Akron, a small town located in northern Lancaster County, was founded by German immigrants in the late 1770s. In fact, the town's original name was "New Berlin." However, the name was changed in the early 1880s. It received its name because of its location at the highest point of the Ohio and Erie Canal. The name Akron is derived from the Greek word akros which means " a high place."
The town is historically known as a major center for cigar making in the region during the 1800s. Cigar making was so important to the town that during the 1880s about half of the population was involved in this industry. The town even named one of its major streets Tobacco Road.
During the early 1900s, the town's economy shifted from cigars to leather. The making of fine leather shoes became the primary focus of the economy.
Nowadays, the town is most well-known for being the home of the Mennonite Central Committee which employs a large number of the community. The Mennonite Central Committee is a global relief and peace agency. Mainly through revenue from its thrift stores as well as donations and grants, the Mennonite Central Committee raises more than $60 million each and every year for charitable purposes throughout the world.
Families visiting the town might be interested in watching first hand the traditional Pennsylvania Dutch practice of pretzel making. Pretzels have always been dear to residents and guests of Lancaster County and it's great fun to watch the sourdough being rolled, twisted, and pinched by traditional pretzel makers. Of course, its more fun to taste them as well.
One of the town's most beloved attractions is Martin's Pretzels located at 1229 Diamond Street. For over 60 years, this conservative Mennonite-owned and staffed business has been creating delicious hand-made pretzels.
Since assembly-line machines are never used, Martin's does not produce as many pretzels as the major pretzel factories which can produce about 240 pretzels per minute. Instead, workers at Martin's create about 12 pretzels apiece per minute which is still pretty darn fast.
These deeply flavorful pretzels are sold throughout the country. You and your family are welcome to watch the pretzel making by the traditionally garbed Mennonite staff. Although the rolling, twisting and pinching begins at 6:00 a.m., visitors are advised to come any time between 8:00 a.m and 3:00 p.m.
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Learning about Akron