CANTON Barbara Abbott has gone on more than a dozen food tours in cities throughout the United States, and it was during one in downtown Scottsdale, Ariz., in 2010, when it struck her: Such a program could work in downtown Canton.
Abbott believed that Canton has a long history worth sharing. The city has a slew of restaurants serving a variety of food styles; there are several museums; and then there’s the arts district. It took her two years of research and getting her funding in place, but in 2012 she opened her own food tour company in the city.
Today, Canton Food Tours has given close to 5,000 tours. Abbott has opened a sister company called Wooster Food Tours. The company has three tour guides for Canton and two in Wooster. She has also branched out with a Corks and Forks tour and, in the fall, she is kicking off a Savor & Sip exclusive tours of Ohio’s best and most intimate wineries, breweries and restaurants.
"Our downtown walking tour is the most popular right now," Abbott said. "It’s about three hours long and we stop at three or four of the downtown restaurants.
"We also do some van tours where we load a group up and go to North Canton or the McKinley Monument. We can do group tours of six or more people or we do offer public tour days and times where individuals can take a food tour," she added.
Canton Food Tours offers services year-round. The company partners with a number of Canton eateries, museums and art galleries for the walking tours. Tours start at the McKinley Grand Hotel and continue through the downtown area.
Abbott said she works with more than 70 partners in Canton and 30 in Wooster. Visitors will get to learn about the First Ladies Museum and the Canton Classic Car Museum. Some of the restaurants and eateries Abbott partners with include Bender’s Tavern, Lucca, Basil Asian Bistro, Canton Brewing Company, Deli Ohio and George’s Lounge.
Carpe Diem Coffee Shop, Hazel & Rye Bakery, Cultured Coffee Company, Heggy’s Candy Company, Muggswigz Coffee & Tea and Piccano’s Martini Lunge and Grapes in a Glass can also be part of a tour. Some of the art galleries Abbott works with include 2nd April Gallerie & Studios, IKON Images, Joseph Saxton Gallery of Photography and Journey Art Gallery. Artists studios and shops include Arrowhead Vintage and Handmade Goods, Cantonlogy and Colette’s Vintage.
She also works closely with Visit Canton, Main Street Wooster and the local Chambers of Commerce. Abbott said she partners with local industry such as Belden Brick because she talks about the brick streets and the brick buildings downtown.
"The tour groups spend about 30 minutes in each stop," Abbott said. "The restaurants know what time we will be stopping in and they have the table set for us and the food is ready. The food served is usually chef’s choice. We do accommodate persons who are vegetarian or gluten free, and those who can’t have dairy products as long as the person booking the tour mentions such restrictions at the time of the booking."
Abbott said she can also setup tours for families where they are served family style platters.
Overall, she said the feedback has been great and everyone leaves happy and full.
Persons ranging from college students to retirees have taken the tours. Abbott can set up a food tour for members of a family, a group of friends, a staff day out, customer appreciation or for a team building group.
"I’ve had one group come back eight times for a tour," she said. "Some people take an individual tour then bring back their family and then host a tour for the people in their workplace or have a girl’s night out."
Before starting Canton Food Tours, Abbott worked at Quail Hollow for 13 years before getting married and becoming a stay-at-home mom. The food tour in Scottsdale convinced her that Canton needed a food tour company so she returned to the workplace by starting her own company.
There is one price charged for all of the food stops on the tours. Group tours are offered Mondays through Saturdays with three to four restaurant stops, dessert and a take-home goodie bag. Taxes and restaurant staff gratuities are included in the price.
Day tours generally start at 11, 11:30 a.m., 1, 1:30 or 2 p.m. Evening tours start at 5, 5:30 or 5:45 p.m. To find out more about Canton Food Tours, visit the website at cantonfoodtours.com or call 330-495-0929.