the restaurant 11 years ago; she had owned another restaurant before and uses the same recipes at the Airport Cafe. When she opened the restaurant, people packed into the dining area and lined up outside the building. The restaurant is still going strong and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM and on Sunday from 8 AM to 3 PM.
The New Family Table Restaurant
The New Family Table Restaurant is located at 23 Monument Square. The current owner, Brian Stamper, explains that his mother-in-law, Ruth Stamper, originally owned the restaurant at a different location a few blocks away. She moved to the current location and then one of her daughters took it over. Her daughter then sold the restaurant to another man, and under his ownership there was a fire that burned down the building. Brian and his wife took over the restaurant and rebuilt it two years ago.
Ruth Stamper, his mother-in-law, still works for him. She is 70 years old and makes the pies, cole slaw, daily special, potato salad, and macaroni salad, using her family’s recipes. They are open for all three meals and serve breakfast 24 hours a day. A lot of the regulars who come in for breakfast say their pancakes are “the best around.” The regular customers usually come in for the daily special and the Texas T-Bone. Brian says the biggest draw for the regular customers in the area is the daily special, since families with kids can afford to go out to a nicer meal.
For those with a sweet tooth, a fifteen-minute drive north on US-68 will lead to Marie’s Candies, located at 311 Zanesfield Road. The business was started in 1956 by Marie King, who was fifty years old at the time. Her husband, Winfred, had been diagnosed with polio and was paralyzed from the waist down. To thank their neighbors for their help during this time, Marie would make and send candy to those who had helped her and her family. When a candy store in Urbana went out of business, Marie bought the recipe for the peppermint chews that were popular in Urbana, along with some of the store’s candy-making equipment. With this recipe and some recipes of her own, she began her business. Winfred did the books and helped with making some of the candy. Marie's three boys also helped. One of Marie’s sons, Jay, and his wife, Kathy, cam into the business in the 1970s, and the two of them are now co-owners. Today, two of their sons and one of their daughters are in the business with them.
The most popular candies at Marie's are the Tur'kins. Tur'kins are similar to Turtles, consisting of chocolate, pecans, and caramel, but Marie’s cannot use that name because it has been trademarked. In Urbana, Marie's is still known for the peppermint chew, which consists of a peppermint taffy-like candy covered in chocolate. They also make chocolate figures, such as bunnies, terriers, and Ohio State logos. In addition to the chocolates, Marie's makes and sells caramels, mints, roasted nuts, and chocolate-covered potato chips. Most of the candy in the store is made at Marie's, although they do include other candies such as Jelly Belly jelly beans and hard candies. Marie's distributes its candy on site and at two wholesale retailers. Additionally, Marie's Candies has a website and sells across the country, though the majority of the candy is sold on site.
The Champaign Berry Farm is a smaller operation raspberry farm featuring black and red raspberries. Although the farm began in 1995 on five acres, it has expanded to 28 acres. Customers come to the farm and pick their own raspberries. The raspberries can be bought by the pound or the quart. Pre-picked berries can be purchased as long as they have been pre-ordered. Located at 2560 South Mutual Road, information on the picking seasons and prices can be found at the farm’s website, www.champaignberryfarm.com.
The Robert Rothschild Farm began as a berry farm when Robert and Sarah Rothschild opened it in 1977, selling berries from their 170 acre farm at local farm stands and letting people come pick berries. One season there was an excess crop so somebody suggested that they make jam. Robert Rothschild entered some of this raspberry jam in a gourmet food competition and won. After that, people started ordering the jam and eventually the products surpassed the berry farm element of the business. Although all production is still done on site at 3143 East US-36, Robert Rothschild Farm now distributes all over the US and has a strong catalogue/internet sales presence.
All of the brainstorming of ideas for products is done in a kitchen in the production facilities. The gourmet products are no longer limited to those made with berries and include products like Raspberry Wasabi Dipping Mustard, Hot Pepper Peach Preserves, Blackberry Chipotle Oven and Grill Sauce, and Raspberry Chocolate Pretzel Dip. Customers have the chance to sample most of these products in the market. There is also a cafe serving salads and sandwiches. One of the most popular dishes is the Robert Rothschild Signature Raspberry Sundae (homemade vanilla ice cream served with raspberry topping).
Urbana’s trout farm, Freshwater Farms, was established 20 years ago by Dr. David Smith on what was then a bankrupted chicken farm. Today, one of David’s goals is to educate the public and counteract the negative portrayal of fish farming in the media. He was the first president of the Ohio Aquaculture Association, whose original mission was to promote the exchange of ideas and aquaculture technology and help develop interest in aquaculture in Ohio.
At Freshwater Farms, the fish are raised in the same barns that were used on the chicken farm, which have about 12,000 square yards of space. Freshwater Farms is the largest indoor hatchery in Ohio, producing Rainbow Trout, Largemouth Bass, Yellow Perch, Bluegill, Channel Catfish, Fathead Minnows, Golden Shiners, White Amur, Sturgeon, Koi, and Fantail Goldfish. Visitors have the chance to take a tour of the hatchery, feed the trout, and touch the fish at the sturgeon petting zoo. The business also provides pond and water garden advice and supplies. In addition, visitors can shop at the market and buy such items as fresh, smoked, and marinated fillets, trout fillet patties, Gourmet Doggie Smoked Trout Jerky, locally made jams and jellies, and maple syrup. The retail shop, inside an old barn, is a recent addition to the farm. In addition to selling their products at their own store, they also distribute to gourmet shops such as Weiland’s Fine Meats in Columbus and Dorothy Lane Markets in Dayton.
One of the events held by Freshwater Farms is the Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival. The festival is held on site at Freshwater Farms, located at 2624 North US-68, and is held on a Saturday in September (the exact date can be found at the farm’s website www.fwfarms.com). Customers can buy freshly harvested shrimp and a variety of foods from vendors. Some of the festival’s family-friendly events include a treasure hunt, the sturgeon petting zoo, and a fishing contest, all of which are directed at children. For participants of all ages, there are shrimp eating contests, crawfish races, live music, and a large-screen projection of the Ohio State football game. Admission is free.
Johnny Appleseed Educational Center and Museum
The Johnny Appleseed Educational Center and Museum is located on the Urbana University campus and is run by the Johnny Appleseed Society. Special items on display include a cider press (circa 1850) used by John James to process apples from trees planted by Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) in Champaign County, commemorative plates from festivals held in his honor, and wood and bark from original trees planted by Chapman is Ohio and Indiana.
Robert’s on Miami
Robert’s on Miami is located just off of the square in Urbana, Ohio. The most unique thing about Robert's, in comparison to other Urbana restaurants, is the menu and the prices. You can get dishes that are unique in Urbana to Robert’s, but the prices reflect this; owner Robert Arnold explains that you are getting what you pay for and that compared to prices on comparable menu items in Columbus, the prices are quite reasonable. Robert also emphasizes the fact that the restaurant's food is made on site, unlike many other restaurants. They make all of their sauces and desserts, for example.
Robert's has separate lunch and dinner menus, which are posted outside of the restaurant. The lunch menu consists of some rather unique salads (for example, a Reuben salad with fresh greens, kraut, olives, Rye croutons, Swiss cheese, corned beef and Thousand Island dressing), sandwiches ranging from a Bistro Burger to a Tilapia Sandwich, pastas with alfredo and tomato sauces, and even a New York strip steak. The dinner menu includes appetizers (shrimp, crab cakes, pizza ravs, which are similar to fried cheese sticks), pastas (different from the lunch pastas), and entrees ranging from Veal di Parma to Deviled Chops.
Robert began his restaurant work as a dishwasher in a Washington D.C restaurant as a teenager. He moved up the ranks and began work as a pastry chef. One of his hobbies is creating aesthetic foods, such as gingerbread villages or "stained glass" pictures. These stained glass pictures are actually made by heating sugar to a high temperature and then coloring the substance. Every winter, Robert's features a new gingerbread creation. He began with houses and now makes villages. These villages take around 200 hours of labor; the snow itself requires 300 pounds of sugar. The gingerbread will last around a month and can be seen in the display window at Robert’s on Miami during the holiday season.