So after I visited Charlotte County, Virginia in April, I wrote about a local Amish variety stand. In that post I mentioned the following, about a different place:
As I finished up my purchase, the girl directed me to a dry goods store not too far away. After she gave me directions explaining that it was down a long lane, and I was confident I had a pretty good idea where it was, I closed by saying they probably have a sign by the road, correct?
No she informed me, no sign. Why not? It is mainly an Amish-patronized store. That is the case in some places. The vast majority of the business of such stores comes from the local Amish community, so they don’t advertise much to the public.
I asked her if English people still go back there, and she said she thought they did, so I went for it (I probably would have gone either way). I’ll share that visit with you in an upcoming post.
So I left Esh’s stand that afternoon, and headed over to the dry goods place. The Amish girl’s instructions were sound, and I found the long lane she had described.
Following it back back back, I came to a farm tucked away well off the road, surrounded by patches of woodland.
There was a small gray trailer-like building on the right as I pulled in, which happened to be the shop. There was not much in the way of markings indicating it was a shop, so I had to knock at the farmhouse for someone to direct me to the right entrance.
There was also a van parked in the lane. I recognized that this was a driver who’d brought a load of Amish to do some shopping that day.
As I entered the place, the woman behind the counter seemed a bit surprised to see me. I explained that the girl at Esh’s had told me about the shop and where to find them, and asked if it was okay to visit.
She said yes, and so I proceeded to browse around for five or ten minutes. The shop was cozy, with items including fabrics, clothing, and housewares filling its interior. There wasn’t a lot of room to navigate in the place.
I didn’t speak much to the woman, though I made an attempt or two at small talk. The other customers in the store began finishing up. I had found several items I was interested in purchasing (see below).
As I was about to check out, I noticed a single faceless doll hanging pinned by clothespin to a line strung below the shop ceiling. I asked about the price, which wasn’t visible. She replied that they usually just sell those to their own people.
I took that as a hint that faceless dolls are not for sale to English here and dropped the topic.
I wouldn’t say I wasn’t wanted in the place, but I wouldn’t say it was entirely comfortable, either. I think the woman was just not used to having English patrons.
I’ve had the feeling on occasion in other Amish-owned shops, though I wouldn’t say it’s common. I know other readers here have mentioned something similar in certain Amish places.
They don’t advertise the place and so I’m not going to do so either (I don’t even know the official name, if it has one). But I’ll say the owner has a nice little place which I’m sure the local Amish appreciate having around. I picked up several interesting items, one of which in particular I’ve gotten a lot of use out of.
What I bought
First of all, how about some practical black socks. Levi Miller is a brand of Weaver’s Apparel. This is the former company of Daniel Weaver (now with new owners in Lancaster County):
I liked the message of this bookmark. Psalm 31:24:
This card caught my eye. It is postcard-sized:
But it’s not a postcard. On the other side, another listing of the books of the Bible:
Finally, my boontonware bowl. Boontonware, a brand name for dishes made from melamine, was once in common use but faded in popularity after the 1960s. It remains popular in Amish households. It’s durable and simple. This blue flecked pattern is a classic.
Amish families often use these bowl-style dishes as they are practical for meals consisting of soup or gravy. Also dessert can go right in after you’re done, no need to clean it first (though I usually do). For me, it’s been good for big bowls of cereal:
Here’s my receipt:
So that was my visit. Have you ever been to an Amish shop that you’d consider “off the map?”
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I like to visit the little stores the folks have. Never been to one that wasn’t advertised by the road. The prices of the goods and baskets are usually very good. Would be neat to go to one that was “out of the way” if outsiders were welcome at it.
Kathy your comment gave me the idea just to simply ask at an “on the map” business if there are any places in the community that aren’t advertised, that mainly just the Amish go to. I’ve never directly asked about this (I often ask where the businesses are, but not specifically the unadvertised ones). I usually prefer the ones where they’re expecting me, but I think these can be neat to visit on occasion as well, as long as I’m not stepping on any toes by being there:)
Thought you would like this article from an insider of fake Amish “reality shows”.
Thanks for this article, AJ. I just read it. Pretty powerful story.
Looks like the author was discussing the Amish: Out of Order program. Revealed a lot of the behind the scenes that you would suspect goes on in the reality programs. Much or most of it scripted.
With that one, Breaking Amish, and Amish Mafia, there was a 5+ year run of this “reality” “Amish” TV. I believe the latter two were worse as far as content however, though I didn’t view much of any of them (and now I’m not sure, after reading this article…).
We did do an interview at the time with Mose Gingerich, who was involved in Amish: Out of Order. I found Mose to be sharp and thoughtful. https://amishamerica.com/mose-gingerich-amish-out-of-order/
The part about Cephas Yoder, the young man tragically killed in a car accident during filming, is sad and tragic. His death became the series’ “centerpiece” and I can see why the treatment of it caused the article writer to leave the industry.
Mose wrote a memoriam to Cephas on his blog: https://www.amishinthecitymose.com/cephas-yoder/
About 15 years ago I was on a group bus trip to an Amish area in Indiana. We were taken to a good sized cement block building on a back road. There was a small handmade sign, but I don’t remember the name of the store. There were several Amish shopping there. They sold everything from dishes to harnesses, to fabric, to stoves and refrigerators. I bought a beautiful solid maple lazy-susan for my table for only $10 and I still use it. It was a fascinating experience,I will never forget.
Amish Stores - Penna. and Otherwise.
I’ve had no problem buying the faceless Amish dolls.
I’ve bought some at Amish auctions I have attended.
One pair I gave to an older Amish gentleman I know, who indicated he would give them to his grandchildren. He seemed quite tickled that I would give him the dolls for his grandchildren.
Also, there is a hidden Amish store down around the Danville, Penna. area.
It is owned / run by Amish family, who have relatives in the Seneca Falls, N.Y. area that I know.
It is quite the nice store in my opinion. I have bought a number of items there.
I can always find something unusual / unique when I visit the store.
Can’t just now remember the name attached to this particular store.
I have heard from others that buying the dolls is not usually a problem. This was the only time I have tried. Maybe my unexpected presence and the fact I was curious about the doll combined to seem strange to her. I don’t usually go into great detail that I have a site on the Amish, where my interest comes from, etc. when I first meet someone, though I’ll mention it sometimes if the conversation goes well and there’s a comfort level.
This made me recall another “hidden” Amish store in Hardin County, Ohio I came across years ago.
I have been to many local Amish shops and stores in my area.
Most of the Amish in my NE Ohio community have small stores or businesses in their barns or dedicated outbuildings.
Some mostly cater to Amish, but since I usually visit with Amish friends I haven’t ever been excluded.
The stores or businesses include: Groceries (include dented or expired items for cheap); boots & footwear; fabric (for Amish); health nutrients (which I cannot even guess at); upholstery / heavy sewing; candy; bakery; hunting bows & supplies; and small engines and repairs.
There is an Amish store just over the state line in PA that caters to Amish but willingly sell to English.
There is also an Amish store that caters mainly to English (local and tourists). They boast a bakery (which has fresh bread and other items everyday, and donuts on Saturday that folks line up for). There is also a very large store by Andover, Ohio call Cherry Valley that caters to tourists, Amish, and all the locals.
They sell ALL kinds of things from furniture, clocks, food, and bulk goods. We always take out-of-town visitors there.
Thank for your posts as it is interesting to see the differences between the communities.
Most of the Amish I know are Old Order although there are a couple of different orders not far from me. The stores that cater to the English are run by other orders.
Interesting comment, Mary Beth. Andover, Ohio – would that be the Nebraska (white-topper) Amish settlement?
Thanks for reading and I’m glad you found us!
I am a driver from the Amish in my area and am often in off the map stores. Thankfully those I drive for love the shop and when you drive for them you get to know all the little places hidden away.
I do know the feeling when you go to a place not often shopped by English they are not as talkative and kind of get the feeling sometimes your intruding if I’m not with my Amish passengers. one not off the beaten path mayville fabric in Holme county gives drivers free candy bar.
I have found several things we don’t see anymore in stores that the Amish still use and I remembered having in our house as a child. I find it fun and fascinating to find these little shops.
I liked that detail about the free candy bar for drivers, Dalynn. A nice thoughtful gesture that I’m sure is appreciated. Really neat you have the chance to see a lot of these places. Makes you wonder how many there are out there.
Off the map amish sites
In a recent trip to Wisconsin, we were very hopeful to visit Amish communities. We were there for other reasons as well so our time was limited.
As I researched the Amish in Wisconsin, it indicated that most of the Amish lived in Cashton?…. (think that’s the spelling). So, as we were leaving the state that day and Cashton is near the border of the Western side of Wisconsin, we thought we’d visit. Sadly, our trip was a big disappointment.
First of all, the so called listings that were advertised on Google as “amish”, were anything but; they were Americans trying to sell Amish things; a tourist trap. We asked both the owners where the REAL amish were and both acted like they didn’t want to give out the information, but they said just enough, that we found it on our own.
There really are many Amish in Cashton, beautiful back roads and a community,off the beaten path; I think they prefer it that way. We drove thru the area and saw many signs of little shops here and there, but unless you know the days the stores are open you could be wasting your time since they don’t advertise. I don’t remember the day we were there (maybe a late thursday afternoon), but whatever day it was the shops were all closed, except one.
We saw a sign selling baked goods and decided to check it out. We drove down a road and went up a long tree lined driveway. We didn’t really see a store or sign, but saw an amish man back by the barn. He motioned us up toward another door and said he would be with us in a moment. The baked goods were in a little room off the front of what must’ve been their home. It was a little musty for me personally. I wondered how fresh the baked goods were. The man was very kind and my husband and I talked with him a bit. Only thing I remember buying was some spearmint leaves for tea.
We love the Amish people, rich or poor and pray for them all. All I can say is if you go to Cashton it might be hit or miss depending on what day or time of day that you visit.
This week however as we are traveling thru Ohio, we went thru West Salem. Because it’s August and produce is in abundance, especially sweet corn, we had a lovely experience with 2 unadvertised Amish produce stands AND a young man on his way to a produce auction!
The produce was great and very good prices. We got 12 ears of corn for only $3, another bag of produce from a man named Menno and a large beautiful cantaloupe fresh off the wagon from a man on his way to market! The Amish people in West Salem are probably not noticed much since everyone goes to Mt.Hope and Sugarcreek and other popular spots, but the Amish in West Salem are kind, hardworking and trying to build community where it is more affordable. Hope you will go and visit and support their roadside businesses!
Great comment, I think it points to part of the fun of visiting Amish businesses – it can be hit or miss, and you’re not sure what you’ll find each time. I think as long as someone is prepared for that, it can be well worth the trip. But true if it’s possible to find out if many of the stores have the same “off” day during the week, that bit of info could be quite useful.
Off the beaten path
Not quite as off the path as your story, but we saw a small sign at an intersection advertising Amish hickory rockers. We found the house, back a long drive, obviously an Amish home. We talked with the owner/chair maker, and had to order 3 rockers. He said it would take a few weeks, but with no phone, we had no way of knowing when they were ready, and we lived 90 miles away. He said to write him a letter telling him when we planned to return, and he would have them ready. It was quite odd walking around his property with him, all the while feeling somewhat intrusive, as someone else posted. But, we gave him plenty of time, wrote him, and showed up to pick up our rockers, which were ready! A great experience.
Fantastic story, Richard. How many businesses today would request you write a letter to let them know when you’d like your order? 🙂 No doubt that added to making this a memorable experience. I have a soft spot for hickory rocker businesses, with their rustic look they are not the most precision-crafted of Amish furniture pieces, but I think that adds to their charm. I got one for my father 14 years ago from an Amishman in Holmes County.
Off The Map
I like the long road into the area where shop was located; so peaceful.
Amish shops always have interesting items and truly enjoying finding unusual items, like the bookmark and Books of Bible card.
I hope to visit there one day.
I think there may have been a couple properties back there. It was quite hidden away. In general it’s a beautiful area, I plan to share some more photos from my two spring trips to this community.
I have about 6 of those same bowls, 3 blue and 3 green. I got them at my local Mennonite Bulk Foods Store in Lewis County, NY, Nolt’s just outside of Lowville, NY. They have lots of Amish and Mennonite items, including many hand made baskets.
I enjoy eating from my bowl. It has a different feel from standard plastic (I guess it would since the material is technically melamine formaldehyde). Also I like the size of this bowl, I don’t have to worry about overfilling it.
We were visiting La Plata Missouri and struck up a conversation with a friendly older Amish lady waiting for Amtrak. She was on her way to “doctor”in Mexico. She invited us to her store in the area. Her niece would be running it while she was out of town. She gave us directions and specifically said she had no signs. She said it was to prevent the state inspectors from visiting. We didnt make it to her store but did find many others in the area.
That may very well be the reason for some of these places being “off the map”. This is also how some Amish home meal businesses have operated, with no advertising or signs.
It never occurred to me that an Amish business might not advertise or use signage in order to keep state inspectors away, but it makes perfect sense. Helps keep them “off the grid.” Ingenious idea, and one I respect.
I visit the Amish stores, bakeries, etc…. about once a month in Clark, Mo.
I’ve been to their produce and quilt auctions, and the majority of them have been very friendly.
I bought a pup from an Amish man in December for my son. The man didn’t know when she was born or what breed she was as a close by farmer gave them to him to get rid of. Well, this little girl went straight to the vet for shots, deworming and two baths! She now lives downtown DesMoines, Iowa.
I’d like to show pictures but I don’t know how to on this site.
I really enjoyed this post, thankyou. I loved the speckled bowl and I also own a similar bible books card. Where I live in New Zealand there are no Amish, so my only experience was when I visited America a few years back. A friend took me to Berlin, OHIO? I think that was the name of the town and we visited a bakery that was off a main road, up a narrow road and there was the bakery, which was pretty rustic looking on the outside. Obviously they’re not out to draw people in by a fancy building. Once inside delicious aromas greeted us and the interior was quite homely. Young Amish girls were bustling about serving customers. It was quite busy. They had tables where people could sit and eat too. I got a giant whoopie pie..oh my it was so good and lasted me all day !!. I loved that the store was so different to what I am used to here (fancy). Obviously they are known for their great baked goods and that’s enough to draw people in.I’m sorry I can’t remember the name of the shop. Probably something like ‘Millers Bakery’ 🙂
Glad you liked it, Linda! Yes that would be Berlin, Ohio (fun fact: the locals pronounce it with the emphasis on the first syllable: “BURR-lin”). Glad to hear you had that experience, that is a great community.
Yes you’re quite far from Amish, and I know this is about your next-door-neighbor country, but I thought you might find this post and the linked article interesting: https://amishamerica.com/amish-in-australia/
Amish in Australia
I remember that article you posted, it was a great read. Thank you
I can understand...
As I come to the end of a vacation (not to Amish Country this time, unfortunately) I think I can understand why no sign at the end of the road. Tourists can be a royal pain in the butt under “normal” circumstances. During this trip, I’ve been frequently amazed at some of the things I’ve witnessed in terms of tourist behavior and attitudes. I can well imagine what the Amish must sometimes endure.
It is such an honor to find these “off the map” places… or even to find oneself accepted in a more intimate way at “on the map” places. Personally, I try not to think of myself as a tourist but rather a guest. We have more to offer than our tourist dollars if we so choose. That includes respect and a willingness to accept others–as many commenters have demonstrated on this thread. While I think I understand the big picture around tourism and the Amish, I still occasionally wonder why they put up with some of us!
Good points here, Walter. The “tourist” label often feels close to a pejorative, but I understand it’s not just about that, it’s about the mentality you bring to the interaction with someone. In the right situation, you can leave something of value behind too (besides $$).
Though this particular area doesn’t really have much in the way of tourists (it’s only 2 churches in size) in general, I find that these stores can be seen as both a business and a service tailored to the local Amish community. I’d think it’s really useful to have a place where you can get fabrics, plain clothing, housewares and all sorts of other goods which align with your culture and lifestyle. I also think if I were Amish living in a small settlement, I’d really appreciate someone running a place like this.
This store stands in contrast to the store of my friends in nearby Halifax County, which is advertised, much larger in size, and well-patronized by both the local Amish and the non-Amish community: https://amishamerica.com/kings-kountry-store-amish-variety-halifax-county-virginia/
I’ve never been to an “unadvertised” Amish store patronized by only Amish, but I’ve been to such type of stores in several Amish communities that are patronized by non-Amish as well as Amish. I’ve learned about these by word-of-mouth from non-Amish residents of the areas.
I had an interesting experience once at an Amish community in Minnesota. I went to an Amish auction and struck up an interesting conversation with an Amish man I was standing beside.
I asked him if the Amish in that area had a bent-and-dent salvage
grocery store. He said that they didn’t but he had Amish neighbors who ordered many big boxes of salvage groceries once each month, spread them out in their living room and then many Amish from the community went to their home for one or two days and bought groceries. He said the neighbor had gotten that month’s order just the day before. I asked him if any non-Amish people from the community ever bought things, and he promptly answered, “No, I don’t think so, but you’d be very welcome to go yourself.” He proceeded to give me directions, but I couldn’t find the place because the area was very hilly, and the roads weren’t clearly marked.
Besides having unadvertised stores for mainly Amish from the community, I think in many Amish communities there are individual households which deal in one or two items needed by the community
such as plain eyeglass frames, pocket watches or sewing supplies. I know several such people; none have stores but all keep fairly busy selling these items to fellow Amish in their communities.
I live in central New York and have Amish neighbors. I drive them places occasionally and have been introduced to several of their community’s out of the way shops. All the items mentioned in the prior comments seem to be available at one shop or another. No signs on the roads here too unless it’s for harnesses, furniture or greenhouses.
Directions to the Off The Map Amish Dry Goods Store
We have a camp in Halifax County, Va (Nathalie, Va.). (across the Staunton River from Charlotte County). Many of my neighbors are Amish. We have really enjoyed getting to know them. We find them to be open and welcoming, as long as people are not judgmental or pushy. We have not ventured out into the Amish community of Charlotte County, but have wanted to.
Does anyone know the location of this Dry Goods Store.
Amish and Mennonite in PA and Ohio
I lived in PA for 8 years. My ancestors were Mennonite so I purposely accepted a position there because I wanted to visit and see how they lived. We went to Lancaster area first, because the genealogy I had indicated our family had lived there in the 1700-1800 era. We drove lots of back roads and found a church with a cemetery in the back. We found some very old grave markers with family name…I was so excited!! We were definitely in the right area! Down the road there was an Amish store….I had the best ice cream of my life there!! The farm was up the road from the store. The Mennonite girl at the counter greeted us and we bought a few things and then I told my husband “too bad its 10:00 am, ice cream would be nice!” She said “it’s never too early for ice cream” and proceeded to go to the ice cream counter so we could decide….seriously I’m an ice cream connoisseur…it was the BEST. Those cows had to be jerseys! We actually found a lane that some of our old family lived on. We felt like we couldn’t intrude because it had been over 100 years since our branch of the family split. Now, I wish I would have at least knocked on the door and introduced myself. We went to a Mennonite education center so I could learn more about my heritage. We also spent quite a bit of time over in Ohio in Berlin, Sugarcreek and the small towns there. I would live there permanently if I could. The shops are great the pace of life is slower…there are jersey cows and ice cream everywhere. We stopped by a field of cows and I petted one and called the herd. They came and I rubbed their ears and scratched their necks. I figured out why I will always be a country girl…no matter where I live…it’s in my gene’s! I truly miss it now that I’m back in Wyoming.
Amish 'convenience' local stores
When local Amish communities get just so big, of course the need for household items encourages further investment by some folks to provide these essentials.Though Wal-Mart still gets a big share of Amish $! The profit margin must be slim I imagine. For persons who need lamps & oils, drip coffee pots, canning provisions& whatnot, I would definatly look into that Amish store connection!