I open my Facebook page and there they are — photos of my sister, Jane, her husband and another couple — smiling as they work their way through France and Spain.
Looks quite lovely, but hey, they will not see what I will see in Avon, Ohio, Duck Tape Capital of the World.
My husband, Jerry, his brother Ken, wife Sue and I are making the 90-minute westward pilgrimage from the Youngstown, Ohio, to do what duct tape devotees (and there are millions) would give their firstborn to do — tour the 660,000-square-foot distribution facility where all manner of Duck Tape products are shipped to the far regions of the globe.
Our tour guide is media manager Patti Sack, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and ready to educate us on the history of the sturdy, sticky tape; the variations that have evolved from the original silver-gray; its variety of uses; and the works of geniuses across the world who have fashioned amazing Duck Tape couture by employing imagination, scissors, laser cutters and a few baubles, bangles and beads.But back to the beginning …
Generic duct tape was first developed during World War II when there was a need for a strong, flexible, durable, waterproof tape that could seal and repair the equipment of war. It was used by professionals for several decades after the war, then began appearing on retail shelves in 1978. Two years later, owner Jack Kahl created the brands Duck and Duck Tape. The company was the first to offer the tape in colors and patterns, with a camouflage print heading up the line.
Today, Duck Tape is a favorite material of crafters, probably because it not only comes in hundreds of colors and patterns, but with logos of popular candy, film and cartoon characters, and pro and college teams (go Chargers, Buckeyes and Irish).
In 2001, the company’s crack marketing team gave birth to the Stuck on Prom Scholarship Contest, in which high-schoolers compete for thousands of dollars by creating prom couture (including purses, shoes and jewelry) from Duck Tape products.
Although the contest was always open to teens everywhere, it expanded with the growth of the internet, and entries have gotten more complex and elaborate as the years go by.
Sack guides us past many of the entries which are on display and it’s clear that these crafters are far more talented with tape than I ever was with a sewing machine.
We also get a look at the infinitely patient woman who takes consumers’ questions, complaints and concerns via phone and computer; the machine that cuts giant rolls of clear plastic packing tape into much smaller rolls and miraculously attaches them to those little plastic dispensers with the cutting edges; and the craft room where visitors can try their hands at fashioning their own creations from Duck Tape.So how popular is Duck Tape?
The company says that its Facebook page has 5 million visitors, and Duck Tape has morphed into a coveted crafter material used by enthusiasts for everything from home décor to haute couture.
“We’ve had record sales for the last five years,” Bill Kahl, executive vice president of marketing, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer recently.
“We are the No. 1 brand of consumer duct tape in America; Scotch is number two.”
And that’s not all.
In 2004, the first Avon Heritage Duck Tape Festival was held, and today, the annual Father’s Day event draws 50,000 to 60,000 parade-watchers, some of whom dress up in their best Duck Tape duds.
They line the streets of this Cleveland suburb to see cars, floats, art, sculpture and fashion all constructed with or enhanced by — you guessed it — Duck Tape.
Should you be in the Avon neighborhood or nearby, drop in for a tour of the Duck Tape Capital of the World (reservations required). Call (800) 321-0253.
E’Louise Ondash is a freelance writer living in North County. Tell her about your travels at firstname.lastname@example.org