Judy Stavisky, author of In Plain View: The Daily Lives of Amish Women, paid a visit recently to the Amish community at Unity, Maine, with stops at a pair of businesses. The Unity community has been featured here and in other media fairly often in the past.
For example, here’s a look at some of the things that make Unity an atypical Amish community (which Judy also touches on below). The second business covered here, the Community Market, burned down last year but has happily been rebuilt and re-opened. I enjoyed Judy’s account as it was nice to get a closer look at some of the stores in the community, and see some photos as well (all photos by Judy Stavisky).
A store named “Charcuterie” (French for prepared meats) seems like a most unlikely partner with its Amish owner.
But in Unity, Maine (Waldo County), located about 90 minutes north of Portland, being Amish and owning a charcuterie shop blend seamlessly. Owned by Matthew Secich, Charcuterie is an homage to smoked meats and cheeses. His wife Crystal is ever present, as are his teenage children, one of whom was blacksmithing horseshoes the day we arrived.
Unity hosts a small Amish community, estimated population about 165, according to the Young Center, 2022 statistics. There are a handful of other enterprises in Unity – a large Community Market with bakery, a greenhouse, a tack store, and a shed builder among others. Charcuterie is tucked down a dirt lane, behind Backyard Buildings and Unity Wagon Works, not visible from the main road.
The roughhewn exterior, each plank and log leveled by hand, is a beautiful example of Amish artistry, simple and precise. My husband and I received a warm welcome along with a charcuterie sample upon arrival – a thick slab of savory salami and hunk of smoked cheddar cheese.
A broad smile from the owner Matthew Secich, greeted us, eager to learn our hometown location (Philadelphia) and curious about what brought us to this tiny burg. Charcuterie is a shop where visitors linger, sample Secich’s preserved meats and cheeses and then chat some more.
The dizzying array of the cured meats and cheeses hang far afield from most Amish stores, where mild cheeses are the norm. Thai Curry Coconut Sausage, Black Pepper and Onion pork preserved in natural casings and Candied Ginger Sausage all find a comfortable home displayed in tidy groups on a hand-hewn metal rack. Each flavor is ground by hand and prepared without the advantage of electricity.
“How do you make a choice of which sausage to eat tonight?” I asked politely.
“Whichever one is oldest,” Secich chuckled.
About a decade ago, Secich would have been found working alongside world acclaimed Chicago chef and restauranteur, Charlie Trotter. But these days, Matthew finds a comfortable role as owner and chef at Charcuterie. He and his family moved to Unity about eight years ago, seeking a new spiritual home in the Amish community.
How does Matthew refrigerate the meats to be processed and preserved? Frozen local lakes, of course! Ice is collected over the winter. Matthew and neighbors help haul the 80 tons of the frozen water to a well-insulated room attached to the shop.
I noticed that Matthew sports a moustache along with his long beard, facial hair on a man’s upper lip is not typical in Amish communities. Unity’s teenage Amish girls ride bicycles. And there is an Amish church building that used for services as well as hosting Amish K-8th grade school.
I was told that the church services are in English and the songs in both English and German, again not typical in Amish communities. But Matthew insisted that this community may be considered more conservative than some others.
“This community does not have a Rumspringa. Our youth are chaperoned,” and courting is supervised.
Charcuterie has become an unintentional gathering place for foodies on a quest for unusual food destinations. Other visitors read about the shop from one of the several articles written about Matthew, his smoked meats and cheeses and his spiritual journey. Still others are chefs, locavores, or curious tourists who heard about Charcuterie via an extensive grapevine.
Friday is bread baking day and folks were submitting their orders as early as Wednesday for fresh baked breads. Matthew, an accomplished chef, is a talented baker as well.
Charcuterie Hours: Wed-Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Best to call first for updated hours.
Unity Community Market
If you venture to Unity, Maine, the Community Market and Bakery is another Amish owned destination.
Here you’ll find a General Store filled with double axes, farm supplies, wood shims, kitchen ware, lawn furniture, clocks, wheelbarrows and lanterns, Amish hats and clogs, snacks and cookies, coal stoves and even handmade Maine lighthouses.
On Wednesday and Saturdays, Community Market beckons locals and visitors with the intoxicating aroma and handmade glazed doughnuts.
Community Market and Bakery
368 Thorndike, Rd, Unity, ME
Summer Hours: Monday – Saturday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm. Check Facebook for Winter Hours.
Judy Stavisky, MPH, M.Ed is the author of In Plain View: The Daily Lives of Amish Women (Herald Press), a book told mostly through the voices of Amish women met over the past 10 years, with 75 respectful images of Lancaster County Amish.
Here’s more on Matthew Secich’s story. If Secich doesn’t sound like an “Amish” name to you, that’s because, it’s not, at least not originally.