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Amish vendors sell wares at market

Stalls hold goods from furniture to pies

Stalls hold goods from furniture to pies

February 11, 2007|by MARIE GILBERT

It's 4:30 in the morning when the 21st century - in the form of a van - disturbs the quiet of an Amish farmhouse in Lancaster, Pa.

Elam Kauffman climbs on board and is greeted by a group of his neighbors, all headed in the same direction - Hagerstown.

They are vendors who will be selling their wares at the Pennsylvania Dutch Market at Long Meadow Shopping Center.

Kauffman is a furniture maker, while others are bakers, quilters and organic dairy farmers.

Three days each week they make the trip - taking time to thank the driver, because, Kauffman will tell you, "without him, we might not be here. None of us own vehicles and it would take us a week to get here by horse and buggy."

There lies the appeal of the Pennsylvania Dutch Market, which opened in early January.

"It's a chance for people to experience an old-world lifestyle," said Nancy Boltz, promotion director for the market. "It's like stepping back in time."

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The market is one of two Pennsylvania Dutch markets in Maryland under the same ownership. The other market is in Cockeysville.

Hagerstown was selected as a second location, Boltz said, "because it seemed like an ideal setting for a market. It has the right atmosphere."

Boltz said the public's response to the market "has been overwhelmingly wonderful. It seems like every day we've been open, more and more people are discovering us."

The market had been scheduled to open in December, she said, "but there was a lot more work than we anticipated. Whenever you're dealing with food, the renovations, permits and inspections just take a little bit longer."

But Boltz says the wait was worth it.

"This is a beautiful market," she said. "I've gotten so much positive feedback since day one."

The market features 11 shops under one roof. Each business, Boltz said, is independent and has its own cash register.

According to Boltz, the majority of vendors are Amish or Mennonite.

Among the products they sell are traditional Amish foods such as salads, soups and desserts; cheese and milk products from organic dairies; fresh poultry and meats; fruits and vegetables; and baked goods, from breads and biscuits to pies and cakes.

There are also several eateries within the market, including a restaurant with daily specials, a sub shop and a snack stand that offers Amish pretzels, ice cream and drinks.

There is also the furniture stall and a gift shop that features handcrafted items.

Despite the large crowds, Boltz said the Amish are comfortable with the market surroundings.

"I think they enjoy their time here as much as the shoppers," she said.

Elam Kauffman was in agreement.

"It's a good experience," he said. "Very exciting. I get a lot of questions about our lifestyle. But that's understandable. I like to visit with people. So it's not a hard job to do."

Kauffman said his business, Keystone Classic Furniture, is family-owned and operated, with his six sons helping make and sell the products.

"I used to farm, but not anymore," he said. "I've been in the woodmaking business for about 17 years now. And I enjoy it."

Kauffman said he sells wholesale to about 900 stores across the United States, but the Pennsylvania Dutch Market in Hagerstown is his first retail venture.

His furniture is made from solid wood, including pine, oak and cherry.

"We deliver our products on Wednesday; we price them and display them. And we're ready for customers by 9 a.m. Thursday."

Kauffman said he sells a lot of furniture on display but also will do special orders.

"We've had a very good response," he said of business at the market. "Very good."

Boltz explained that the market is open only Thursday through Saturday, "because those are traditional Amish market days. They lead very busy lives, so three days is what is usually allotted to selling their goods."

In the coming weeks, Boltz said, many special events will be offered, including a Taste of the Market.

"Many people aren't familiar with real Amish food," she said. "So we want to give them an opportunity to sample items they may never have tried before."

The market is open year round, Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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