Places Amish Do Shopping

Where do the Amish do their shopping?

Obviously, without a car in the drive, it’s not as simple as jumping behind the wheel and zipping to the store when you’re running low on sandwich bread or hairpins.

But Amish still have quite a few more- and less-convenient shopping options available to them. Here are five venues Amish people turn to when they need to buy something.

Five Places Amish Do Their Shopping

1. Wal-Mart

Large quantities, low prices? It’s no surprise that Amish shop America’s largest retailer.

For instance, it’s rare that I don’t see Amish people in the aisles when I’m at the New Philadelphia, Ohio Wal-Mart, about a 10-15 minute drive from the edge of the Holmes County settlement. For most, that one takes a driver to reach.

The one on the other side of the community, in Millersburg, is close enough for Amish to get to by buggy, over the Holmes County Trail or regular roads. As with many businesses Amish regularly patronize, there are covered horse stalls in the lot.

Buggy at Wal-mart

If you can’t get there on your own, you get some other Amish people together, get a van driver and make a trip of it. “Always Low Prices” are a big draw for Amish people just like they are for English.

2. Catalog

Shetler’s Wholesale is a popular catalog-based retailer operating out of northeast Indiana. It offers a number of appealing deals, including a 10% newlywed discount “For entire first year of marriage” or free shipping with orders over $150 (as of last year, at least). As you can see the bright neon cover color makes it hard to misplace.

Mail Order Catalog Shetler's Wholesale

Shetler’s catalog is packed with tons of items you might find in an Amish home–clocks, kitchenware, books, oil lamp globes and burners, toys and puzzles, fly tape and swatters, clothing items, knives, tools, wagons and more.

You can imagine the convenience of shopping by mail order if you depend on the buggy and hired drivers for long-distance transport.

Customers quoted inside the catalog praise the service for just that reason: “I can shop at home with my feet in the air” (Fredericktown, OH); “We can sit in the cozy warm and do our shopping” (Woodward, PA); “It means so much to a Mom with children if she doesn’t have to go out in town to do a lot of shopping” (Chili, WI).

With online shopping such a big part of the consumer experience, the dead-tree catalog has become a rare-ish sight nowadays. But outlets like Shetler’s continue to thrive offering their Amish clients a tried-and-true buying experience.

3. Visiting Salespeople

Traveling salespeople seem like an anachronism in a world of one-click web shopping and overnight delivery, but door-to-door salespeople still exist. As with catalog shopping, in this case the “store” comes to the buyer.

Door-to Door Salesman

While not as prevalent as they once were, direct salespeople still sell certain products. They seem to show up in Amish communities, which kind of makes sense.

I’ve heard of door-to-door salespeople selling cleaning products, smoke detectors, vacuums, Bible story books, and aerial photos in Amish communities. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Schwan’s man does alright in Amish settlements.

Not an everyday shopping experience, but seen sometimes.

4. Auctions

“Shop” may not exactly be the correct verb, but Amish people definitely like to buy things at auctions. Many have a theme; farm equipment, animals, furniture, and tools are common types of sales.

Not really the venue you depend upon for daily necessities, but a place to find an unexpected good deal or a nice price on a higher-ticket item.

More than any other venue on this list, socializing can be as much a reason to go as a need to buy something.

Attendees Rudy Gingerich Auction

Sometimes buying at an auction is not so much about getting something you need, as it is supporting a cause, like an Amish school’s funding or a hospital benefit.

Once, at the Clinic for Special Children auction, I watched two men bid up the price of a birdhouse, constructed by a boy with a rare disease, which Dr. Holmes Morton estimated “cost less than ten cents to make.”

The Amishman who won paid (donated) $6000 for the privilege of owning it. I wonder if the eventual bird tenants realized they were living in such high-dollar digs.

But I digress. Finally…

5. Local Stores (Both Amish and English-owned)

Amish-owned variety stores, bulk foods outlets, fabric shops, and bent-n-dents (to name a few) can all be found in Amish communities, especially the larger ones (but often the smaller as well). Unsurprisingly, Amish are heavy patrons. English people like these shops too.

Nauvoo Country Store

Proximity is even more important to the Amish than the rest of us since travel is less convenient. That’s why Amish also shop at other local, non-Amish-owned stores.

Plus, Wal-Marts may be everywhere, but not every Amish community has one in their backyard, nor do all Amish churches permit travel by hired vehicle (outside of emergencies). Patronizing a store owned by a fellow church member is also a way of supporting the community.

Images: Shopping cart- Kate Ter Harr/flickr; Wal-Mart- Micah Maziar/flickr; Traveling salesman- imlsdcc/flickr; Iowa Auction- Carl Oliver; Nauvoo Country Store- ShipshewanaIndiana