We always enjoy finding unique places to visit, whether they be oddball museums, historic sites, bizarre roadside attractions, or businesses that defy the logic that only big box stores can survive in today’s economy. We found just such a place in the charming Amish community of Mesopotamia, Ohio.
While many people think of the Amish as living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which does have a huge Amish population, these simple-living people who shun most of life’s modern conveniences also have huge communities in Ohio, Indiana, and other states. And wherever the Amish are, there seem to be businesses geared to accommodate them. One such place is Ohio’s oldest general store, the End of the Commons General Store in Mesopotamia, which has served its customers for over 175 years.
The store got its name from a nearby small park, called a commons, that originally served as a watering place for horse travelers. Established in 1840, a trip to this friendly business takes you back to the basics. Here you will find shelves displaying merchandise you probably have not seen in years. Straw brooms, canning supplies, crocks, hard to find kitchen gadgets, bulk foods, penny candy, over 150 varieties of soda in glass bottles, Amish cheeses, and several varieties of popcorn.
Bakers love the store’s large selection of unusual flours they can’t find at a supermarket. If you are looking for rice flour, potato flour, rye flour, semolina flour, or wheat gluten, look no further. They have it!
A back room is filled with Amish-made products, including fudge, jams and jellies, relishes, popcorn, cheeses, and souvenir Amish dolls and hats.
And while the End of the Commons General Store is popular among the local Amish, everybody gets a warm welcome when they come through the door. Ken and Margaret Schaden and their eleven children run the store, which they purchased in 1982.
The Schadens were frequent customers before the store went up for sale, and when they had the opportunity to purchase it, they were more than happy to leave their corporate sales planning careers behind and have a business where their family could work together.
But it was not without challenges. The first step was to empty out the back rooms and basement to make room for the bulk products the Schadens wanted to carry. As the cleaning process began, they quickly realized that what seemed like no more than a collection of junk at first glance was actually a treasure trove of history! They found hundreds of interesting items – old store fixtures, non-electric cash registers, mechanical scales, dry goods, and even cans and boxes of food products dating from the late 19th century.
Rather than throw it away, much of this was put on display. Today, visitors to the store will see some of this old time merchandise and equipment; old time clothing, shoes, a barber chair, a post office, a player piano, and other antiques.
Outside the general store are replica storefronts, including a ladies’ hat store and a blacksmith shop. It’s not unusual to see horse-drawn buggies tied up at the hitching rail while Amish customers are inside buying supplies for their families.
And don’t be surprised if you see some beautiful antique automobiles parked outside. The owners occasionally display one or more of their collection of cars, which include everything from a 1916 Depot Hack to a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere.
And no, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. That really is a huge wooden horse and buggy across the street! In fact, it’s the world’s largest wooden horse and buggy. Designed by artist Chris McConnell, the statue, named Sir Pierpont of Mesopotamia, was made from aged 2x4s and measures 32 feet long and 14 feet 7 inches tall. The horse itself stands approximately 29 hands high. It’s a popular photo opportunity for visitors, who come from around the world to see this unique general store.
Always looking for ways to expand and improve their business, since they purchased the store the Schadens have increased its size by an additional 5,000 square feet to bring together their 1940s-era gas station and hardware store, and added the Commons Cafe, which serves both lunch and dinner daily.
The next time your travels take you to northeastern Ohio, make it a point to stop at the End of the Commons General Store in Mesopotamia to do a little bit of shopping, maybe have a hand dipped ice cream cone, and soak up a little bit of yesteryear.
Located at 8719 State Route 534 in Mesopotamia, the store is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 8:30 PM, and Saturday from 8:30 AM to 6 PM. For more information, call (440) 693-4295 or visit the store’s website at http://www.endofthecommons.com/
It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Burning, the sixth book in my Big Lake Mystery series. When mysterious fires begin plaguing the little mountain town of Big Lake, Arizona, it doesn’t take Sheriff Jim Weber long to realize that a serial arsonist is on the loose and has to be stopped before somebody dies or the entire forest goes up in flames. With the help of C.C. Callahan, a beautiful Deputy Fire Marshal, the sheriff begins the hunt while dealing with an upstart newspaper publisher hell-bent on smearing his good name and ruining his reputation. As the fires continue, fingers of blame are pointed and everybody in Big Lake wonders whose home or business will be the next to burn.
To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed. After 90 days, unclaimed prizes revert back to the drawing pool for a future contest.
And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.
Thought For The Day – Happiness is a warm puppy. – Charles M. Schulz