Is it wrong to sell using the Amish name?
I am speaking with someone shortly for a story on use of the Amish name to sell products. I’ve found this a topic people react strongly to. Doing anything involving the Amish name to make a buck is obviously exploiting them, after all.
I’ve also found that with reflection some see it differently. There are a number of topics like this, where there is sort of a sanctioned response or accepted belief about the Amish–Amish dislike tourists or Amish avoid technology or Amish love farming being other examples–but which are usually more nuanced in reality.
Reviewing the subject this morning, I decided to take a look back at an old post on the subject, on using the words “Amish Country” on products.
I came across a comment from Kathy Kuderer, who owns a Wisconsin Amish products business, from a few months ago. I thought it would be worth reprinting here. Do you agree with Kathy’s conclusions?
I am replying to all of the above comments about the non Amish labeling products or businesses as Amish or Amish Country. I own a small business in southwestern Wisconsin ”Down A Country Road Amish Gifts and Tours” and although I am not Amish, yes, I do use the name Amish.
I grew up having Amish neighbors, became friends with many Amish families and in 1994 with their encouragement I began a small business to sell their hand crafted products. It was at a time when many Amish families in our community needed to sell their products but did not want to have everyday contact with the English tourists. So after having the Amish build the first of our now 6 gift shops I began the business with the above name.
It has become successful over the past 18 years and we have been able to sell thousands and thousands of dollars worth of products for our local Amish families. While I have certainly not gotten rich, I have enjoyed working with them and having a business right here at home. Now….if I had not used the name Amish in my business title I can all put promise you that I would have failed in the first year.
You might say “too bad…you should because you are exploiting the Amish” but that is certainly not the case. The ones who would have lost out the most are the 45 Amish families who had high hopes of selling their products and having a bit of extra income. I can absolutely promise you without a doubt that they have made a far greater income than I have. If they were feeling exploited I don’t really think that the families would have continued to sell their products here for the past 18 years, nor condone the simple one on one car tours I do to their farms.
The fact is the Amish want tourism as much as the rest of us and they know that it is their name that draws people in. So people can talk all they want about products being authentic and whether or not something is of better quality because it has the Amish name on it…but when it comes right down to it most Amish folks know that they are a tourism draw and they enjoy the profits from it.
(Kathy’s site is downacountryroad.com)
Amish Stuff photo: Rose White/flickr
Comment on "Is it wrong to sell using the Amish name?"
I think Kathy lays it out pretty clearly–if the Amish near her want a “middleman” to sell their products because they don’t want to have to deal with the “English tourists”–in other words the Amish themselves set up the whole system—then how is anyone exploiting them or their name? I don’t see any problems here……
Is it wrong to sell using the amish name.
No, in the case mentione you are not selling imported products stating “made by Amish craftsmen” Because of their strong beliefs they need a middleman for their great products.
I think it’s wrong if you’re using the name and have nothing to do with them. Seems to me, using the Amish name to actually sell Amish stuff is just saying what you’re selling. For instance, the sign above that says, “Amish Stuff, etc.” probably sells Amish stuff and when people visit Amish country, they usually do want to buy some Amish stuff. We have a store here called “Catholic Supply” and it’s not exploiting Catholics, it’s selling bibles, rosaries, etc. We had an Amish man in Jamesport tell us though, when there’s a litter of puppies or kittens they want to sell, they take them up to the Amish Country store and put a sign up that says, “Amish puppies” or “Amish kittens” and they sell lickety split. So I think it works both ways. 🙂
But Kathy has been selling Amish-made products. What about the businesses that use the word Amish WITHOUT any Amish-made products in their shop? If it says “Amish” on the sign outside, it should not say “Made in China” on the products they are selling inside.
About the sign in your photo — How much of the STUFF in that store is AMISH and how much is ETC.? It’s just like all of the other words that have been exploited: All Natural, Hand Sewn (two hand stitches attached the “Hand Sewn” label), Hand Painted (decals with one little dot of paint applied by the seller’s sister).
reply to Roberta on "is is wrong to sell using the Amish name?"
Since the beginning of time there have been disreputable merchants trying to slip a cheaper or unauthentic product past a buyer. I guess the old saying “Buyer beware” is still viable, Roberta!
(I know what you mean, I have been in stores like that, too.)
If a product is not truly Amish - it's false advertising!
Yes, my family business was directly affected by a former employee infringing on our brand name (Unker’s) and when he was found guilty of trademark infringement in federal court, he changed his product to Amish Origins. He is not Amish; violated federal trademark laws; and is using the good Amish name to hock his goods. This is a black mark for the Amish.
He is quoted in the Pittsburgh Gazette, USA Today and Casper Wyoming paper that he is the original founder of Unker’s (false) and the original formulator of the product is Amish (false again). My dad is the original founder and formulator of Unker’s and this man used a similar formula and tried to sell it as Unker’s and now sells it as an Amish product. What a shame.
using the Amish name
Yes Kathy is absolutely correct. If it is aggreable with the Amish, this is helping them and the store owner also. I live in Ontario and what ticks me off the most is the stores that advertize Menonite furniture and in fact they are not Also then they think they can charge twice as much as the consumer thinks it is Menonite made. If I was Amish or Menonite I would sure put a stop to this. But if I had a store and the Amish/Menonites wanted to display their wares in my store, they are more than welcome.
I agree with Kathy 100%. We started our business (amishworkshops.com) in much the same way, with the encouragement of our Amish friends. We have been very careful to be respectful of their culture and have avoided using terms like “Amish this” or “Amish that”, choosing instead to focus on the term “Amish-made”.
Early on in our venture we heard an anecdote from one of the older Amish gentlemen in which he described a visit to his farmhouse by some English (non-Amish) women. When offered a class of water from the tap, one of the ladies remarked on how the “Amish water” tasted so good! His point was that stuff is just stuff, not “Amish stuff”.
But Amish-made, in most cases, means better quality. The Amish tend to care about the outcome of the product, and if it’s not right they’ll often times start from scratch to make it so. I believe this stems in part from Colossians 3:23 where Paul says, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” In other words, do your best to make it so nice that even the Lord will like it.
We don’t take advantage of our Amish suppliers. They set their prices and we mark up to make a small profit. It’s been a really nice experience for us because the people we work with are really great, a pleasure to do business with.
Keith at amishworkshops.com is very right about his Amish-made products being better made than elsewhere. I bought a belt for my husband from him (made by one of his Amish suppliers, obviously), and he was absolutely *thrilled* at the high quality of it. It cost less than half what a comparable belt would cost anywhere else.
And that’s what people have come to expect from genuine Amish products. So if a store is selling the real thing, I don’t think there’s any exploitation involved. On the other hand, if a store is using the Amish name to sell non-Amish-made crap, then it’s clearly wrong IMO. But there are going to be people who have no respect for the truth or any concern about the quality of what they sell. That’s just the way the world works, unfortunately. If I run across a place like that? I vote with my feet and walk out, take my business elsewhere. That’s the most effective way to not support what they do!
Quality products and good service
In the past I have purchased Amish made products directly from Amish craftsmen / craftswomen (is that a real word?) & from Amish merchants. I have always found the quality of the materials used and the workmanship to be outstanding. I have also purchased a few Amish made items from amishworkshops.com and found the same quality materials and workmanship in the items I bought, not to mention outstanding service.
So, YES while I do think it is wrong to use the Amish tag just to sell stuff; it is NOT wrong if you are selling genuine Amish made products and not some cheap, imported junk with an “Amish” label on it. In the examples of Kathy Kuderer and Keith James, both are collaborating with actual Amish folks to sell their products for them. Personally, I think that is a great thing.
I have no problem at all with someone who is working with the Amish using the Amish name. What I find hard to tolerate is the person who is using the name but is not connected to, in any way, with the Amish people.
I gave an example in a previous post some time ago about the Baptist Brethren lady who had no connection to the Amish other than dressing somewhat plain, letting people believe she was Amish just to get more sales. I have to question her Christian values and business practices. In my mind if you can lie about your faith structure to gain profits, what else will you lie about? And just what does that say about your faith in the first place? I believe the same could be held true for businesses that have no connection whatsoever to the Amish people, putting things like “Amish Style”, “Amish Country”, or “Amish type Recipe” and the like on products that have absolutely nothing to do with the Amish, for the mere sake of gaining sales. Truth in advertising went out the window a long time ago. Let the buyer beware!!
Would someone know more about the Baptist Brethren? Does it have something to do with the Old German Baptist Brethren? If it’s anything like the Amish, there could be quite a bit of variation in the subgroups. Sometimes German Baptists are asked if they are Amish or Mennonite, but, well, they are not really either one, even if the women wear a covering and some men have broadfall pants. Wikipedia mentions a horse and buggy Old Brethren German Baptist group in Trenton, Missouri.
In a June 2012 Lancaster County obituary, I noticed a picture of Blanche Eberly wearing a head covering. It said she was from Conservative Baptist Brethren Church, Rose Alley, Frystown, PA. Do all the women wear a covering there, or only a few?
Erik, I don’t know what else you would call this website if you did not use the word Amish. Buggy America? And if you are not highly paid for your work to post something every weekday here, we appreciate you “volunteering” to do that!
I do not know a lot about the Baptist Brethren or Old German Baptist Brethren except for what this lady had told me. She seemed to indicate they were one in the same, but there are probably some variations in church districts much like the Amish or Mennonites have variations.
I knew she was not Amish by the style of dress she wore. It was a floral print. And while cut and sown very similar she did have buttons on her dress as well. Her headcovering was very similar to the Amish here in Illinois. Someone who was not attuned to the fact that the Amish here never have floral prints or buttons would assume she was Amish when in fact she was not.
When I questioned her about it, her response was to me, as a Christian, shocking. “If they are not smart enough to know the difference and it gets me more sales, I do not care.” Putting the various groups aside, as a Christian only, it would be so wrong to portray yourself as something else to get more sales. If I were Baptist Brethren I would not be ashamed to speak up and say, “no, I am not Amish, I am Baptist Brethren.” “I wear modest apparel and headcovering because I believe we are told to do so in the bible.” And explain whatever is needed to make sure the customer does not feel like they are being deceived.
As far as their exact beliefs, I do not know. But Jesus does tell us in the bible not to lie, he does not give us any exceptions to that rule. One would think that any Christian/religious group would be putting their beliefs before business. Unfortunately, that ideal went out a long time ago even amongst some “plain” groups.
A different name for this site?
Lin good question, if that were the case I’d probably have to call it “Omish America” or “Ahmish America”. You know one of those things were they change one letter to avoid trademark infrigement 😉 As for the site it’s not quite volunteering but not getting rich either; I do appreciate your appreciation 🙂
Using the Amish name
I think how Kathy describes the situation is fine, but what really bugs me is when I see the advert for Amish Software! It makes me want to grind my teeth!
I believe there is a difference between acting as a middleman for Amish neighbors and simply capitalizing on the name in order to sell products. There are a couple shops here, non-Amish owned, but which more or less use the name to attract customers. They will say things like “Amish quality” or “Amish style”, even though the Amish no longer own the businesses. Do a search on Ebay for Amish quilts, and you find the majority of them are not actually Amish but use descriptions IMPLYING that they were Amish made.
Keith’s point about “Amish stuff” having some magical superiority to just regular “stuff” is well put. Good craftsmanship is good craftsmanship, regardless of whether it’s made by Amish, Polish Irish or what have you. Some Amish could not build a birdhouse; many others are excellent woodworkers. American Indians suffer from the same sort of unrealistically high expectations in certain areas, and also have non-Natives who use the idea that Native made items are inherently better, to sell merchandise to the general public.
Just a couple random thoughts from the increasingly humid jungles of NC.
Selling using the Amish name
If someone says their wares are Amish & they’re not, that’s untruth. If someone is selling a product that is Amish made, & you have permission of the maker to sell it as “Amish made”, of course its OK. Seems simple to me.
I buy Amish products from Amish folks only. Partly because it just feels real to hand my money to a bonafide Amish hand. That way they get more by cutting out the middleman’s cut, and I enjoy it more. Quite frankly, I appreciate their manners and dress as much as their products.
As long as it doesn't say made in China on the bottom.
MANY NATIVE AMERICAN CURIOS SOLD ON MACKINAC ISLAND ARE MADE IN CHINA.
There is a restaurant out here in AZ called Bylers Amish Restaurant. I went there and was very upset that it is not owned by the Amish. They also did not treat you as nicely as the Amish do in their restaurants.
This place has not been owned by the Amish for years. The service was terrible and the food was not very good. I suggest they take off the name and change it. Im sure they keep it to bring in business, but that is wrong.
Lee Ann, do you know if Byler’s was ever actually owned by horse-and-buggy Amish? I know some Old Order folks visit Arizona, but don’t live there permanently.
A double-edged sword
If “Amish” goods are presumed to have been well-made, with integrity, simplicity, natural materials, and skilled craftsmanship, why would the Amish not want their products to be known as “Amish”? But, as others have said, “Amish” is not a trademark protected by law (as is “Native American,” for example, when used to advertise products). When Quakers took Quaker Oats to court for capitalizing on their reputation for purity, honesty, and integrity, but without any connection to actual Quakers, the courts ruled in favor of the company, thereby linking the reputation of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) to the corporate practices of a company over which they had no control. Now Quakers are thought of more as a breakfast cereal than as a community of faith. It reminds me of the elderly Shaker sister who said she didn’t make furniture because she didn’t want to be remembered as a chair.
I agree with Kathy. What I don’t go along with are stores, restaurants, etc. that have Amish in their name and they have nothing to do with the Amish. I went into a place that was suppose to be an Amish restaurant and it had nothing to do with the Amish. The dinners weren’t even Amish recipes. Another time I went into an Amish store-it was not Amish owned and one of the objects I was going to buy was made in China. I did not buy it. There were not even Amish working there and there were none of the Amish handmade crafts there.
Amish Market NYC
There is an ongoing question with the “Amish Market” here in New York City. I can find no evidence that this is in any way connected with the Amish despite their attempts to link to Amish. As far as anyone I’ve ever spoken to this is one of those situations of trying to cash in on the name and lifestyle. If anyone knows any differently, please let me know. It is some sort of local joke that they are “Amish.” I think it’s horrid.
Greg to compound things there have been financial issues with the NYC Amish Market, including bankruptcy: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20110223/SMALLBIZ/110229949
This is among the more tangible Amish concerns with the name being used indiscriminately–damaging reputation.
Thanks- that’s pretty interesting. I knew the minute I walked in there (there is one 5 short blocks from my office) that it wasn’t real. But some peoploe here are easily fooled.
I had hoped someone else would have brought this up but what about those Amish gas heaters with the dressed-like Amish workers turning out furniture with the supposedly high efficiency heaters. Electrically it’s a physical impossibility defying the laws of naturee to but a lkittle energy in and get several times the amount put. Tell me that this outfit is a complete front. I cannot imagine it is rea land that these people are Amish. You must know something about their origin. I am almost embarrassed to bring this up but a large part of America who reads the syndicated Parade section of their Sunday paper is reading their only source of any sort of Amish information and they are swallowing this hook line and sinker.
Hi… I am Kathy…the Kathy quoted in the article. I appreciate all of your thoughts and comments. I am excited to continue to work with my Amish friends and neighbors. I have been working with them for over 18 years and enjoy everyday that I work in my business and most specifically with my Amish friends and neighbors.
The business has grown over the years and it now includes 6 gift shops. I continue to work with about 45 Amish families, but also about 20 other local crafters. I have also included some general gift ware into the mix within the shops. You may even find a “made in China” magnet if you look hard enough, as we do have a few souvenier items for those that are looking for that kind of thing. However, each of our shops has been built by our Amish friens with a full understanding of the products that would be marketed here at Down A Country Road. Each of our gift shops has a name on it..such as “The Amish Shop” , or “Emma’s Kitchen” or “Memories from Amish Country” and each contains what we advertise on our website and other promotional material. One of the gift shops has a sign on the outside of it that says that the building was built by our Amish friends, but all things Amish end at the front door. The sign goes on to say that the gift shop is filled with all kinds of locally hand crafted treasures for women…hand made purses, jewelry, scarves, etc.. So over the years we have sort of become this little village of shops at Down A Country Road… but we still speacilize in the things that we started out with over 18 years ago…and that is the hand crafted treasures from the Amish community. We hope to continue to enjoy the 25,000 plus people that visit us each season from May thru October on our rural farm near Cashton, WI. But most of all we hope to continue to provide a means of income for our Amish friends and neighbors as well as other local artisans. I welcome any personal comments to myself at my email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for sharing this Kathy, sounds like you’ve built some great partnerships with your craftsmen. I bet you hear the question “Is this Amish-made?” a lot.
The word “Amish” came about before modern trademark law. So barring outright fraud, anyone can use the word to describe their products.
Perhaps there is a lesson here for us?
We need to focus less on the “brand” of a product or a one word description of its maker, like Amish, Jewish, or Chinese. We should instead invest a bit of time to discern if we need the item at all, and if so, where the best quality is and who makes it.
One of my favorite shops I visited, End of the Commons General Store in Mesopotamia, Ohio, doesn’t use word “Amish” anywhere in its name or advertising. But clearly it has many Amish employees and customers, and sells a mix of products that both Amish and non Amish like.
A more subtle way to determine if a shop is "Amish"
From the many photos of Amish-owned shops I’ve seen on this blog and others, it appears that actual, Amish-owned businesses will clearly state, “No Sunday Sales” or similar words on their sign or schedule.
Sometimes subtle things like that tell you a lot more about the business and its owners than any shop name or brand could.
“No Sunday Sales” of course reflects Amish belief about the Lord’s Day. But I think you are right Ed, it is also a way of saying “Amish” in other words.
I’ve never actually been in that shop in Mespo but always loved the exterior.
I agree Ed… we have been in business for 18 years and have never been open a single Sunday. Our hours sign, our advertising, website, etc.. all state no Sunday sales/business hours. That is in respect for the Amish, but also for our own Christian beleif in celebrating the Lord’s Day.
It seems non-Amish and a few former Amish are more apt to use the Amish name in a business, than the Amish themselves do. Maybe they or their parents or grandparents were Amish at one time, and they carry over the work ethic and quality. Something better is expected when the word Amish is attached. A sign could just as well say “Troyer Cheese” as “Amish Cheese”. I have heard of Jewish bread and Italian bread, but not so much of Catholic cheese.
Alternatives to using the word Amish in a business name are the words Dutch, Country, or American.
I’m dropping by very late for this post, but as you can see from the name of my own blog Its tough to find a problem with using the word “Amish” for myself. But I have seen it used in almost poor taste like on a water bottle for example, so there is a line to cross I think. And I just did it to let everyone know what the blog was going to be primarily about. Richard from http://www.Amishstories.net
.....sell using Amish name?
I have always thought that the label “Amish” depends on how you view the Amish. Do you view the Amish as a community of faith or as a cultural group? Personally I tend to think of the Amish as a community of faith. I have never seen a “Baptist Furniture” store or “Mormon produce” in the grocery. In our area we have a large egg producer that sells ” Amish Eggs” (I’ll buy those eggs when I have seen the hens wearing bonnets!!) I tend to shy away from business that use Amish in their names unless I personally know the owners and the source of their products. It’s like every other aspect of life, buyer beware. Among my customers (I am a taxi driver for my local Amish community) none of the business owners use “Amish” in their business names, however in a nearby community I can think of one Amish owned business that uses “Amish” in the store name so I guess it is up to the people involved.
That’s all that is HYPOCRITES. I never seen so much deception as in the amish. They call the english man a devil. but the truth is they couldn’t survive without them.