BERLIN HEIGHTS - The Berlin Fruit Box Company is saving its best not for last, but first.
The Berlin Heights basket manufacturer will kick off its 150th anniversary celebration this month by showcasing three baskets. One of them is "simply the most beautiful basket we've ever made in our 150-year history," company president Matt Adelman said.
It is the Berlin Fruit Box Company's interpretation of the Nantucket Lightship Purse Basket. It represented a basket art form originated by the keepers of lightships anchored off the coast of Nantucket Island, Mass., in the mid-1800s. The lids are frequently decorated with scrimshaw artwork originally carved from whale bone.
During an open house later this month and early December, the Berlin Heights company will showcase its version of the basket. The company's versions of the American Indian Storage basket and the Carolina Low Country Sweetgrass Bread basket also will be displayed. All will be for sale.
In addition to baskets, the event will feature factory tours, lathe demonstrations, weave (and keep) your own basket sessions and free basket decorating for children. There is a fee for the weave your own basket session.
Future anniversary-related activities might include a re-enactment by 16-year employee Don Lautzenheizer, who resembles company founder Samuel Patterson. Lautzenheizer, a pattern maker and maintenance worker, is no relation to Patterson.
Adelman said company officials have been planning the 150th anniversary for a couple years.
"We're thrilled," he said. "If there was ever a time in our history that someone would come out and say hello and pay a visit and see what we do, we think it's now."
Adelman said some area residents may not realize the business exists.
"We say that we are the area's best kept secret," he said.
The business, the oldest basket making operation in Ohio, has been in the family for six generations; Adelman's great, great, great grandfather, Samuel Patterson, founded the business in 1858. His goal was to supply area farms and orchards with baskets for fruit and vegetables.
The company does not grow or sell fruit, but has been called The Berlin Fruit Box Company since its founding.
So, if you're looking to buy a box of fruit, don't call the Berlin Fruit Box Company with that request, as others have done.
You can, however, request any number of Samuel Patterson Baskets; the company's business is 100 percent retail, so you can buy them directly. Your chance to do so is coming up. The open house is set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 23, 24 and 25 as well as 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 1 and 2.
"We'd just love to share our history with (the public)," Adelman said. "It's an open invitation for them to see what we do."