“When the English get something, it’ll come to us somewhere down the line.”
So says an Amish old-timer in a recent article on Amish businesses in Daviess County, Indiana, entitled “For the Amish, primary currency is hard work” (http://www.courierpress.com/news/2010/mar/06/for-the-amish-primary-currency-is-hard-work/).
Taken by itself, he could be talking about technology or, say, the common cold. But in this case, the Amishman is referring to the economy. How Amish businesses are faring in the current economic climate is one of the main topics in this interesting piece.
Amish Shops in Southern Indiana
The article also highlights a few somewhat atypical Amish companies. Contributing to the piece are an Amish woman running a greenhouse, and an Amishman with a quilt shop.
While Amish women do operate businesses, entrepreneurship is much less common than among men. Greenhouses are typical businesses for females, as are food and produce stands. Quilt businesses are common among women as well, though in this case it seems you have a male owner (who teams with his wife).
The most unusual Amish firm in this piece, however, is Raber’s Wheel Works, which among other things makes buggies for Civil War re-enactments.
You might think this to be odd clientele for a member of a non-resistant group, but I take it as another example of the at-times puzzling degree of separation that Amish maintain with the world.
Related examples would include how Amish accept that their tax money will be used as the government sees fit, once it is out of Amish hands (“when a tax is paid, it is no longer our money, and it is not our responsibility to dictate how it is to be used”, see The Amish and the State, Paton Yoder, “The Amish View of the State”, p. 30); or how Amish furniture makers build entertainment centers and office sets meant to house televisions and computers that they would never own themselves.
At the risk of oversimplification, as long as Amish are not directly involved by personally owning an item or perpetrating an act, in many cases they see fit to be involved in some way, be it in business or relating to the government, and this seems to be the case with Raber’s. This does not apply across the board, however–a business establishment having to do with alcohol or gambling, for instance, would definitely be out-of-bounds.
Raber’s handles a variety of jobs besides Civil War pieces, and at the time of writing, the shop contained a popcorn wagon, mail buggy, and 100-year-old hearse.
On a side note, I’ve bumped into a number of “non-standard” Amish entrepreneurs over the years, in among the many wood shops and Amish construction crews. It’s always interesting to see some of the more creative venues where Amish entrepreneurs are applying their talents and drive.
For instance, an Amish alternator repair place once checked out my car. At least one Indiana Amishman builds those funky recumbent bicycles that seem like such a relaxing ride (never had a chance to try one out, I regret). I also used to buy an algae-sludge health compound you would drink by the capful from an Amish dealer friend. It was supposed to help my joints. They stopped hurting, so maybe it did.
Dinky’s Auction Barn
The piece also touches on some of the values that help Amish entrepreneurs succeed. Among other things, these include an aversion to debt and a belief in the value of working together with family.
Amish do take on debt when necessary, though it’s probably safe to say they are more cautious about overextending themselves than what we see in the non-Amish population.
Family, of course, is a pillar of Amish society. At-home businesses have allowed some Amish to preserve the family work dynamic long present on the farm.
I should also mention that the famous Dinky’s Auction Barn, which gets a mention in my book, appears in this article as well. Dinky’s is very popular among Amish in this settlement (more on Amish and auctions).
Dinky’s is a local institution, and a place where people come together to socialize, relax, and maybe do a little business on the weekends–that is, when they’re finished with the business in their shops.
Indiana Amish State Guide–a comprehensive guide Amish communities in the Hoosier State
Amish Furniture-Indiana–a directory of Amish furniture sellers in Indiana
Indianapolis Amish-made Furniture – a guide to Amish furniture businesses in Indianapolis
(photo credit: cropreality)