I love to tour manufacturing plants. I’ve toured the Tillamook Cheese Factory (multiple times), the Aplets & Cotlets factory, CNN, and the Elegant Gourmet candy factory, among others. So when Rich’s for the Home announced that Travis Industries – the home of Lopi, Avalon, and FPX hearth products – was offering their first-ever tours to the general public, I signed up.
After finding my way to the Mukilteo, WA Travis House of Fire plant (which is 11 acres huge, but hidden behind a housing development), I meandered into the showroom and instantly received a warm handshake from a man who introduced himself as Kurt Rumens.
I surreptitiously checked out his name tag. “Company President.”
Are you kidding me? The president of Travis Industries was there, in person?
Yep. And he wasn’t just making an executive appearance. He personally conducted the tour.
Before the tour started, Kurt introduced me one of his “babies,” a gas stove that apparently does everything but wash your dishes. Kurt was like a kid in a candy store, fiddling with the remote, showing me how to make the flame flicker high and low; how to regulate the temperature on the stove; and how to turn off the flame but leave on the decorative backlighting (which doubles as a night light). I want one!
After donning electronic headsets so we could hear Kurt over the factory noise, we embarked on our 1 ½ hour walking tour (if you’re wheelchair bound, never fear; the plant is wheelchair-friendly). Kurt showed us nearly every area of the plant. He told us about how he founded Lopi stoves 30 years ago (details in my next post), and he showed us exactly how stoves and fireplaces are made, starting with the mammoth $250,000 lasers that precisely cut the raw materials.
The neat thing about this tour is that we got to see stoves being built (unlike many tours, where employees are nonexistent and all the machines are shut down). We learned about metal munchers, computer punch presses, welding stations, air scrubbing, and much, much more.
We were the first members of the public to ooh and aah over a brand new model just off the assembly line that day: the “Eden,” a 3-sided glass stove with a gothic arch design. (Rich’s Lynnwood store has it on display, so buzz by and see it; it’s beautiful.)
At the end of our tour, we were treated to a delicious box lunch. And yes, Kurt sat down and ate lunch with us!
In case you haven’t already figured it out, I highly recommend the Travis House of Fire Tour. It’s free. It’s fun. It’s interesting. They don’t try to sell you anything. And they feed you. What could be better?
You have more opportunities to tour the plant:
- Wednesday, August 4th, 2010
- Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
The tour is from 9-11:30 a.m.
Pre-registration is required and you must show the registration e-mail and ID at the door. When you register online, put "Rich's blog" in the space that asks, "How Did You Hear About the House of Fire Factory Tour?"
The fascinating story of how Kurt Rumens founded what is now Travis Industries.