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The spark that started our business…

What the heck is a food tour!? And why is it so expensive!? —Founder Barb Abbott on how she discovered food tours

Founder Barb Abbott on how she discovered food tours:

It was spring, 2010, and the email was from my cousin. We were preparing to take a girls trip to Arizona. The correspondence served as notice that Cheryl got us tickets to something called a food tour and that I owed her $50.00.

What the heck is a food tour!? And why is it so expensive!?

I almost didn’t go.

First of all, I am not a big eater. When I saw “food tour” a vision popped into my head of mini buffets in different restaurants where we would walk in and fill our plates. The idea wasn’t appealing.

I looked it up online. The website mentioned things like learning city history, eating smaller portions at locally owned restaurants, and walking through town. OK, that sounded better. I perused some pictures and thought about it some more. Although still not fully convinced, I didn’t want to be the only one to back out. I wrote Cheryl a check.

A few weeks later we stood around the giant horse statues in Old Town and watched the ducks swim in the fountain as we waited for our tour guide. Soon Annie strolled up, introduced herself, gave us a little history, and told us to follow her.

Our first restaurant was The Mission. We sat down to a beautifully plated sampling of one of their popular dishes. It was delicious! Someone from the restaurant came out to talk to us. We felt like VIPs. Then onto the next, and the next, and the next…. The servings were small, but carefully plated. And delicious!! The food added up, but not too much. And no buffets!

Annie lead us through the historic district, then on to the arts district. We ducked into little funky shops and fancy galleries. We ate, drank, saw the town, and had so much fun!

At Stop #3 I was seated with others guests under the shade of a patio umbrella. We finished our tacos and began chatting, but my mind was elsewhere.

I can still recall the angle of the sun. I remember taking another sip of my cocktail. I looked around and marveled at how much fun everyone was having, and thought, “I wonder if I could do something like this in Canton?”

At that moment I noticed our tour guide was seated by herself, at a high top table, away from the group. I saw this as an opportunity. I got up, walked over, and asked her some questions.

Two years later, after a class through the Small Business Development Center at Kent State Stark and conversations with ~ 75 business owners, chefs, city officials and others, Canton Food Tours was up and running!

Fast forward to today: You can still book an Old Town Food Tour but $50 would be a bargain! The Mission is still the first stop, and it looks like the overall experience hasn’t changed: eat, walk, learn, and have fun!

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When Canton Food Tours was founded in 2012, hardly anyone had even heard of a “food tour”, let alone understood the concept. We wanted the name to be descriptive and give a sense of place. Within five years, however, we found ourselves beyond city boundaries, experimenting with tours in various pockets of Stark County.

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