I always tell people that if you are new in an Amish community, and want to meet the locals, the best thing to do is to visit their businesses.
Larger communities like Lancaster County and Holmes County have significantly more Amish businesses.
But they’re not as densely located or convenient to visit as in Ethridge, Tennessee‘s community of 11 church districts.
It seems every other place here has something to sell.
You know this by the simple signs posted at the ends of lanes, or where one road meets another.
When I say “business”, many of these are simply places selling food products, candles and the like.
These stores are very much the type that encourage a quick drop-in and a fun easy small purchase or two.
There may be a separate small building housing the business (common).
Or a stand.
Or you might have a situation like I did at the last stop in this community two weeks ago.
This home seemed to have a lot for sale.
As my brother and I pulled in, a man name Abe stepped out to meet us.
I asked about the canned goods. Rather than invite us into a building, Abe simply ducked into his home and brought out a tray half-filled with the canned goods they had available. We left with hominy and jam.
There are a good handful of furniture shops and chair makers.
Often, one place sells a variety of items. Peanut brittle and its cousins are everywhere.
You might come across a surprise, like this wooden basketball game.
The Amishman who makes these, Daniel Swartzentruber, showed them to us as we were getting ready to leave. Good upsell by Daniel.
You use the spoon to launch the ball into the hoop.
Daniel was able to score a basket on just his second try. He’ll give you one of these for just four dollars.
Many businesses will have homemade cards like this one:
A good idea is to pick up the Amish business map from the Amish Heritage Welcome Center.
Note: there is another business just a few buildings down which has a similar name but is not the original place.
Business offerings change throughout the year. You’ll see sign holders where boards display what’s available. Some may be empty if there’s nothing for sale.
Summer is a busier time for these places. In one shop where we stopped, we were the first customers of the day nearing 5pm.
The day before, they had also only had one customer.
A woman I spoke with said it is mainly tourists who stop in, not so much the locals.
The places on the tour wagon route probably benefit the most, and there are some nice stops there.
But I’d also encourage also driving off the main area near the Center and see what you come across.
There are 57 places listed on the map, but there are definitely more than that.
I wouldn’t be surprised if in reality there are 100 Amish homes where you can buy something – or perhaps many more.
This area doesn’t really have a dairy industry (produce is the way of things here as far as farming), so selling homemade foods and other items is an important part of the Amish economy, and they have really embraced it.
Despite being a very traditional community, the Amish of Ethridge are inviting outsiders onto their farms to buy their products.
In my experience the people are friendly, the things they sell are very reasonably priced, and of good quality.
All in all, when it comes to stopping off at random Amish stores and businesses, I don’t think there is a community where I enjoy doing this more than at Ethridge.