Marble Factory Visit

Production Manager Ronnie Wright
Ronnie Wright proudly works with his hands and supervises a team of other workers who do the same in rural West Virginia.  He showed me how buckets full of colored glass get recycled into the sweltering furnace of the Marble King factory. Natural gas powers the process that turns leftover pieces from stained glass window making, other art glass, and even old bottles, into tiny spheres. The marbles are still dangerously hot when they've swirled along a custom chute and been sorted into metal buckets.

Pieces of stained glass that will become marbles

It will be hours before Linda Ramsey and Phyllis Spencer will be hand-sorting that particular batch.  In the meantime, they're busy inspecting cooled marbles for defects and weighing them for sale to wholesalers. Ramsey picks up a pitted marble that will be sent back to be remelted.  After their first round of hand sorting, they'll pour some marbles into the top of a custom-made counting machine that can put the precise amount needed into resale bags.  28 local jobs depend on Marble King, and everything possible, down to the packaging involved, is made in the USA.

Quality control removes a defective marble

Company owner Beri Fox is proud of the quality at what she says is the only remaining marble toy manufacturing plant in the country. "You can take a Marble King marble which is different than any other marbles made in the world, go outside and you can take one, throw it down on the concrete, and it'll bounce back up and you can catch it in your hand.  And it won't pick, it won't break, it won't scratch, it's good to go!"

Marble King CEO Beri Fox
Fox says the external hardness isn't the only quality difference.  She says you can tell by looking at them. "You can tell by the color and the vibrancy, and if you hold one of our transparent marbles up you won't see bubbles or what they call seeds.  Ours are a very pure product, they're very clear."  Fox is sure to point out that the marbles are also lead-free and meet consumer safety requirements.  Because Marble King sells not only direct to the public, but wholesale and through private labeling, you may not always see the company logo. 

Although my children weren't allowed in the factory, the kind women in the front office looked on while they tried learning to shoot marbles. Fox took time to show them herself.  Special thanks to Lisa Howell and Pam Corwin in the office for their help.

The company that's been in existence since 1949 is not only keeping a favorite game alive, but has been diversifying over the last two decades into industrial uses for marbles.  

Gift shop visit

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