I just happened to be looking at reviews for Mishler’s Country Store, in Dalton, Wisconsin. People seem to really love that place – both readers here, and at review sites like Yelp and Google. It got me wondering – what makes a good Amish store?
Here are some of my own criteria, yours might differ:
- Selection – a big selection of course is nice
- Amish clientele – I like the stores where Amish actually shop. I think people appreciate this as “authentic”
- Owners/workers are friendly – I’ve been in stores where I felt like I was almost bothering people by being there. As a general rule, New Order Amish businesses tend to be among the friendlier places.
- Fresh food – I specifically mean having a deli, with subs or sandwiches. If I can leave with my lunch or drive-home dinner ready to go, you get extra points. A great recent example was Walker Valley Market in Pearisburg, VA
- Baked goods – This is my soft spot. If you have a nice baked goods selection, you win
- Off the beaten path – If I have to drive way out there to find your place, that’s a good thing. Extra points if I have to stop at an Amish place on the way and ask directions
Some of these may exist in opposition to one another. For example, I think the places which are more touristy will tend to be more friendly – but then you probably have fewer Amish people actually shopping there.
To take another, last year I visited an “off the map” store in Charlotte County, VA. It was well hidden – way down a long winding dirt lane, not even a sign by the main road. Great.
I had to get directions from an Amish person at another, better-marked business – and truth be told it was mainly meant for Amish shoppers (though I was told it was okay to go back there).
The lady working there was not rude to me, but nor was she what I’d call “friendly”. And I get it. But it remains one of my most memorable Amish store visits.
What do you think, what makes a good Amish store?
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Great customer service
For me being treated courteously and in a friendly way is very important. Many businesses too often treat the customer as a sort of necessary evil to be endured, rather than an integral part of their business and a reason for its success.
I don’t need Hollywood-style red carpet treatment, or slavish syncophancy but a friendly “Hello” or “welcome to [shop/store name]”, a (1-time) “can I help you?” or “are you finding what you need?” goes a long way and will either make me a repeat shopper (if local) or causes me to recommend that store to other travelers (if I’m a visitor).
I’d rather to go a store with less inventory but friendlier staff than a store with everything under the sun – except helpful employees. (For an example of the latter, think big-box hardware superstores.)
While I strongly believe that groups and individuals should be their most authentic selves, I also believe that any Amish business that wants to expand their customer base to the larger (read:English) community should think about how their interactions with customers can impact their business’s bottom line, for better or worse.
Sorry for being so long-winded! This is an issue I feel strongly about, so brevity is not my strong suit.
You bring up a good point – generally speaking I prefer service that is not overly doting, and not completely absent. Somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot. I think you describe it well.
The other points are thoughtful as well. Amish business owners do adapt their approach in some ways to their English clientele. This may be in subtle things like language and the customer-service politeness that 2020 English people tend to expect, but which is more foreign to the rather more direct and less-concerned-with-niceties Amish style of communication.
Little wink - Alsace
Can we source products from Amish farms from online shopping sites? Yes ? At what addresses?
We are more and more Alsatians on this blog, we see where the Amish movement was born. 🙂
You can find Amish sales sites online, but for shipping the order to France? … I have never tried.
Perhaps we should see with the few Mennonite families that we still have in Alsace, from time to time they will visit their distant cousins in America or from time to time some Beachy Amish come to visit our region. There remains the possibility of going to the patchwork festival in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines where some Amish have a stand and see directly with them. But this year with the corona, it fell apart.
Amish Store Protocol
The best customer service that I have received in Amish stores is when I go in, and although I look “very English”, I speak to employees in Pennsylvania German. I love the pleasantly surprised looks on their faces, and as a consequence, they have been most helpful.
No doubt that helps! I know just a few words and phrases in PA German, but have deployed them from time to time, especially with small children. Are you a native speaker or did you learn?
Amish Store Protocol
I grew up Amish, and like to use the dialect with every opportunity. I have had some very unusual experiences and encounters with using it.
I appreciate the trust of customers I’ve found in several Amish stores I’ve visited through the years. I’m thinking of three especially — a small Amish bakery near Riceville, Iowa; an Amish variety store in Daviess County, Indiana; and an Amish second-hand store/vegetable stand near Wooster, Ohio. All three had signs up that read something like this, “If we’re not here, just write down on the tablet/notebook on the counter what you’ve bought and the price, and leave your money in the coffee can on the counter”. Each of these places was not staffed when I visited and bought items, so I followed the instructions, and also noted there had been a number of other recent customers who had done the same thing.
Also, I’ve experienced this trust in customers in writing checks for merchandise I’ve bought in several Amish stores in states different than my home state, 200 or more miles away. None of these asked for even an ID. One store owner told me that once in a long while she has received a bad check, but it didn’t concern her too much because “They likely know they gave me a bad check, and that’s between them and God”. It seems like the majority of Amish stores I’ve visited do not take credit or debit cards.
A good part of the general experience with Amish stores, Al, glad you mentioned it. I think this is pretty common in Amish businesses, especially in smaller communities. Also the honor system tends to work with smaller purchases, but I’ve not yet seen it with say a seller of furniture, for instance.
We live in Lancaster County, come from a PA Dutch background, and shop in genuinely Amish stores, Fisher’s in Bart, for example. Selection is important, but we might have to go to several stores to find what we need. But that’s a good thing. Baked goods are very important! We look for “off the beaten path” stores, knowing that our shopping helps the family as well as us, and you never know what you’ll find in an “Amish” store. As far as friendliness, we find that if we’re friendly, the folks in the stores are friendly in return. Just be nice and respectful, same as anywhere else you go.
This is probably not the place to ask but I can’t travel so does anyone have a list of Amish mail order catalogs? I have some but am always looking for more Thank You