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)?