How One Amish Store Is Staying Open During COVID-19

Wednesday doughnuts have been canceled for now. But the Community Market in the Amish community at Unity, Maine remains open. Bangor Daily News visited owner Lewis Brenneman’s store to give us a look at how the Amish market is operating during this time of coronavirus.

Traffic to the store is down, Brenneman says, but sales have remained steady – probably due to people stocking up on things like eggs and cooking products.

The doughnuts, which attract crowds, are no doubt missed. Brenneman stopped making them in order to reduce the number of people congregating at the market.

Photo: Abigail Curtis/BDN

For those that continue to walk through his doors, he is taking some standard safety precautions:

Brenneman, 33, has taken to wearing black plastic gloves as he moves through his old-fashioned store, and has placed both a Plexiglas barrier and a plastic table in front of the checkout counter so that there’s a little more breathing room between him and his customers.

Interestingly, he observes that people have become somewhat friendlier since the start of the coronavirus situation. This is something I have heard others say as well.

Brenneman explains his approach:

“I see a lot of fear and panic out there, from people really worried about what’s going to happen,” he said, adding that he’s not too worried about his own health because he’s relatively young and healthy. “To me, it doesn’t look like it will kill me. But I see myself as having responsibility to my customers, my community and my family, of course.”

What about the Unity Amish community as a whole? Church services “have mostly been suspended,” which I don’t quite understand, because this is a community of just one district. Maybe that just means it is a temporary suspension, which could be renewed.

By the way, if the name of this settlement rings a bell, it might be that you recall the piece several years back on local Amish convert Matthew Secich’s upscale meat and cheese business, Charcuterie.

Prior to that, a reader shared her visit to the Community Market and other Amish businesses, including Living Grains Bakery.

Photo: Abigail Curtis/BDN

Brenneman says he has been following the recommended 10-person gathering limit – which is, for obvious reasons, difficult in the Amish community – as one FB commenter pointed out:

Our neighbors are informed but don’t panic. When I informed them that the Governor said no groups of more than 10 people their reply was that they have more than that sitting down to breakfast.

Brenneman closes with this:

“There’s certainly a sense of what’s going to happen, and there’s a lot of unknowns out there,” he said. “I don’t think we need to fear. We do trust in God and God will take care of us. And if we’re ready to die, we know where we’re going.”

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    3. Catherine Segal