Ever heard of Lehman’s? If you’ve been to the Holmes County Amish settlement, chances are you may have heard the place mentioned or seen it advertised.
I have visited two or three times in the past. The store, technically located in the Amish area of Wayne County, has a direct connection with the Amish, dating back to its founding.
It’s a really nice store, though it has always seemed to me more oriented towards non-Amish than Amish, in terms of the design and the types of things it sells.
However, while they do sell largely to non-Amish, the Amish in fact make up a good portion of the company’s business – both as customers and vendors.
A new article in Inc. gives a closer look at how Lehman’s operates. I learned several things I never knew about the business, which is now in its seventh decade – started by founder Jay Lehman way back in 1955.
5 Facts About Lehman’s
1. Amish are a good chunk of Lehman’s customers – The Amish make up 20% of Lehman’s retail sales. They are also wholesale buyers of products like gas-powered refrigerators. This statistic answered a question I had long wondered.
2. A second, smaller location is where most of the Amish shop – This is probably why I’ve never seen Amish in the Kidron Lehman’s store. The second store is in Mount Hope (under the name Mt. Hope Hardware).
This is more comfortable for Amish shoppers as the tourists can sometimes be “a little invasive with their cameras and their questions and even just staring,” explains CEO Galen Lehman.
3. The company started as a hardware store catering – at least in part – to the Amish – In the evenings, Jay Lehman would use a pickup truck to deliver products that were too large for Amish customers to take home by buggy. “I would do it until the houses had no more lights in them,” he explains.”Then I knew it was time to go home.”
4. Business has at times been driven by nostalgia, Y2K, and Preppers – “Nostalgia” was a big driver of business in the 1980s and 90s. The late 1990s brought another big boom with the impending Y2K situation and accompanying fears. The Prepper movement, and other “end-time panics” like the end of the Mayan calendar, have also driven sales. However the Prepper contingent has recently become less important to sales.
5. Many items are Amish-made – Roughly 250 of the company’s 1,600 suppliers are Amish. Jay Lehman says they now buy more from Amish manufacturers than they actually sell to Amish.
Lehman’s likes working with them “because they operate on a small scale and so don’t require huge minimum orders.” The other side of the coin is they usually don’t ramp up production if demand for a product spikes.
Amish-made products in the Lehman’s lineup include rocking chairs, wisk brooms, and croquet sets. The store website front page is currently featuring an Amish-made stovetop water bath canner.
Lehman’s serves both communities
While the bulk of the company’s business comes from non-Amish sources, I found it interesting that the Amish still make up a key part, both as customers and suppliers.
I have never visited the Mt. Hope store, but it makes sense that Amish would prefer the lower-key location.
Have you ever been to or bought something from Lehman’s (either store)?
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Lehman's in Kidron Ohio
Lehman’s is a wonderful experience not to be missed. We go every time we are able to go to Amish country in Ohio. There are so many things to see!!
It’s a really nice store. Apparently they have a cafe in there now, I must have missed it or it wasn’t around when I was last there.
My wife and I have made a stop by there on at least a couple of our passed through the area. And we ate at the small cafe there. I recall them having an particularly large soda-pop section with all kinds of different brands and flavors — many that looked to be nostalgic-themed. I’ve passed by the other store (Mt. Hope), but don’t recall knowing that it was connected to the main store. I don’t recall ever stopping and going in.
When I was an Amish kid back in the 50’s and 60’s, my dad used to take me to the Kidron livestock auction, which is right next door to Lehmans. We would go down stairs of the store to eat lunch at the lunch counter. That was a real treat for an Amish kid, because that was the only time I got to eat out. My favorite thing was an ice cream cone. lol We lived in the Ashland, Ohio community, so it was to far to travel by buggy, so dad would hire a guy with a livestock truck to take us there.
I was actually born in nearby Orville, Ohio, at the hospital there in 1950.I still have of kin that live in Holmes, Wayne, and Ashland counties. We moved to Ashland from Wayne county, when I was 6 years old.
Great memory, John! Thanks for sharing it.
Just curious, would you have lived in Ashland County as part of the Lodi-area Swartzentruber community, or would it have been the other community near the town of Ashland? I know they were both already around by the 1950s.
Sure Erik, we were part of the Ashland Swartzentruber Amish. I did have an uncle that moved to the Lodi Swartzentruber Amish, back then. When my family moved there, there were only seven families altogether. My grandfathe, also John Keim owned Keim lumber co. in Mt. Hope, back in the 30’s, all through the 50’s. I believe. We actually lived in Richland county.
I have been a customer of Lehman’s for many years. That is a very interesting article. Thank you.
Glad you liked it, Fred, I thought they did a nice job in the original article. I met Galen Lehman once at the store some years ago. Nice that this business has remained a family operation.
I’ve purchased from Lehman’s both in store and online. Good products. In talking to a dear friend of mine, an Amishman who migrated to Southern Minnesota in the mid 70’s and who is since deceased, he acknowledged that Lehman’s had most anything anybody would need but added slyly that it could be purchesed with less money elsewhere!
That’s a fun comment:) I imagine that is probably the case as there must be some overhead to running an operation like Lehman’s, but I’d also think for visitors especially the experience is part of the value. It’s a neat place to wander around in from what I recall.
But I’d imagine that the Amish contingent would know how to locate the best deal. Of course for some, depending where you live, convenience might beat having to travel farther for an item.
I purchased doll clothes and a wooden stroller and rocking chair from Lehman’s that were Amish made and a marble wooden toy and wooden tool set all were Amish made and high quality I also purchase my canning items at Lehman’s
I have visited Lehman’s in Kidron several times the past fifteen years. The first time I visited I was surprised that I didn’t see any Amish customers and much of the merchandise seemed to be not as practical for everyday life than I expected. I was again surprised on a visit about three or four years ago. When I pulled into Lehman’s parking lot, a Harley Davidson motorcycle club had pulled in just before me, parked their cycles (about 30 cycles) and the riders went into the store. Lehman’s draws a wide diversity of customers! At that time, Lehman’s also had a “discount store” in a small building in back of the main hardware. In that part of Lehman’s, it seemed like the merchandise was overstocks, closeouts, slightly damaged items, etc. I enjoyed looking around that part of Lehman’s.
One time I visited, I went over to the store that John Keim mentioned and had lunch. I asked a non-Amish person there if many Amish people shopped at Lehman’s in Kidron. She said she wasn’t sure, but she knew that many Amish shopped at Lehman’s Mt. Hope Hardware. I then went over to that store and most of the merchandise seemed more practical, items that would be used in everyday Amish life.
I guess you might call my husband and myself aging hippies. We were turned onto Lehman’s way back. I can’t remember if it was before or after we got married (1979) since we used to get all sort of catalogues about simple living while we were still dating back in high school. Back then, we thought we’d move off grid somewhere. Instead, we stayed on Long Island where we live(d) without any electrical appliances except the refrigerator, the washing machine, and eventually lights, and we homeschooled our daughters. We loved the Lehman’s catalogue (still do) and depended on it for so many non-electric hand appliances, and wood toys for our daughters when they were young. Our neighbors thought we were a bit odd and often told us some crazy things. Like our cesspool overflowed because we didn’t watch tv, or we got the flu because we used a push lawn mower. You have to wonder at their reasoning. Some of the comments really made us laugh, they were so off-the-wall. Long Island is not a hotbed of simple living. We’re also Quakers and always tried to live the Quaker simplicity testimony in such a way as to include doing as much by hand as possible. (As a side note, we’ve also always had a computer since 1983, before most people, because I worked as a graphic designer.) Anyway, Lehman’s has been a part of our lives for more years than I can remember and is still my go-to if I need something non-electrical. Although I have to admit that now I often use it more as a reference. Oh, people have either gotten used to us or enough other people are attempting to live more simply, so that we don’t get the same comments. I’m glad Lehman’s is still around. I enjoyed there article.
Been There Many Times
I go to Holmes County every year and have bought several items at Lehmans, mostly kitchen items, books, and I also bought Dutch Blitz there. I’d read about Dutch Blitz in several Amish Christian fiction books – I’m not very good at it but it’s fun. I know what you mean about the tourists, once I saw a young Amish couple there with a baby and an English woman kind of waylaid them. She talked at them for a long time and asked what I thought were personal questions, which I also thought was kind of rude. But anyway it’s a neat store, highly recommend it. Just give yourself time to go through it!
Like Georgie, my wife and I started enjoying the Lehman’s catalogue back in the 70’s – and still do. In those days, it was a lot of fun to be able to sit with one or more of our respective grandparents and parents, and hear some great stories prompted by some of the product listings in the catalogue. Sure do miss those dear folks who are not able to be with us at the table anymore. Leafing through the catalogue these days remains interesting and has the added bonus of being reminded now and again of some of those family stories, inasmuch as some of the products are mainstays. Erik, as always, thanks for all you do to provide all of us the considerable enjoyment gained by following your blog.
Thanks for the nice shout out to Lehman's!
It was great to read all your comments – thank you for sharing.
Glenda Lehman Ervin (daughter of founder Jay Lehman, and VP of Marketing for the company)