Several seasons ago, Rebecca Miller shared five ways Amish spend the Christmas season with us.
Rebecca, member of an Ohio Amish church, closed her list with this: “The main focus of the season is still first of all remembering Christ – the true meaning of Christmas, family, gift-giving, and helping cheer others.”
As Rebecca’s list reveals, for the Amish, there is a good bit more to this season than the commercial aspect. But they do give cards and gifts as well.
On that note, today Don Burke shares an experience spending the “Black Friday” weekend visiting stores in an Amish community in Missouri.
As I sit here at my keyboard it is early morning on yet another Black Friday Weekend – the 33rd such weekend that my wife and I have shared together.
In the course of raising two children and now enjoying three grandchildren, we have experienced our share of getting up before daybreak, innumerable stops at toy and department stores, shopping until well past sunset and even until the stores closed up, and all the other joys that are a part of shopping on Black Friday Weekends.
But one of our most interesting Black Friday Weekend shopping experiences happened five years ago, as we shopped in the Amish settlements of Clark, Missouri.
In a previous post I shared how we had made a passing visit through this community on Thanksgiving Day that same year. That visit included a stop at the Bontragers’ bakery and leather shops, both which were right on their home place.
We enjoyed a long visit with this somewhat retired Amish gentleman who now just helped in the tack shop that he once operated (now run by one of his sons). He was very engaging as he answered many of our questions about Clark and the Amish customs there.
While selecting goodies from his wife’s bakery, we noticed and bought a map of the Amish area.
The Clark community is quite conservative, as evidenced by a lot of open buggies, limited reflectors and SMV orange triangles, some buggies without windshield, the use of kerosene lanterns on buggies (for visibility at night), etc.
But apparently being conservative didn’t mean they were isolationist (as is sometimes the case), for they provide a map for visitors to be able to find their way around the community and its various shops.
So, with map now in hand, on our return trip towards home the following Saturday we decided to made a second visit through Clark.
And while shoppers in the English world were snatching up their remaining deals of the Black Friday Weekend, we opted to check out a few stores in the Amish world.
The Saturday afternoon was already about half spent by the time we arrived in the area. A thresher was shut down for its Sabbath’s Day rest after a week’s work.
Many Amish pressed on with their various chores ‘fore the last available light of day had waned – doing some late afternoon work on the farm…
…raking the yard…
…hauling in a few more benches for the service the next day…
or just making their last buggy excursions of the week.
In other words, life was going on as normal, and the typical hustle and hassle of Black Friday Weekend had not seemed to have reached this corner of the world.
The first store we visited was Lakeview Salvage Grocery Store.
As you can see, Lakeview was a full-size store – large enough to even warrant shopping carts.
Fresh melons, paper goods, bulk food, pantry staples, candies – all these and more claimed shelf space at Lakeview.
Regrettably I didn’t get the opportunity to find out what exactly “salvage” in the store’s name implied. Did it mean that everything in the store was salvaged dints-and-dings merchandise?
If so this would suggest that the items they stocked would be constantly changing depending on what was available. Or maybe they just specialized in those slightly damaged items, but also carried some regular staples as well.
The second stop was at Vernie’s Variety Store and Rubber Boots.
Vernie’s was located to the side and somewhat behind an Amish home (presumably the owner’s).
When we were there the store was staffed by a couple of Amish ladies, and unlike the retiring gentleman in the tack shop they didn’t seem to immediately warm up much to outsiders.
But for a relatively small store it did carry a surprisingly large selection of items for sale. Bulk foods, lanterns and glassware, health care items and others were allotted significant space in this store.
After Vernie’s we traveled over to Lefty’s Dry Goods Store. As I recall Lefty’s was little more than a small room or two in an Amish home.
Merchandise was slim, the windowless portion of the store was quite dim, and the conversation felt a bit forced — and all that combined for a less-than-five-minute stay here.
South Side Sales was our final store on this trip.
Like Lakeview this was a full-size store, offering bulk and canned goods, fresh produce, and even rocking chairs for sale.
The lady operating the store was more open to conversation than the previous couple of stops.
Through the years Black Friday Weekend shopping for my wife and me has meant different things at different times. Sometimes it was about finding a special must-have gift for one of the children or about considering various ideas for gift giving.
But to be honest, I don’t remember many of the items we purchased through all those years. Looking back what has stuck with me most was our spending time together with each other, and at times a chance to sit back watch the real nature of some people as they went about their task of Christmas shopping on one of the most stressful days of the year.
But on this one year we removed ourselves from the fast pace of the typical Black-Friday Weekend, and enjoyed spending the time together in the much calmer pace of Black Friday Weekend in Amish land.
And now that I’ve experienced Black Friday Weekend from the Amish perspective…the next question is how do I go about experiencing Cyber-Monday Amish-style? (Ha)