A writer for the Washington Post visits the New Wilmington, PA Amish community in this article.  It’s a pretty straightforward Travel section piece.  One paragraph did jump out at me:

Craftsmen and seamstresses advertise their wares with simple hand-lettered signs painted on scraps of wood — Furniture. Quilts. Jams & Jellies. Harness Maker — leaving you to discover the true quality of what’s for sale at the end of the dirt drive. It’s also the antithesis of the rest-area peddlers set up on Interstate 95, loudly advertising their “Real, Amish-Made Furniture!,” which I’ve always assumed must be fake.

New Wilmington Amish Rugs

Amish rugs at New Wilmington

I share something with the writer here–the louder an ad shouts at me, the more skeptical I tend to be.  When a pop-up takes over my screen, I’m looking for the “X” to shut it down posthaste.  These understated Amish signs speak a different language, a meeker, humbler tongue.  I think that’s what people find so drawing about them.  They seem to fit what outsiders expect from the Amish.  And they don’t make the hard sale.

Not all Amish business signs are scrawled in rough block letters, of course.  Some advertising is professionally done and looks indistinguishable from what you might see from an English business.  This probably has something to do with the clientele being marketed to, or the product being sold.  If I’m going to plunk down a few dollars on a pie or some produce, a charmingly clunky sign will do.  If I’m spending thousands on kitchen cabinets, I’d probably feel more comfortable meeting the company via a professionally-done ad spot–a hint from the get-go that this company cares about detail and aesthetics.

Amish Furniture Ads

Furniture ads in the Amish Woodworkers of America guide

That said, plenty of Amish woodworkers seem to be getting by with the quaint signs as well.  Some furniture buyers apparently don’t need the flash, even in this market.

There’s another interesting nugget in this excerpt–the bit about the sign “leaving you to discover the true quality of what’s for sale”.

Sometimes I’ve seen a sign, gone down an Amish lane and been disappointed. A couple of scraggly-looking peppers and an abundance of onions–but none of the tomatoes I was seeking.  Or a storekeeper who’s a lot less interested in chewing the fat than I am. You don’t know until you get there.  But that’s part of the appeal.

Have you ever been surprised, pleasantly or not, by the Amish business at the end of the lane?

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