Lehman’s Long Connection to the Amish

Lehman’s was founded by Jay Lehman (1929 – 2020) to serve the local Amish community here in northeast Ohio. Jay 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. Jay knew that their traditions would be hard to maintain without the products to sustain their connection to the land. After all, if no one is selling butter churns, then no one knows how to churn butter, right?

In 1955, Jay, the sole employee, opened Lehman’s. His personal investment in the store was evident from the start, and this personal touch is what made Lehman’s more than just a store.

He had borrowed money from his father, Ezra, to purchase what was then known as the AB Sommers Hardware, built around 1919 in the center of town. AB had also sold to the local Amish and others without electricity, and Jay continued that tradition by stocking wood heating and cooking stoves, oil lamps, hand tools, and water pumps.

Jay eventually hired his father, 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 Jay worked long hours, six days a week.

What made Lehman’s different was Jay’s plan to keep selling the old-fashioned but brand-new products that the Amish and local farmers used daily. He wanted to 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, there was a butter churning demo in the store for customers. A little girl walked up with her grandmother, and the staff explained that they were churning the fresh cream to make butter. They shopped for a bit and returned just as staff poured the buttermilk off so customers 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? This little girl’s grandmother likely wasn’t born when Jay opened Lehman’s 69 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 number of Amish who still shop at Lehman’s is likely similar to the number decades ago, the number of non-Amish shoppers is over 90%.

However, Lehman’s connection to the Amish is still very strong. One Amish man said his goal was to “put his feet under the table three times a day.” He meant enjoying breakfast, lunch, and dinner with his family at home. 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 Lehman’s has so many Amish vendors, they have the chance to work at home. Perhaps more importantly, Lehman’s is keeping the skills of leather, iron and woodworking, 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 Lehman’s the product and letting the company do the marketing.

Jay, who spoke fluent Pennsylvania Dutch, would often get in his pickup truck and drive out to the Amish farms, looking for new products. For example, he would ask the first farmer if he made wooden wheels. Perhaps not, but that farmer sent him up the road to another farmer who was making wheels and told him about an ax that a relative was making down the road. Finding new and essential products was a very hands-on, word-of-mouth operation.

So today, in 2024, Lehman’s is still helping the Amish community maintain their way of life since they can work at home and produce the tried-and-true products they have been using for generations.

Learn more about Lehman’s connection to the Amish community by visiting their retail store, Lehman’s, 4779 Kidron Road, Kidron. Lehman’s is open every day except Sunday and is always open at Lehmans.com. Call 800-438-5346 for more information, or visit Lehmans.com/storeevents for a full schedule of events and festivals.

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