This post was sponsored by Ohio. Find It Here. and Experience Hartville. Photos and opinions are our own.
Even after living almost 20 years in Ohio, I’m always happy to find new things to discover. I know there are small towns and parks, roadside attractions and museums, historic neighborhoods and natural features all waiting to be explored across the state, and I’m glad to say we found a bit of fun in Hartville, Ohio.
Hartville sits between Akron and Canton, a small town with some big finds, from a massive indoor and outdoor market, to a giant restaurant with gift shops and a bakery (oh, the pies), to the country’s largest hardware store. These three things together form the Experience Hartville campus, offering acres of shopping, family fun, and good food.
We spent the night in Hartville during our trip, getting to experience a busy Friday night and Saturday on the campus. We stayed at the Comfort Suites Hartville-North Canton. The hotel is only a few years old, and is ranked #1 in the brand for cleanliness. The hotel includes an indoor pool and hot tub, a convenience store, and breakfast in the mornings.
After we checked into the hotel Friday night, Christa Kozy, who heads up marketing and group tours for the Hartville Kitchen and the surrounding campus, took us on a tour of the Hartville MarketPlace & Flea Market, which features 60 vendors over three acres of indoor shopping.
At the MarketPlace we got to meet Seth Coblentz, who’s the fourth generation of his family running the market. His great-grandfather Sol Miller started it as a livestock auction in 1939, and since that time it’s grown exponentially, moving into its current site in 2002. Near the front of the market is a small display showing the timeline of the market and artifacts like original menus and ledgers.
The Indoor Market covers two floors, with vendors selling toys, antiques, books, furniture, clothing, crafts, body care products, you name it. The lower level includes a food court with sandwiches, coffee, donuts, meats and seafood, popcorn, baked goods. It’s all a sight to behold.
One of our stops inside the market was World Chocolate, Inc. They craft chocolates, as well as molds, equipment, and lots of private labels. They also offer small tours of their production space to learn about the history of chocolate, how it’s made, and watch them craft and package small batches.
One of the favorite features of World Chocolate, Inc. is their Creation Station in the retail shop, where you can – wait for it – create your own chocolate bar! You select dark, milk, or white chocolate, then choose from dozens of additions like fruits, nuts, pretzels, candies. Then it chills on a slow conveyor belt, and they box it up for you! We all created our own versions – mine was like a PB&J: milk chocolate with dried cherries (one of World Chocolate’s owners has a cherry orchard in Michigan) and peanuts.
After our tour of the indoor market, we stepped outside into a lovely evening for the massive Outdoor Flea Market. The market is open four days a week and spans 12 acres, with space for nearly 1000 vendors. There are large covered pavilions as well as open spaces; you could spend hours and hours searching through local produce, antiques, books, toys, vintage video games, everything under the sun.
The market hosts dozens of events throughout the year, from night markets to holiday happenings, individual shows for coins, antiques, sports cards, plus craft shows. Our visit coincided with a night of local food trucks and live music. The lines were a little long, but we toughed it out and enjoyed crispy wood-fired pizzas from Boone Creek Pizza and a pulled pork and slaw dog + a brisket and mac & cheese burrito from Poagie’s BBQ.
After dinner we strolled the market a bit more, then Seth gave us a lift back to the hotel for a little time at the pool.
The next morning dawned bright and sunny, and we set off early to scope out some of the shops and restaurants in downtown Hartville, just a few minutes down the road from the campus.
In particular I had to wander around the Maple Street Gallery; it wasn’t open, but being a train enthusiast I just had to see the building – which is the old Hartville station – and the train cars converted to gallery space.
And then it was off to breakfast at the Front Porch Cafe. Front Porch makes its home in part of the original Hartville Hardware building; its spacious corner digs feature multiple rooms, booths, and a big patio. Owners Lyn and Pam wanted first and foremost a coffee shop and music venue, and slowly added breakfast and lunch. For their coffee, they use Hemisphere Coffee Roasters out of Mechanicsburg, Ohio.
And we have to say they really knocked it out of the park with the breakfast. It’s all thoughtfully prepared and plated. We sampled a cortado, iced pour over, and frozen hot chocolates, then worked our way through avocado toast with properly fried eggs, biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles, and a croissant breakfast sandwich. We also tried a chocolate muffin; Lyn insisted we have it warmed up with a scoop of their homemade vanilla ice cream, which was just terrific. Well done, all around!
After breakfast it was back to the Hartville Kitchen Restaurant & Shops. The large restaurant reminds me of other big, home-cooking restaurants like Der Dutchman. They’re a draw for big groups in search of homespun meals.
Christa (and her daughter Lucy) led us through the shops, spying the candy store full of local chocolates like Honadle’s, then checking out clothing, kitchenware, souvenirs, and plenty more. Upstairs there’s a kid’s section complete with a Noah’s Ark playhouse for the little kiddos.
Even if you’re not eating in the restaurant, the bakery should be a big draw. It’s hard to miss, as it spreads out before you when you step through the doors. On the shelves are all sorts of cakes, pies, cookies, breads. Hartville Kitchen has its own line of jams, sauces, salad dressings, pickles, all complemented by local and regional goodies like Guggisberg Baby Swiss and Lebanon bologna. When we arrived, the restaurant wasn’t quite open, but a line was forming already. Meanwhile, the bakery team was dishing out trays of pies and other goodies on the shelves. While Lucy took the boys upstairs to the kid’s section, Beth and I got a tasting from the olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop. They feature a wide range of extra virgin olive oils and vinegars, including a lot of rich, flavored varieties. I really loved the black cherry balsamic vinegar in particular.
One of my favorite moments in the tour was seeing behind-the-scenes at the bakery. They had clearly been at work for hours already, so we were seeing the pies and breads finally hit the shelves. We passed by one station with towering racks of pie crusts, pans full of custards and fruit fillings, bowls of strawberries and whipped cream, and a conveyor belt with coconut cream pies getting lightly toasted on the top.
By now we were plenty hungry, so thankfully it was time for lunch at the Hartville Kitchen itself. It’s a well-oiled machine there, with a host escorting you to your table, long-time servers who know the menu through-and-through, and a handy checkout line when you’re done.
Hartville Kitchen’s menu focuses around all your favorite comfort foods: meatloaf and Swiss steak, hot roast beef sandwiches, creamed chicken over mashed potatoes, hearty salads, burgers, breaded and fried shrimp. Earlier in the day, someone on Instagram recommended the fried chicken and they were absolutely right. It was tender and juicy, with a nicely seasoned crust. You’ll certainly leave feeling full and cared for.
At the end of the meal they very generously presented us with a special treat: a cake with the Breakfast With Nick logo on it! How amazing is that?!
Our last stop of the trip was the final piece of the Experience Hartville campus: Hartville Hardware.
The hardware store is another one of those location institutions, like the MarketPlace and flea market, and the kitchen and bakery. It’s been around since 1971, and is the largest independently owned hardware store in the country. I got a tour from owner Howard Miller, who’s run the store since he was 19 years old. At 305,000 square feet, he joked, Hartville Hardware could fit a Lowe’s, a Home Depot, and a football field inside it.
He took me on a tour of the facility, which includes a grilling station to John Deere repair center, lumberyard to clothing section, and everything in-between. Hartville Hardware has distinguished itself by becoming a go-to for hard-to-find parts and tools. The lower level, which was intended to be opened to the public, is instead used to store all the parts and pieces they sell and ship.
They also have a full design center, to help you customize flooring, kitchens, or your entire home. Near the back of the store is a full 1800-square-foot house you can tour and gather inspiration.
Before we left, Katherine from Hartville Hardware dropped me by the Yeti station, where they very generously laser cut a rambler with my logo! They dial up the machine, line up the mug, then you can watch the laser etch the design in the side.
By then we were wrapping up and ready to hit the road for home. It was quite an adventure discovering the indoor and outdoor markets, trying some local breakfast and coffee, making our own candy bars, touring the bakery and shops, enjoying a hearty lunch, and seeing the massive hardware store. Plenty to see, but more to discover on our next visit.
At last, we headed home, but we may have brought a little pie home with us…
Learn more about what we discovered in Hartville:
- Visit Canton: visitcanton.com
- Comfort Suites Hartville-North Canton: choicehotels.com/ohio/hartville/comfort-suites-hotels/oh596
- Hartville MarketPlace & Flea Market: hartvillemarketplace.com
- World Chocolate, Inc: worldchocolateinc.com
- Maple Street Gallery: facebook.com/maplestreetgallery
- Front Porch Cafe: frontporchcafehartville.com
- Hartville Kitchen: hartvillekitchen.com
- Hartville Hardware: hartvillehardware.com