Couple to open ‘Fright Factory’ in former Elastic Corporation facility

Published 3:00 pm Thursday, September 10, 2015


Kevin and Vicki Ricke of Chelsea purchased the former Elastic Corporation of America facility off Alabama 70 in Columbiana this summer and plan to transform part of the facility into a “Fright Factory” venue. (File)


COLUMBIANA – A Shelby County couple has shared plans for the former Elastic Corporation of America facility off Alabama 70 in Columbiana they purchased this summer.

Kevin and Vicki Ricke of Chelsea bought the facility after no one bid on it during an April 30 auction, and took ownership of the building in July with a vision of turning part of the nearly 400,000-square-foot structure into a haunted house by 2016.

The couple had been looking for space to rent for a haunted house because their business, National Dry Out, on Shelby County 26 did not have enough room for one. They found out about the vacant Columbiana warehouse through the mayor’s office.

“We just have not had the time and the space,” Vicki Ricke said in a Sept. 8 phone interview. “We at least have the space now.”

Kevin Ricke said he was involved with Fright Factory, United Cerebral Palsy of West Alabama’s annual haunted house, in Tuscaloosa and wanted to try the concept in Shelby County, where he and his wife have lived since 2012.

Kevin has worked with haunted houses for many years and has a background in magic, he said.

The two-story warehouse seemed to be a good fit for a haunted house, with plenty of extra space to rent out to other businesses.

“We will be occupying about 5 percent of the building,” Kevin said, noting local realtor Mary Dunnaway will oversee the renting of the remaining office and warehouse space.

Vicki said the couple will call their venue “Fright Factory” and will cater to the “natural fears” of people of all ages.

“One of the unique things about the Fright Factory is, because of our Christian beliefs, it will be a haunted house but it will not be based on demonic type things,” she said. “It won’t be like any other haunted house in the state of Alabama, or really for that matter, around.”

Kevin said the site would also include a ride and would be open to people with disabilities.

Although the exact setup of the haunted house remains unclear, the Rickes have already started the initial prep work.

“We really had to do a lot of cleanup on the building,” Vicki said. “It had been unoccupied for seven or eight years. We’ve really had to come in and pamper it quite a bit to get it back into shape.”

Vicki said the couple is collecting photos and memorabilia from former plant workers to use in a tribute to them and the community inside the building.

“This building has such history with Columbiana,” Vicki said. “We have run into so many people who have worked here. We would like to take a space in the building and make a tribute to people who did work here.”

Vicki said anyone with photos or memorabilia from when the Columbiana plant operated may send them to the Rickes via mail at 455 Alabama 70, Columbiana, AL 35051.

“This is a well-known location because as recently as 2006, Elastic Corporation of America was reportedly the 11th biggest employer in Shelby County,” John Dixon, president of John Dixon & Associates, the warehouse’s auction company, wrote in a press release prior to the auction. “That year, the company closed the Columbiana facility and moved its operations to Central America. We’re hoping that a new owner can once again make it a productive part of the local economy.”

In addition, the couple plans to create an area honoring military servicemen and women, like Kevin, a Vietnam veteran.

According to Kevin, the original building, which was started in 1961, remains structurally sound.

“We have been extremely blessed with the building itself,” he said. “Most of it is metal and cinderblock.”

The warehouse sits on 9.05 acres and “is steel and masonry construction with metal halide lighting and ceilings from 14-30 feet,” the release read.

“Not so long ago, the plant employed at least 230 people,” Dixon wrote.

The Rickes are in the process of completing paperwork to rename the site.