In this guest post by Joe Donnermeyer, he shares an interesting discovery he recently made in Manhattan. Have you ever come across something like this?

In celebration of completing our regimen of Covid-19 shots and wanting to travel once again, my wife (Diane) and I decided to spend a week in a place where we had never been before – New York City. We booked the Wyndham in mid-town Manhattan on 3rd Avenue and East 45th Street, to be precise. Within view from our 28th floor window was the Chrysler Building, a marvel of art-deco architecture, and something else we did not expect.

On the same street as our Wyndham was an “Amish Market”! How did that get there? A quick google search revealed it was a business started by three immigrants from Turkey in the early 1990s who bought some fresh produce from farmers in Lancaster County during the business’s start-up years. So, they used the name for their enterprise.

Photo by Joe Donnermeyer

It was the first thing we visited. Reasonably priced food and a large selection, but could we find anything that was actually Amish made? Well, there was one variety of Swiss cheese with an Amish-sounding product name made in Lancaster County. That was all, out of thousands of grocery items! In fact, the current claim to fame of the so-called “Amish Market” is that a well-known hip-hop artist worked there as a cashier when she was a teenager.

A recent article in the Journal of Plain Anabaptist Communities by Kyle C. Kopko, Steven M. Nolt and Berwood A. Yost discussed the “appropriation” of the Amish name for political campaigns in Pennsylvania (see Volume 1, Issue 2 — In their article, they discuss the use of Amish images by political candidates in recent elections, a time of “increasing polarization” (page 52) of the political dynamics within the United States.

Any attempt to create a comprehensive collection of examples of how the word “Amish” is appropriated today would require several years of full-time dedication to the task. It is quite obvious in the various tourist meccas, like Shipshewana, Indiana, Berlin, Ohio and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Even smaller Amish communities, like the West Union settlement in southern Ohio, experiences a steady flow of tourists on weekend day trips by city people from Cincinnati and Dayton.

One does not have to travel far, however, to find examples of Amish name appropriation. Scan the meat shelves in giant supermarkets located in metropolitan centers like Columbus, Ohio. Within seconds, one will find meats, especially chicken, that claim to be Amish raised. Of course, what is not mentioned is that these Amish farmers are engaged in vertically integrated poultry operations or factory farms. They have signed contracts with various companies and the thousands of chickens in their poultry houses are raised in the same manner as non-Amish farmers with similar contracts would raise them. The company then appropriates the Amish name, and usually with a horse-and-buggy logo on the packaging.

The bottom line, whether it is politics or poultry, is to follow the advice of that proverbial phrase – “caveat emptor” or buyer beware – and that it applies to all things at all times when one espies the name “Amish” on a business sign or a product label.

Joe Donnermeyer
Professor Emeritus
The Ohio State University

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