Dresden Basket Businesses Prep For Season

By
Tim Sharp

Dateline
Updated Wed, Apr 3, 2013 11:46 am

As the weather gets warmer one Ohio town is preparing for an onslaught of tourists.

Dresden, home of the famous Longaberger basket is a sleepy Brigadoon about to awaken from its winter slumber.

"We are going to be opening on April 18.  Our first big event is going to be April 25.  We will have Longaberger family members in here signing.  We have over 18 buses scheduled for that weekend.  It should be a very fun weekend.  There are also a couple thousand people who drive in for the opening event."

Stacey Morrison is one of the proprietors of the family-owned Basket Barn Outlet - a brick edifice in downtown Dresden - formerly owned by the Longabergers.  It's a new location for the business.

“We just closed on this building.  We do have the biggest brick building on Main Street.  It is 27,000 square-feet.  We are going to have 15,000 square-feet of that open for shopping; it's going to be a big, big, big year for us."

And she is using that space.

"We try to house over 5,000 baskets, pottery. We own our own wrought iron company so we make and sell our own wrought iron.  We own our own plastic-sleeve basket company so we make and wholesale those."

"Half of the second floor is going to be dedicated to an indoor craft market so there's a variety of things to choose from when they come to shop."

Despite her excitement she admits Dresden is not the same town, not the same tourist attraction it was during the heydays of Longaberger. 

Where once more than 40 shops hustled to keep up with demand - just 16 remain.

"I think there were 43 stores in Dresden.  At that time there were 43 stores open Longaberger had 8,000 employees.”

"So now we're down to 16 stores - Longaberger employs 70 weavers."

Still the buses roll into the town - for baskets and more.

"Everybody else has tried to diversify because nobody wants to walk into every store and see the same thing over and over and over.  We do have a couple new businesses opening this year, she said.”

“We're trying to give the clientele and the tourists and the locals what they want so they don't have to shop in big box stores; they can help support their locals.”

Despite Longaberger’s' waning influence, Morrison says Dresden's continued success as a tourist attraction is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit here.

"The fact that they're still in business and we still have 300 buses that come to this town every year by no means are we dead."

Morrison says the almost cult-like appeal of these maple splint baskets is born in the blood.

“I live eat and breathe it, and I love it. If I didn't love working with the public and love what I do I certainly would not do it.”

She caught the bug early on.

"I started in 1994 when I graduated high school I went to work for Longaberger.  And I started weaving and I got laid off,” she said.

“Once I got laid off somebody ask me 'hey I know a guy who needs help weaving plastic basket sleeves - do you want to help him weave plastic basket sleeves?'”

That invitation led to more than a career.

“I went out there to do that and he told me my mouth was too big to be in the back and he needed me out front selling and now we're married and have an eight-year-old son."

A son who is likely to continue the Morrison tradition.

"Probably.  Either this or the wrought iron company.  He won't have much of a choice he loves it as well. "