Visiting an Amish Grocery & Variety Store (24 Photos)

Let’s take a look inside some Amish food and variety stores today. These stores are in the community at Kalona, Iowa (photos by Jim Halverson). Kalona itself is a sleepy-ish town lying next to one of the country’s oldest Amish settlements.

Amish settlers first came here in 1846, even before there was a town. Today they number about 1,400 in 11 church districts. Within that group, there is a New Order Amish community as well. It’s a nice place to visit, though a bit off the beaten path. There are a good number of Amish businesses serving both the local Amish community and non-Amish customers. Now on to the stores.

Stringtown Grocery

The first store we will check out is the Stringtown Grocery. Great name. We can see by the community map that it looks pretty centrally located, at least within the Amish community (which is north of Kalona proper):

This is a grocery store with what looks to be some really nice prices, as you can see here. Which deals jump out at you?

A view of the aisles. Here are your baking supplies and related items. On the lower left you can see white corn meal and yellow corn grits. Large packages for large families.

One reviewer of this store writes: “Stringtown Grocery is so much fun. The selection of candy, jam, and cheese is amazing. The 50 pound bags of King Arthur Flour make me contemplate just how much I would have to bake to make them worthwhile. It’s quite the cultural experience.”

Another says: “This is a great bulk food store with fresh baked goods. Their spices are very reasonably priced and I stocked up. We also like their pickles and fruit jams.”

Here’s the abundant spice selection:

Finally a view of the checkout aisle. Anything catch your eye here?

You can see the numerous ceiling fans in this store. These are likely run by pneumatic power. In the photo below you’ll see a closer look at such a fan in a store in Ohio. This one has the added twist of including a makeshift “air conditioner” with a water drip sponge attachment:

This type of technology would not be seen in more conservative Amish churches, but is common enough in the more progressive places.

Community Country Store

On to the next establishment, the Community Country Store. What we see here is a variety-type store which also carries some foods.

A look down the aisle filled with books, pots and pans, and other home goods.

Clothing, more books, and other items.

Weaver’s Apparel scarves.

Black hats and a variety of shoes including by Skechers, a popular brand with the Amish.

Coats, jackets, and sweaters in very Amish hues.

This store also has a bulk food section.

The cheese refrigerator.

Everything here looks familiar, but for one. What is “Variety Loaf”? I also like the very practical request at bottom: “Please close door as soon as possible. Thank you!” Reminds me of what my folks would get on me about as a kid standing in front of the open fridge door, trying to decide what I wanted to snack on. 

And here’s the organic beef fridge. A well-laid out selection diagrammed on the front (also to help cut down on excessively open fridge doors). “Mostly Grass-fed.”

Working in a prep area.

Finally, some wisdom on the store’s whiteboard.

Other Kalona Amish Stores

Other Amish-owned businesses in this community include a greenhouse, bent-n-dent store, bakery, e-bikes store, mini-barns, furniture, and more. Here are a few of the others:

Miller Homestead Cooking is a meal business run by a New Order Amish family. They can provide food for up to 100 dinner guests. Past meals have included roast beef, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, noodles, country gravy, orange tapioca, pecan pie, and more.

A view from out front of Pine Ridge Variety Store.

Finally, Creekside E-bikes. Electric bikes have become popular among Amish in some communities. This business, housed in a picturesque old barn, also serves non-Amish customers, and even has its own website and Facebook page.

From the latter: “Our bike shop is located in the old brick barn on our dairy farm just north of Kalona Iowa. It is a great place to bike with all the Amish scenery, and stops, and using an electric bike make the journey more enjoyable and effort free. Stop in and see us!”

Thanks to Jim for this look at some of Kalona’s Amish businesses. If you’d like to see more, check out this earlier set of photos from Kalona the town & Amish community.

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    14 Comments

    1. Jill Tompkins

      Kalona Iowa Stores

      I visit all the stores you covered very regularly. You left out one great store-Community Country Store Annex on Gable Avenue. The owner is very helpful and knowledgeable. I buy my eggs there as well as batteries, knives, household items, gloves greeting cards, baby gifts, children’s books, and more. Quality products at good prices!

      1. Erik Wesner

        Neat to hear Jill. The “Annex” rang a bell. That store showed up briefly in the other Kalona post I linked at the bottom. A few years ago another reader shared a set of photos which included the Annex. I couldn’t figure out the “Annex” part then. Is it different products altogether or more just an expansion of the Community Country Store?

        1. Jill Tompkins

          Kalona, IA-Annex

          Erik -From what I understand the owner is related to the family who owns the other Community Country Store. At one time the original store talked of closing so the Annex opened. I can’t verify that story for sure. I do know the owner of the Annex, Diane Miller. They carry very similar products – Lots of kitchen wares, shoes, toys, housewares, some food items, a little bit of everything. All the ladies who work there are so nice.

    2. SC Susie

      Lookers Paradise

      My husband would never let me go in the Community Country Store because I could literally browse for hours!!!!! I love to look at everything – especially neat stuff. He would be like, “I’ll be in the car listening to the radio….”

      1. Erik Wesner

        Ha, that is a great endorsement. They should quote you as a customer testimonial on that whiteboard!

    3. Al in Ky

      Thanks for posting the pictures. Brought back lots of good memories. On my way to Minnesota, I shopped at Stringtown Grocery and Community Country Store many times through the years, as well as the Kalona Creamery and Central Discount Salvage Store. After shopping, I’d stay at Pull’R Inn Motel in Kalona before I journeyed on. (I think it’s now called Dutch Country Inn).

      Community Country Store was operated by three sisters (whose last name is Ropp, I think), but I’m not sure of the present status. I think at least one of the sisters is deceased. My favorite memory of the store is from about twenty-five years ago, the first time I stopped there. In one part of the store, they sold my favorite type of Red Wing shoes. The price was much cheaper than any other shoe store. I took a pair up to the cash register and told one of the sisters (I think it was Dorothy), that I wanted to buy them, but I did not have enough cash and they didn’t take credit cards. She asked me, “Do you have a check?” I said, “Yes, but I’m from Kentucky, you don’t know me and you likely don’t take checks.” She replied, “I know you now. Just write out your check and you’ll have the shoes!” I then complimented her on being so trustworthy. She said, “We rarely get a bad check from anyone. And if a person knowingly writes a bad check, that’s between them and God.”

      1. Erik Wesner

        Great story Al. This is why people generally like doing business with the Amish. They may get taken advantage of sometimes. But I see it as just another example of living their faith.

        And nice to hear you know these places well. I have warm memories of Kalona though they are getting a bit foggier. Jim gave us a nice re-visit here.

    4. Boyce Rensberger

      That horse??

      What’s going on with that horse? Something doesn’t look right.

      1. Erik Wesner

        Looks a little wobbly but I think it might be getting a stretch or a scratch in?

    5. Connie

      Amish Stores

      I was in all of these stores you mentioned in October, 2022. That little town is amazing and quaint! The orange swirl fudge at the Creamery was the best and the Golden Delight Bakery is awesome and also has some gifts, wind chimes, furniture, etc. The best fry pies I have ever had. If you go to Stringtown Grocery, plan on at least an hour. The store has just about anything you could want for baking! We stayed at The Dutch Country Inn and couldn’t have been more pleased. The owners are so friendly and accommodating, very clean, and close to all these stores. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip there and am making plans to return.

    6. john

      country amish store

      This reminds of a small Amish store that I shop in near Manton Michigan I stop there to get fresh jams and jelly and make sure to get enough for a year’s supply. We used to can strawberry and cherry jelly but in the long run it was cheaper to purchase it there. The store also sells bulk items and they have a small building which sells meats and produce and other items. And on the weekend they sell fresh doughnuts and cookies and bread. I find it interesting as they will take a personal check from their customers and other stores in the area will not take a check from you. Keep up the good work I greatly enjoy your articles on the Amish lifestyle.

    7. Brenda Dixon

      COMMUNITY

      I OFT WONDERED WHAT IT MEANT TO BE RELIGIOUS IN OTHER PEOPLE S FAITH SO I STARTED MY QUEST LOOKING FOR COMMONALITY. AS A CANADIAN AND LIVING ON THE AMERICAN CONTINENT I BELIEVE AM NO DIFFERENT FROM AMERICA AND HAVE A COMMONALITY WITH ALL FAITH BASED PEOPLE IN THE AMERICAS CONTENIENT. WHAT EVER ONE S FAITH CHURCH IS WE ARE ALL PRACTISING ONE THING THAT TIES US ALL TOGETHER. THAT ONE SPECIAL TRAIT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF RESPECT FOR COMMUNITY FIRST, AND BECAUSE OF THAT SURVIVAL IS PARAMOUNT. THIS RESPECT OF AND FOR COMMUNITY IS A GUARANTEE OF OUR ON GOING FAITHS TOGETHER IN GOD. I USE TO THINK HAVING RELIGION IS WANTING TO LIVE IN A CLEAN HOUSE, AS WOMEN WE ALL GO ABOUT IT OUR OWN WAY BUT IN THE OUTCOME WE ALL HAVE A CLEAN HOUSE TO LIVE IN AND All IS GOOD!

    8. Economic impact

      Really enjoyed this piece, Erik, especially all the photos. It reminded me of visiting various Amish businesses in the Conewango Valley here in western New York. I came across this blog while doing some research on the Amish communities in the area, initially reading Karen Johnson-Weiner’s book. I’m wondering if you happen to know of any studies of the economic impact (an awkward term in this context as it seems very secular) of Amish-run businesses in areas with Amish communities? Clearly these businesses are an essential source of cash income for those communities, but it also seems like these businesses may also provide an economic boost to their English neighbors, especially rural towns and villages whose economies have been sagging for decades. I’d think there must be studies that have been done of this. Thank you!

    9. Kathy Harding

      Country business

      May years ago I took off on a country road coming from the east into Kalona. It have many different things that the Amish had made. Dressers etc. would you know is it JK Creative Wood and if so is it still there. Very nice people taking care of it. Also is there a bakery in Kalona?

      Thank you