Are you a prepper? An environmentalist interested in sustainable living? A homesteader? A missionary living on a remote island without electricity? A cave dweller? Chronically nostalgic? Amish? (Get off the internet this instant, Caleb Yoder!) Then Lehman’s Hardware is the place for you! The store, tucked into the tiny community of Kidron in Holmes County, Ohio, serves the area’s Amish community, helping them preserve their way of life by carrying a wide range of non-electric and other low-tech products. Jay Lehman, who founded the store in 1955 said, ”I was concerned that some day the Amish would not be able to maintain their simple ways of life because these products would no longer be available.”
It began as a small family hardware store and has grown into the largest store of its kind. Non-Amish customers now outnumber the Amish who shop at their 45,000-square-foot retail store. The 1973 oil crisis significantly boosted the number of visitors to Lehman’s. As domestic supplies of oil dwindled, people wanted low-tech products to help them cope with the shortages. According to Jay Lehman, “The oil embargo put us on the map.” Events like Y2K, the 9/11 attacks, and the blackout of 2003 all increased sales at Lehman’s.
No visit to Ohio’s Amish country is complete without a trip to Lehman’s. On your drive through Holmes County, home to the largest Amish community in the world, you’ll pass Amish buggies on the road (along with the ubiquitous horse droppings) and you may see barefooted Amish boys and girls in their straw hats and bonnets walking or biking alongside the road on their way home from school. Crisp black, white, and blue laundry flapping in the breeze on a clothes line is a telltale sign of an Amish farm.
Once at Lehman’s, you’ll see horses with buggies tied to hitching posts, juxtaposed with the cars of tourists and local “English” (the Amish name for non-Amish). Inside the store you’ll encounter a maze of four buildings that have been attached over the years to make one store that seems to go on forever. Lehman’s received a major makeover in 2011 after a flood dumped 30 tons of mud into the store, which is decorated from floor to ceiling with museum-quality antiques and vintage memorabilia. Right inside the main entrance there is a Soda Pop Shop with 300 varieties of vintage and handcrafted soda. Across from the soda is a section of throwback candy that will bring back memories of childhood trips to the penny candy store. From there, you can wander the aisles, checking out non-electric appliances and composting toilets, wood stoves, kitchen gadgets, locally-made pottery, and vintage toys. You could easily spend a half day inside and still not see all the store has to offer.
An estimated half million tourists visit the store every year. But if you’re not able to travel to Holmes County in person, you can still enjoy Lehman’s through their print catalog or website. It’s surprising, really, that a store catering to the Amish and their simple way of life would even have a website, let alone a social media presence, but approximately 50% of Lehman’s revenues come from online sales. Their Facebook page has nearly 30,000 “likes.”
The store’s website boasts, “If you think it isn’t made anymore, check with Lehman’s before you give up.” Check out the site and see what they mean.
Click through to the next pages to see some of the more unusual items Lehman’s sells.