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Whether it is shopping, eating or taking in the surrounding culture, Amish country takes a refreshing approach to tourism. With over 60 retail outlets in the Berlin area alone (the hub of Ohio's Amish country), there is something for everyone to enjoy.
"We want visitors to know that in Amish Country they will have an authentic experience in a community rooted by heritage, honesty, hard work, integrity, compassion, and commitment," said Danara Wallace, marketing coordinator for the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau.
What Attracts People to Amish Country?
"One of the great lines I hear when people come to the area is 'it's so peaceful here'," said Eli Hochstetler, owner of the Gospel Book Store in Berlin and President of the Berlin Merchants Association.
LaVonne DeBois, owner of Amish Heartland Tours said, "the area appeals to visitors in many ways due to the simple way of life. They don't feel rushed or stressed out."
People who come to the area want to know what the Amish and Mennonite culture is all about, explained Hochstetler.
"They want to know, how do we help our neighbors out after the barn raising?" He added, but it's not just about helping out after tragedy has struck, it's about helping out whenever someone needs an extra hand.
And they love to exchange hospitality when the cameras are not rolling, when it stays just between them and the person they are helping. That extra hand is not just extended between community members, but is often extended to visitors to the area as well.
DeBois shared comments from some of her tour-goers on how they received a helping hand from some of the friendly people in the area.
"We had a group of ladies walk down to Boyd and Wurthmann restaurant for a bite to eat one evening when a big storm hit. They did not want to walk back to their hotel so they asked a local if he would give them a ride back to their hotel," she said. When he obliged and drove them back, the ladies offered to tip him for the ride, but the gentleman just waived it off saying, "No thank-you, it is my pleasure ladies."
DeBois said, other travelers commented on how nice the furniture stores in the area are and how easy it was to tell them what they wanted. "People appreciate businesses going the extra mile and going above and beyond what the customer is expecting," she said.
"It is this lifestyle that our forefathers brought us up with and we love to operate that way," said Hochstetler.
Along with top of the line customer service and a most welcoming atmosphere, there is always something going on in Amish Country. From a Pajama Party in January to a Harvest Fest and Rib Cook-off in the fall, you can be sure to catch a special promotion almost every month in Berlin.
Hochstetler said a visitor told him, "Berlin is a party town. They have something going on all the time." The biggest complaint Hochstetler has had is that "Berlin is not open on Sundays." But closing to spend time with family and partake in a day of rest is something that is also admired and appreciated by the travelers to the community.
There is still plenty to do in Amish country on a Sunday. Shops run by the "Englisch" (Amish term for those that are not Amish) remain open to fullfill any last minute shopping desires and you can create your own backroads tour and enjoy the peaceful countryside Amish country has to offer.
"Everyone has a story to share and the people love to tell it," said Hochstetler. "We encourage everyone who comes to Amish country to get out to the back-road businesses and stop in and talk with the owners."
A lot of talk has been centered on the upcoming construction project set to take place this summer. Construction crews will be working to widen the road that runs through the heart of Berlin (State Route 39) and create a new parking lot but the road will remain open to travelers at all times and all shops along the street will continue to have access their main entrances.
"Sure construction is happening, but with that is a beautification project," said Hostetler. It's a "Road 2 Better Berlin."
So why do people keep coming back?
As she is giving tours, DeBois asks her guests why they came to Amish country and here is what some of them had to say:
"Our friends just came back from Holmes County. They shared so much about their experiences that we had to come see for ourselves."
"We live 2 hours from here and come every week to eat at our favorite restaurant."
"We heard about the musicals and comedy theatres and thought we would make it an overnight trip."
"Amish country is about quality," said DeBois. "It [Amish country] has built itself a reputation on dependability and quality of locally manufactured products." Businesses in the area are predominately owned and operated locally and many business owners have been a part of these businesses since they started learning a craft at a young age.
"Businesses are here to stay and often handed down to future generations. Work ethics are reliable and reputation is of utmost importance whether it is relating to a good home cooked meal to a good night's sleep," she added.
Purchase a basket of flowers from an Amish home, eat to your heart's content at one of one of Amish countries finest restaurants, observe a weekly livestock auction or benefit auction and stop into a local garage sale.
"So why not visit Amish County?" DeBois asked. SDLqEvery visitor has a unique goal in mind when planning a vacation. Some don't want shopping while others do. Others want to relax while others want adventure. We have something for everyone!"