Monday, October 15, 2012

Visiting Amish Country!

Hi everyone!

Jan here, finally back from my week-long trip east to visit parents and in-laws.

And yes, I did squeeze in a couple days of research, too!

This is the headstone of my 4th great-grandfather, Christian Plank. He was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1793 and died in LaGrange County, Indiana in 1881. It was important to find his grave because he's the one whose story I'm basing my next book series on.
This is the area where he lived and raised his family. It's called Pretty Prairie. Isn't that the greatest name?

One of the fun things about looking for Christian Plank was that my Dad came along - the family historian - and he got to learn a few things he didn't know, either!

(How many times do you get to teach your Dad something?)

In all that driving around in northern Indiana, I still managed to fit in a visit to my favorite store: E & S Sales in Shipshewana, Indiana. 

Notice the buggy parking on the left side of the building!

Shipshewana rivals Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Holmes County, Ohio as an Amish tourist destination…

(By the way, that’s a destination where tourists go to see Amish, not a destination for Amish people who want to be tourists. They go to all the same tourist places the rest of us do.)

…except that Shipshewana is smaller. More manageable. And there are still stores at the edge of town where the locals shop. 

 (We managed to find some pie, and some Chicken 'N' Noodles...)

Since my Dad is a local, he told me about E & S Sales several years ago, and now it’s a regular stop whenever we’re in the area.

The Shipshewana area - in fact most of eastern Elkhart and LaGrange Counties in northern Indiana – has been home to the Amish since 1841, when the first four families from Somerset County, Pennsylvania came to the area to establish a new community. Other Amish families followed (Christian Plank and his family arrived around 1850), and now the area is the third largest Amish settlement in the world, after Holmes County and Lancaster County.

The Amish prefer to be farmers, but when families grow and there are a limited number of acres of farmland, people either have to leave the community to go where land is available, or find another kind of work. That’s what the Eash family did a generation or so ago.

They started selling goods in their front yard along State Road 5, a half mile south of Shipshewana. They were in a good location, and people liked the furniture and other things they made, so they were doing pretty well. They’re still there at that location: Eash Sales.

But as the next generation came along, someone decided to get into the bulk food business, and E & S Sales was born. They built a pole barn next to the original location, and started selling re-packaged bulk foods. They take the huge amounts of flour, sugar, salt, spices, candy, cereal, noodles, etc. and break it down into family sized packages and re-sell the goods at a phenomenal price. 

As the business grew, they started carrying seconds, overstocks and Amish-made foods – still at rock bottom prices. 

On my first visit there, I bought 150 pounds of wheat, and now I’m addicted.

It’s my stock-up store. And I live 1000 miles away :(

We go every six months or so – whenever we’re in the area. This time I focused on spices. Because the owners of E & S buy in bulk, they sell at those prices. I bought all these spices for what I would have spent on a few small containers at the grocery store. 

I’ll put them in my freezer and replenish my smaller containers when I need to.

I’m not sure I’ll ever have to buy spices again…

And, by the way, the next generation of Eash’s has started another business right next to E & S – Ben’s Bakery. Don’t get me started on that one!


  1. What a wonderful place, Jan! Man, I would have a blast at E&S! I wish I could find something similar. What spices did you get? I can't read the labels other than parsley.

    1. Hi Missy! Yes, E & S is a great place!

      The spices are: parsley, cumin, chili powder, marjoram, oregano, cinnamon, whole cloves and dill weed. I also picked up some unsweetened flaked coconut (I'll be sharing the recipe I use that in later), and some coconut oil.

      But the biggest thing was a bag of cocoa powder. Three and a half pounds of cocoa powder. ;D

    2. I still need to get some coconut oil! I want to try it.

      Also read about coconut sugar but haven't been able to find it in my grocery. Will probably have to order it.

  2. I was squinting at the spice labels, too!! I think I saw ground cumin and dill. :O

    I would love that place. We have something similar here that was started by 7th Day Adventists (don't know if you all are familiar with that religion) and it was a small health store that grew to be a big BULK store. It's awesome. Great, fresh, vegetables and lots of staples.

    All vegetarian, so has canned fake meat but no real meat and just a little dairy.

    1. We do have 7th Day Adventists around here, too, Virginia. I had forgotten they were vegetarians.

      Don't you love bulk stores?

  3. That sounds like a bulk store to end all bulk stores. And nice that they keep the prices low. I'm officially and totally envious, Jan. I'm completely in love with Amish fiction and I got a thrill just reading the names! LOL.

    1. You know, Kav, you may actually live closer to E&S than I do - you'll have to look up the mileage to Shipshewana. Wouldn't that be a great trip for you?

  4. Ooo, this place sounds right up my alley. Too bad it's not in Texas. Then again, maybe it's good that it's not. I might end up off-limits anyway :-)

    1. But Mindy! Think of all the money you can spend....uh, save!