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Junior and Suzie Stutzman started Sol's Exchange in 1993. As a family business, Jamie Swartzentruber (Stutzman) grew up helping her parents around the store, but for the past six years Swartzentruber has managed all three.
The idea for Sol's Exchange came around while Junior was working with Pete Stutzman for Stutzman Sales. The pair began to notice the increase in tourists and the lack of car sales throughout the Berlin area. That's when they decided to change gears.
The store grew very quickly between crafters and customers. Sol's Palace opened roughly a year after Sol's Exchange, followed by Sol's Kit-N-Kaboodle in 2003.
There were various additions made with Exchange between that time span as well.
"The Exchange building is nostalgic in many ways, but most importantly it is still run and known as our "original building,'" Swartzentruber said. "In that store we carry a lot of food items such as jams and jellies, desserts, candy, dips, etc."
"Customers remember the Exchange building how it was when we first opened and among the improvements we've made it's still stayed fairly similar."
While all three stores carry home dcor they each vary in their own way.
Kit-N-Kaboodle has an inspirational room in the basement. There customers can have items personally engraved. The inspirational basement includes products of various inspirational and religious varieties.
Sol's Palace is most popularly known for its three levels. There's a basement, a ground level and a loft. There are also hundreds of crafters that fill the store.
With over 350 crafters total, the three stores are always full of products. While most of the 350 are within Ohio, there are some from across the country. Some of these places include California, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida.
"Crafters from all over Ohio and across the country have made Sol's their home to display their goods," Swartzentruber said.
"Our family has become very close with all of our crafters. Most of them we see as family."
It's because of these crafters and the main goal that Sol's and Berlin share which is why after its opening and its expansions, Sol's quickly became the top destination in this area.
"We've grown since we've been open and Berlin has grown," Swartzentruber said.
"It's nice to be surrounded by people with the same idea."
Working together to provide a welcoming atmosphere for not only the tourists, but also the locals is what the heart of Amish country is about.
"Berlin is a tourist destination and so is Sol's. We're working together to meet our customer's needs," Swartzentruber said.
"It's always gratifying to know customers remember you and come back...especially those who are out of state."
The goal for Sol's is obvious. They want to bring in as many people to the area as they can. Many shops in downtown Berlin are open during the holidays, which is a huge benefit to bringing tourists to the area.
"We realize that customers are coming more throughout the year," Swartzentruber said. "Instead of waiting for the prime September and October months, when tourists like to come for the scenery, they're starting to come at other times as well."
Among the improvements Sol's has already made, Swartzentruber still has a few ideas in mind.
"We do have a very nice website," Swartzentruber said. "But it's been a challenge to broaden that. I would like to increase the number of items we sell online."
Swartzentruber likes to stress that the main goal of Sol's has always been to provide customers with handcrafted items.
"Customers and crafters have come to rely on Sol's for a quality facility with lots of shopping and diverse products to choose from," Swartzentruber said.
"We have the largest selection of quality arts and crafts possible so customers can shop for truly one of a kind items."
Sol's is located at 4914 W. Main St. in downtown Berlin. Store hours are Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m; extended store hours throughout the summer include Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Be sure to pay a visit during Sol's February Frolic. The store will feature a 10% discount store-wide for all three stores throughout Feb. 14-19. There will also be prize giveaways. Facebook "friends" of Sol's may enter the drawing via Facebook as a gesture of appreciation for following Sol's throughout the year. For more information call 330-893-3134 or visit www.solsinberlin.com.