Lehman’s Connection to the Amish Community

Lehman’s was founded by my father, Jay Lehman (1929 – 2020) to serve the local Amish community here in northeast Ohio. Dad greatly admired the Amish and their agrarian way of life and knowledge of practical, hands-on skills. The Amish, as you might know, live without electricity and are rooted in faith, tradition and family. Dad knew that without the products to sustain their connection to the land their traditions would be hard to maintain. After all, if no one is selling butter churns, then no one knows how to churn butter, right?

The year was 1955 and Dad was the only employee when Lehman’s opened.Young Jay Lehman

He had borrowed money from his father, Ezra, to purchase what was then known at the AB Sommers Hardware, built around 1919 in the center of town. (If you’ve ever been to Kidron, you know that the center of town is, well, Kidron). AB had also sold to the local Amish and others without electricity and Dad continued that tradition by stocking wood heating and cooking stoves, oil lamps, hand tools and water pumps.

Dad eventually hired his father, as well as his brother Dave, his sister Pearl and long-time family friend Raymond. People may not realize that for many years, Lehman’s was a tiny local store and Dad worked long hours, six days a week.Lehman's old store front

What made Lehman’s different was Dad’s plan to KEEP selling the old-fashioned but brand new products that the Amish and local farmers used daily. He wanted to (my words, not his) Preserve the Past for Future Generations. He was concerned, rightly so, that the practical hands-on skills people knew would disappear if the younger generation didn’t learn them.

Side note: A few years ago, we were churning butter in the store as a demo for our customers. A little girl walked up with her grandmother and we explained that we were churning the fresh cream to make butter. They shopped for a bit and came back, just as we were pouring the buttermilk off so we could eat the butter on fresh-baked bread. “Oh, I missed it,” she exclaimed. “When did you put the butter in?” To her, where did butter come from – a plastic tub in the grocery store, right. This little girl’s grandmother likely wasn’t born when Dad opened Lehman’s 68 years ago, but that was an example of his mission being fulfilled!

As Lehman’s grew and attracted more visitors and tourists, the Amish turned to their relatives and smaller local vendors to purchase items they needed. While the amount of Amish that still shop at Lehman’s is likely similar to the number decades ago, the amount of non-Amish shoppers is over 90%.Jay Lehman talking to customers

However, our connection to the Amish is still very strong. One Amish man told me his goal was to “put his feet under the table three times a day.” He meant enjoying breakfast, lunch and dinner at his home with his family. Most Amish people prefer working at home, so they can be “in the world, but not of the world.” Once they start working in English (what they call us non-Amish) businesses, their traditions and beliefs can be challenged. Since we have so many Amish vendors, we are giving them a chance to work at home. And perhaps more importantly, we are keeping the skills of leather, iron and wood working, sewing, and craftsmanship alive because they are teaching their children and grandchildren the skills that might otherwise have been lost. Additionally, most Amish aren’t allowed to use the internet for marketing and are happy selling us the product and letting us do the marketing.

Dad, who spoke fluent Pennsylvania Dutch, would often get in his pickup truck and drive out to the Amish farms, looking for new products. He would ask the first farmer if he made wooden wheels, for example. Perhaps not, but that farmer sent him up the road to another farmer that was making wheels who told him about an ax that a relative was making down the road. You get the idea.

So today, in 2023, we are still helping the Amish community maintain their way of life since they are able to work at home producing the tried and true products they have been using for generations.

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Ladystef
Ladystef
9 months ago

What a blessing to serve the Amish and the younger generations that need to know butter doesn’t come from the grocery store. ?

shirley
shirley
9 months ago

when I was a little girl in the 3rd grade we made butter in class and all got to try it on home made crackers. I wish schools taught things like that now because parents nowdays don’t know how.

Thomas Bauza
Thomas Bauza
9 months ago

A few Years ago while at Lehmas I purchase a Brass ended walking stick ,the Brass end was from a Horse Collar ,at I use it daily to Navigate friends of Mine inquired about it and desired one similar to it ,One friend a Funeral director offered a wooden cane in trade ,I laughed ,but told Him Next time i go to Lehmans I will get 2 but of 36 or 37 Inch length and I will gift you this one ,And I returned again and Inquired and was told they no longer have this product ,And it made me sad and reported that to my Friends .But we will return again to visit Your store and Hope that the Product has been restocked ,My Wife Debbie and I love shopping at your Shop ,for the History there and also for products that are not available no where else

Chuck
Chuck
9 months ago

Amazing how Lehmans values have changed. The business has evolved into a tourist attraction. Lehmans is no longer a traditional hardware store. The shelves were once full of practial products that local farmers used daily. Now those same shelves are full of souvenirs, tee shirts, and memorabilia. Years ago you could once walk the isles and that once contained rows and rows of hardware hammers, nails, wood burning stoves, oil lamps, and non-electric products. Those days are long gone.

Patrice Hocking
Patrice Hocking
9 months ago

To be honest the Amish way of living or at least their vigilance and faith in sustaining a life dedicated to family, faith, Mother Earth is so needed now. I am envious of their way of life, faith, connection to family, nature and skills that will be so needed.

Michael Altopp
Michael Altopp
9 months ago

Thank you for this background history of your company!

Debbie Adams
Debbie Adams
9 months ago

It is fun to watch the skeptical faces of kids when you tell them they are going to make their own butter as you hand them a jar of whole milk to shake, and MAGIC when they open the jar and taste the butter for themselves!!

Lisa
Lisa
9 months ago

I’m so enjoying your website. I’m too far from your store and do not travel. however you have many items on my wish list. I started late on my two acres, and see so many items I’d like to own and use. Thank you for being there. I could be interested in visiting as part of my bucket list.

Lehman's
Lehman's
Admin
Reply to  Lisa
9 months ago

Thank you for your pleasant comment, Lisa!

Carol Hay
Carol Hay
9 months ago

I love all things Amish including the lifestyle. Unfortunately there are no Amish communities where I live in Reno Nevada. (go figure) but I try to maintain a lifestyle of living off the land (homesteading), and putting God and family first.

Lehman's
Lehman's
Admin
Reply to  Chuck
9 months ago

Thanks for your comments! Have we changed over the years? Yes, we have! We have added items that appeal to the thousands of tourists that visit our store each year. However, we still have the practical products you need to live without electricity for heat, food, light and water. We have entire rooms dedicated to wood heating and cooking stoves, food preservation, oil lamps and water pumps and filters. You are correct – there are some traditional hardware items that we used to carry but no longer do, because customers head to the big box stores for items that can be easily found elsewhere.

Beverly Smith
7 months ago

My husband and I are from CT and on our way across country one year, we made it a point to visit this amazing store. Absolutely loved it and all of it’s wonderful products, especially all the kitchen “goodies” and canning supplies and would love to get back one day.

Delores Taylor
18 days ago

What a noble life goal your father had.

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