Pros:Friendly staff were eager to talk about culture and products, lots of nice merchandise
Cons:Small facility, shoe and potter production may not be going on during your visit
The Bottom Line: Worth a stop if you are in town anyway, but not a special trip.
To complete our day of Dutch-themed tourism in Holland, Michigan, mr_chelledun and I popped in to the DeKlomp Wooden Shoe and Delft Factory. The factory tour is not quite the major attraction that guidebooks and the citys website will have you believe. However, it is a pleasant enough way to spend forty-five minutes if you are already in the area.
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This factory is located on Quincy Avenue in Holland. If you just get yourself near the city limits of Holland, you will see well-lettered billboards pointing your way. Locals are also more than willing to give directions to the various tourist attractions.
This attraction opens at 8:00 a.m. daily and remains in operation until 6:00 p.m. every day except Sunday, when it closes at 5:00 p.m. If you visit during Hollands busy Tulip Time, however, DeKlomp stays open until 8:00 p.m. nightly to accommodate the extra traffic. Admission to the factory is free although it is difficult to leave without buying some of the attractive goods for sale! There used to be three different wooden shoe factories in town, one of which I really enjoyed as a kid. Now DeKlomp is the only one remaining so this is your best bet for watching shoe carving or delftware painting.
Our Factory Experience
When we entered the factory, I was surprised by the fact that it was really just one large room. The bulk of the space is taken up by a giant gift store featuring the products created there and imported from Holland. Along the back wall are a series of glassed display areas filled with factory equipment. The left side is dedicated to the creation of delftware, which is the traditional blue and white pottery made in the Netherlands. The right side is home to various odds and ends of wooden shoe making. When we entered the facility at 4:00 p.m. on a Saturday, I was disappointed to see that none of the factory products were in operation. Fortunately, things livened up pretty quickly.
First, the woman in charge of painting the delftware returned from her break. We got to watch her paint floral prints on vases and mugs. Her artistry was excellent but I was shocked how fast she could paint the intricate images. She was painting items for some of the tourists visiting at the same time as us. Many of the delft items for sale could be personalized with a name or date for no extra charge.
Next, a nice employee saw me gazing wistfully at the non-moving parts of the wooden shoe machines. He offered to make a shoe or two so I could watch. I was thrilled, because I didnt want to come all the way to a wooden shoe factory without seeing a wooden shoe being made. About six or seven other guests gathered around. He let us hold the different kinds of wood and talked to us a little about the history of wooden shoes. We saw examples of shoes that had been worn out after three years of wear as well as blocks of wood that had turned out to be bad. Then the real fun began. After he closed the glass screen between us, we got to watch each step of the shoe-making process. First the rough exterior of the shoe was carved by machine to match a model. Then the inside was scraped out using another machine. You cant watch the whole process because the wood has to dry out for a couple of months before sanding, but it was neat to watch a crude block be transformed into that familiar wooden shoe shape.
The Gift Shop
As I mentioned above, a large proportion of the space here is taken up by merchandise. I actually didnt mind this too much because this was very interesting, quality merchandise that one doesnt see every day. A wide variety of delftware pieces were available, ranging from vases to full dish sets to decorative figurines. We purchased a brightly colored delft tile for our wall to commemorate our trip at a very reasonable $6.50. Most of the prices were in the affordable range.
There were also a huge variety of wooden shoe offerings. One wall allowed guests to try on authentic wooden shoes imported from the Netherlands. These were mostly priced around $40.00 per pair. Shoes made at the shop itself were sold mostly as souvenirs to hang on the wall. You could get just one shoe for $15.00 or less if you werent planning on wearing it. Tiny models of wooden shoes were also available for as little as $2.00.
Other Things to Do in the Area
This factory will not take you very long to tour. Allow perhaps a half hour to an hour, depending on how much time you want to spend perusing the merchandise. There are many other things to do in Holland to make a daytrip there worthwhile. My personal favorite Dutch attraction is Dutch Village, a nicely themed park where you can learn a lot about culture from the friendly and knowledgeable staff there. You can also check out Windmill Island or Vedhheer Gardens.
Directly adjacent to Dutch Village is the Holland Town Center outlet mall. You can literally walk there, so dont bother moving your car. The stores include GAP, Pfaltzgraff, and Reebok and the facility is very nice. Downtown Holland is also very nice with its trendy shops and restaurants, although many of them are expensive.
DeKlomp Wooden Shoe and Delft Factory is nice for what it is a giant gift store with some interactivity. I really enjoyed getting to watch wooden shoes being made, although I was disappointed not to see the delft-making process. It seems that what process you will see during your visit depends on how lucky you are. If you are in the area, however, this place is still worth a stop for its nice selection of merchandise and the possibility of catching an interesting demonstration. Plus, its free!
*Heading to this area? Check out my reviews of...
Dutch Village Theme Park
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Best Suited For: Couples
Best Time to Travel Here: Mar - May