A few years back, when I wrote a feature article about a local collector of Fiesta ware, I learned that the factory that made this popular line was actually less than 60 miles from my home.
Not particularly interested in dinnerware, even a brand that’s become very collectible, I still wanted to take the guided factory tour that shows how the colorful art deco dinnerware is still being made, albeit in old factory buildings that reek with atmosphere and interest.
One spring-like day at the end of March, I jumped in the car and headed for Newell, W.Va., a town that snuggles along the Ohio River sandwiched between Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Entering the retail store, my eye wandered over the array of colorful bowls, dishes, plates, canisters, platters, utensils and more, beguiling the homemaker with an artist’s palette of colors with sensual names like paprika, tangerine, peacock, scarlet and sunflower.
They were a far cry from the initial hues of red, yellow, cobalt blue, green and ivory the Homer Laughlin China Co. first offered back in 1936. That was the year when Fiesta ware became the first widely-promoted and mass produced solid color dinnerware in the United States.
To commemorate Fiesta’s 75th anniversary in 2011, Homer Laughlin, the last major dinnerware producer that still makes its products in the U.S., manufactured its first and only special item, a limited edition and numbered soup tureen done in bright marigold yellow. During my visit, a few of the 10,000 tureens made to mark the occasion were still for sale in the retail room.
Even more fun is the adjacent seconds room, where bins of full of dinnerware with minor flaws are marked down as low as half off the regular retail price. An even better deal comes twice a year during the tent sales when first quality items are reduced by 10 percent, although the biggest draw remains its inventory of seconds. This year’s tent sale is scheduled for June 20-22 and later in October, although no date has yet been assigned.